The long list of consulting veterans leading Australia’s AFL clubs

31 May 2024 4 min. read
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BCG A/NZ managing partner Grant McCabe has been elected president of the Geelong Football club, his appointment following that of former KPMG senior partner Carl Dilena as St Kilda CEO.

The pair join a long list of current and former consultants in AFL chief executive and chair roles. Dilena, for example, was given the tick of approval by club president and SEEK co-founder Andrew Bassat, a Booz Allen Hamilton (now Strategy&) alumnus.

Rising to senior partner, Dilena spent more than a decade at KPMG till 2012, while McCabe has been with Boston Consulting Group for more than 20 years, and was last year appointed as Australia and New Zealand managing partner.

The long list of consulting veterans leading AFL clubs

As a quick rundown, the following CEOs and club chairs share a background in the consulting sector, with the Age having previously declared the corporate takeover of the sport complete during former ex-PwC global chair Paul Brasher’s brief stint as president at Essendon.

KPMG’s People & Inclusion managing partner Dorothy Hisgrove is currently Bombers vice-president.

Brisbane Lions
Brisbane chairman Andrew Wellington was a former two-decade deals partner at PwC until his retirement mid-last year, while CEO Greg Swann was a former senior leader at EY and a member of the administration team called in to wind up Fitzroy.

Carlton president Luke Sayers, the former head of PwC in Australia and founder of eponymous consultancy Sayers, recently convinced his way into an additional term despite both constitutional club limits and currently being harangued by the Australian senate.

The reigning premiers are currently headed by president Jeff Browne and CEO Craig Bradley, after KordaMentha co-founder Mark Korda briefly held the role in 2021. PwC Indigenous Consulting co-founder and former CEO Jodie Sizer is currently vice-president.

After a similarly tumultuous time at the governance level, the Bombers eventually settled on Dave Barham and Craig Vozzo as president and CEO in 2022, at the same time electing former PwC global executive and ex-EY and Arthur Andersen partner David Willis as a director.

The Dockers’ CEO Simon Garlick was previously chief executive of brand strategy consultancy Bastion, which has been pushing the case alongside PwC for a Northern Territory-based team’s entry into the AFL. Director Andrea Hall is a former senior partner at KPMG.

Colin Carter, the founder of the Australian arm of global strategy giant Boston Consulting Group, was a long-time president and director of the Cats before exiting in 2021. Now, current BCG A/NZ managing partner Grant McCabe will take over as president from next year

Having rid itself of long-term president Jeff Kennett (who served in two stints separated by former KPMG senior partner Richard Garvey), the Hawks have since turned to Andy Gowers, ironically the founder of succession planning consultancy Vest Advisory.

North Melbourne
Board director Rodney Piltz, elected alongside president Sonja Hood in 2022, is a three-decade EY veteran presently serving as the Big Four firm’s Oceania digital assurance leader and managing partner for Melbourne.

Also still active in consulting, Tigers’ vice president Henriette Rothschild is a partner at KordaMentha, and was APAC regional managing director of Hay Group at the time of its Korn Ferry takeover (Swans director Alexandra Goodfellow is the HR consultancy’s vice chair).