3 min read

AFL Reveals $43 Million Loss


Despite recording a cash surplus, the AFL operated at a loss totalling $43.0 million for the 2021 season, compared to the $22.7 million operating loss recorded in 2020.

The second COVID-19 affected season saw revenue increase by $63.3 million to a total of $738.1 million, but the increase was outweighed by the AFL’s return to the standard club funding model and distributions relating to the collective bargaining agreement.

Reporting on the AFL’s 2021 finances, AFL chief financial officer, Travis Auld said: “Critical decisions were made in 2020 to underpin the financial strength of the industry with the introduction of debt facilities to the value of $660 million.”

“These facilities were extinguished in 2021 following the continued focus on managing the overall cost base and driving revenue growth, while delivering the season safely in a pandemic environment.

“As the 2021 year played out, our operating expenditure continued to increase due to the costs of accommodating our clubs throughout the season, some who were on the road for months on end.”

“This also included the additional precautions taken during travel and interstate stays to safeguard the players, clubs, and the community.

“Our balance sheet remains strong, and despite the significant cash cost required to deliver the AFL and AFLW seasons, the co-ordinated effort to reduce the industry cost base and protect revenues means the AFL was able to report a cash surplus for the financial year,” Auld said.

The revenue increase was due to increased broadcast revenue and commercial returns, with the league announcing administration costs had fallen to $29.5 million as travel and accommodation expenses had dropped significantly for COVID-19 restriction affected clubs.

All 18 clubs took a share of $300.9 million, while the AFL Players Association received $60.2 million, an increase of $117 million from 2020, returning closer to pre-COVID-19 levels from 2019.

The AFL invested $53 million in game development, an increase of $21 million due to the increased participation from local communities and an additional $23 million being put into infrastructure for both elite and local facilities.

Discussing the league’s goals in managing its finances and investing future funds into the sport, Auld said the focus remains on strengthening and rebuilding the industry balance sheet, which will increase future investments into the game from grassroots to the elite level.

“We have survived the most challenging two years in the game’s history and while we know the next 12 months will continue to surprise and test us, our priority remains to keep our game as affordable and accessible as possible for all,” Auld said.

Elsewhere, the AFL revealed the AFLW cost $18.5 million to run, while the total payments to AFL executives returned closer to its 2019 level, with executives receiving $9.8 million in 2021, compared to $7 million in 2020, and $10.4 million in 2019. The AFL also spent $0.9 million on corporate and social responsibility initiatives.

It's free to join the team!

Join the most engaged community in the Sports Business World.

Get all the latest news, insights, data, education and event updates.