Club Mgmt. CEO: Craig Vozzo - Interview with The Age, comments on list mgmt, lines of reporting - 31/3

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Jun 11, 2007
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Victoria
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did it the hard way (Clarkson Scott, Thorburn Vozzo) but we are getting there.

2 leads with strong list management backgrounds too. suspect list management becomes less an empire and more a function of the footy dept moving forward.
 

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Kegs15

Just a fan
Apr 5, 2022
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Really annoyed to be losing him (which is probably a good sign for you guys).

There was talk that he was being groomed as our next CEO but Nisbett has done a Kennett and kept extending his retirement. Vozzo was also apparently not afraid to speak his mind/speak up against our other club leaders which may not have gone down too well with the rest of our yes-men and was perhaps the reason he hadn't been promoted within the Eagles already.

Really shrewd, solid operator that won't generate a lot of headlines (which'll probably be a good thing for you guys). Will get the job done with little fanfare.
 

Happyskeret

Club Legend
Jul 2, 2022
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Essendon
Really annoyed to be losing him (which is probably a good sign for you guys).

There was talk that he was being groomed as our next CEO but Nisbett has done a Kennett and kept extending his retirement. Vozzo was also apparently not afraid to speak his mind/speak up against our other club leaders which may not have gone down too well with the rest of our yes-men and was perhaps the reason he hadn't been promoted within the Eagles already.

Really shrewd, solid operator that won't generate a lot of headlines (which'll probably be a good thing for you guys). Will get the job done with little fanfare.
Was that the knock on him speaking his own mind?
 

Kegs15

Just a fan
Apr 5, 2022
328
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Fremantle, WA
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West Coast
Was that the knock on him speaking his own mind?

Certainly not a knock in my books - but from my (limited admittedly) understanding of how our club operated Nisbett has been there for ages, has a lot of power and seems very 'jobs for the boys', putting people around him to help him but not necessarily question him which from general whispers that's what Vozzo stepped up and did a few times. The rest of the board seems more under our CEO than perhaps is the case at other clubs.

Don't think Nisbett is quite as extreme but picture the outcome for someone at Hawthorn club meetings speaking up and raising very valid points - but against what Jeff Kennett was saying.

Then got in a situation where there was nowhere upwards really for Vozzo to go to within-club and a current CEO that probably didn't put that right situation/succession plans in place to keep Vozzo (though Vozzo by all reports was easily good enough at his job to justify that).

Basically the general point I would make is that Vozzo certainly had the talent/performance to go higher at WC, just not the pathway to do so. The 'speaking his mind' stuff also I think is just him caring and wanting his club to do well - isn't a case of him being loud (or having extreme religious views) or anything like that - he's pretty reserved in the media and doesn't give away much, makes for some boring headlines.

Being a football department man first I suspect he'll bring a focus to the on-field side of things and the departments directly surrounding that like S+C or development. I don't want to attribute particular decisions at WC to either him or Nisbett as I really have no idea but it has always seemed like our focus is on corporate first, footy department second (leading to us being a well run off-field, well financed club that has issues with things like our S+C, our WAFL/development setup and a glaring lack of focus on our AFLW side) - this stuff I could make wild guesses at the types of things Vozzo may have prioritised fixing that would have been shut down by Nisbett/the others.

I have no idea how he'll go at the financial side of things (am certain he'd have a lot less experience in merch/advertising than someone from a more corporate background) - but it seems you guys are pretty alright in things like memberships etc regardless and that an on-field focus, like for us, could be beneficial - reckon he's the right man for that.

And most of all think he's the type that, whether or not he's super successful in the role, that will be at the club for ages (stability) and that you really won't think or hear too much about! One of those 'relaxing' club leaders if you're a supporter - which is always nice!!
 
Trade and free agency strategy according to Vozzo:
Essendon’s young list won’t preclude them from going after free agents this year, with the club having the salary cap space to target a player.

New chief executive Craig Vozzo, previously a list manager and general manager of football at West Coast, said he didn’t agree with development windows for the timing of bringing in free agents, and that the club would chase any talented player in the free-agency market if the fit was right.

“I don’t look at things like that (windows of contention). I look at where we’re at from a draft perspective and then where we’re at from a free agency perspective, so if you’ve got any opportunity you take it,” Vozzo said.

“It’s such an even comp, so if you’ve got an opportunity to improve your list by free agency, whether you’re a young developing list or a list that’s ready to contend, really good free agents, really good players, are very attractive in both scenarios.

“We’re in a reasonable position from a salary cap perspective – the list, itself, I see as being young and at the stage now of growth. So, we put a lot of effort into resourcing development within the coaching department.

“We’re looking forward to seeing that growth, particularly over our first 12 months, to work out where our current reality is, and then we’ll make list management decisions with that experience in mind.”

Vozzo said he was hopeful the club would first re-sign their own player coming into free agency this year – Darcy Parish.

North Melbourne key defender Ben McKay and St Kilda small forward Jade Gresham are the most high-profile of the non-Essendon free agents on the market this year.

Changes to lines of reporting are permanent and not a reflection on Mahoney or Dodoro or their professional relationship:
In a wide-ranging interview since taking over as CEO of the club in January and ringing changes in the football department, Vozzo said the change to reporting lines for list manager Adrian Dodoro and football manager Josh Mahoney was not about de-escalating tensions between the pair.

Vozzo said the new structure, in which both men report to him, rather than Dodoro reporting to Mahoney as head of football, was not an interim measure, and he favoured it being the long-term reporting line.

While tensions and a disconnect between Mahoney and Dodoro have been widely reported, Vozzo said the structural change was not about personalities.

“I haven’t seen it. I assume there has been (conflict) in the past, obviously I wasn’t privy to it, but it’s been documented,” Vozzo said. “All I’ve seen is a very functional relationship in a work sense. It’s professional, and they go about their business in the best interest of the football club. That’s what I’m seeing.

“So I’m not seeing a day-to-day issue. I’m seeing one where we’re working cohesively in the best interest of footy club.

“There were a few reasons I changed the reporting structure. One, coming into the place what I noticed straight away, which is different to what I experienced when I was working as general manager of football (at West Coast), was just the quantum of the job. You’re overseeing four programs (AFL, VFL, AFLW, and VFLW) as general manager of football at the Essendon footy club.

“So one of the aspects was additional resources and providing my support to the leaders of the department, particularly in my skill set. Obviously, having a list management and recruiting background, it felt like a natural fit to provide additional resourcing in that space with myself from the helicopter point of view.

“That doesn’t mean we’ve diminished Josh’s importance in terms of our list management and recruiting focus – he is an integral part of our list management committees and has full oversight, and a really important part of that ... let’s build together with our TPP management as well.

“I don’t see it as an interim measure. It’s one that I’ve worked in the past as well. For instance, the senior coach reporting directly to the CEO is something that I’ve experienced over my entire time before here.

“It’s something that I’ve put in place for this season, with an intent in mind that it remains. And it’s something we’ll assess. We’re always looking to improve.”

Vozzo's player management & list management background:
Vozzo began at Essendon on January 16, replacing the stupendously short-lived Andrew Thorburn, and Xavier Campbell before that.

A lawyer from Adelaide, Vozzo’s practice expanded into player management before he was appointed list manager at West Coast. He was then promoted to GM of football before moving into senior commercial roles.

Essendon wanted a chief executive with a strong handle on football, and Vozzo’s first months have been heavily focused on the football department, where he has overseen significant investment in development coaching. Daniel McPherson was also hired from North Melbourne to oversee high performance operations.

Great coach, young list:
“I spend a chunk of my time in football, no doubt, but I spend a lot of time on aspects of the commercial aspect of the business as well. What did I find coming in? I found what I expected in the sense of an excellent coach. I couldn’t be more impressed with Brad [Scott].

“One of the things coming into the role, people asked ‘Why? Why take this job?’ and one of the reasons was having a young and exciting list. We’ve got plenty of work to do, we’re at the early phases of growth with young talent.

“To see players, apart from your [Archie] Perkins and your [Jye] Caldwell, and [Zach] Reid and [Nik] Cox, but even players that have come through in different pathways a bit harder, so Nic Martin, coming through an SSP (supplementary list) selection, and Jye Menzie and Sam Durham.”

No politics to see here:
After Kevin Sheedy, as a board member, spoke out upon the appointment of Brad Scott – that he was disappointed James Hird didn’t get the job as he had voted for Hird – it threw the political divisions at the club into open public glare.

Vozzo says he has not been witness to political divisions or hostility since his arrival.

“I’m just not seeing it,” he said. “Some people have asked me the question, and the difference between the old club (West Coast) and Essendon is just 150 years of history, and with that comes 150 years of people. So, there’s a lot more voices. I’m not seeing that as being political; just a lot more voices and additional amounts of passion, I guess.

“I guess one of my ambitions, as quickly as we can, is to have people just talking about our football team and the excitement about our players. That’s one of my objectives as quickly as I can.”

Comment on Ryder's return:
“Getting Paddy Ryder back in a professional sense, obviously with his experience and knowledge and what he can pass on to our players as an Indigenous mentor, is a big thing. But I guess messaging wise, that he was comfortable coming back to the football club, a club he represented for many years and obviously, there were issues when he left, it was a really pleasing thing that he made that decision to come back to the footy club.”

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naraku

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Sep 9, 2017
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bump

got a bit lost in the post-game but this stuff is interesting and probably important
Well, it sounds like Dodo sticks around which I don't think is right.
I wonder if McPherson would be able to get into McKay's ear.
No guarantee on Reid or Cox right now, other KPD deficiencies- out of Zerky -is pretty obvious.
 

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Trade and free agency strategy according to Vozzo:


Changes to lines of reporting are permanent and not a reflection on Mahoney or Dodoro or their professional relationship:


Vozzo's player management & list management background:


Great coach, young list:


No politics to see here:


Comment on Ryder's return:


Movie Leo GIF
So we have gone from a CEO who was all about he money to one who wants to run the footy program. I like the shift in focus to footy matters but I am not sure the CEO should be doing what the GM of football should really be covering. Also interesting about the free agents. Coach says we are not looking to go down that road right now. Looking to develop what we have. CEO says we are will be looking.
 
So we have gone from a CEO who was all about he money to one who wants to run the footy program. I like the shift in focus to footy matters but I am not sure the CEO should be doing what the GM of football should really be covering. Also interesting about the free agents. Coach says we are not looking to go down that road right now. Looking to develop what we have. CEO says we are will be looking.
It potentially turns the GM-football into a manager of footy operations (like an admin role instead of a leadership role). To some extent that might be fair enough given that we have four (or five) teams now. The way he's talking I don't think West Coast run their own reserves teams, they probably just play WAFL for an aligned team. But he also seems to want to frame it as having a 'helicopter view' and that Mahoney is still working with the others to do all the day to day stuff.

But then the next question for me is how many direct reports does the CEO have? if he has three members of the football department reporting to him, does he have the same level of involvement in commercial, marketing, HR, community, windy hill, melton, etc? Or are we also going to add a COO as a sort of deputy on all things non-footy?
 
It potentially turns the GM-football into a manager of footy operations (like an admin role instead of a leadership role). To some extent that might be fair enough given that we have four (or five) teams now. The way he's talking I don't think West Coast run their own reserves teams, they probably just play WAFL for an aligned team. But he also seems to want to frame it as having a 'helicopter view' and that Mahoney is still working with the others to do all the day to day stuff.

But then the next question for me is how many direct reports does the CEO have? if he has three members of the football department reporting to him, does he have the same level of involvement in commercial, marketing, HR, community, windy hill, melton, etc? Or are we also going to add a COO as a sort of deputy on all things non-footy?
Would seem at some stage we will need a COO if Vozzo is going to be involved in as much footy operations as he is.
The Eagles do run their own WAFL side now but they never used to. 2019 was the first year I think. From memory they had players spread over a few clubs.
 

dave10

Premiership Player
Apr 26, 2004
4,212
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Melbourne
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Essendon
It potentially turns the GM-football into a manager of footy operations (like an admin role instead of a leadership role). To some extent that might be fair enough given that we have four (or five) teams now. The way he's talking I don't think West Coast run their own reserves teams, they probably just play WAFL for an aligned team. But he also seems to want to frame it as having a 'helicopter view' and that Mahoney is still working with the others to do all the day to day stuff.

But then the next question for me is how many direct reports does the CEO have? if he has three members of the football department reporting to him, does he have the same level of involvement in commercial, marketing, HR, community, windy hill, melton, etc? Or are we also going to add a COO as a sort of deputy on all things non-footy?
My initial concerns is that we’ve appointed a new CEO who’s innate skill and passion is footy operations and that early signs indicate that he’s fully invested in overseeing the footy program like a head of footy operations would. Now given the clubs external review has signalled a renewed football focus, the appointment is consistent with this theme but risk is the Club over corrects in the delivery of this and the commercial side of the business lacks focus.

Rightly, the suggestion that if you fix football everything else sorts itself out. This is partly true. Sure, the commercials improve with on field results. However the challenge will arrive in the next 12-24 months if footy isn’t starting to return results.

Essendon holds almost no cash reserves and runs a modest profit largely delivered by the net contribution from footy ops but also from grants and donations. This isn’t sustainable and the Club can’t keep calling on wealthy supporters to prop up the bottom line. We will need to reinvest in upgrades at The Hangar soon, Windy Hill redevelopment has hit problems and all this will require the club to continue to build its commercial performance. Even though the club is rightly distracted by footy focus for now. It can be quickly blindsided.

Membership is down, Carlton, Collingwood, Richmond will all have 15,000 more members in 2023. We’re stuck at Marvel Stadium and there’s no discernible move to listen to members who want the club back at the MCG. Clubs are now outwardly positioning themselves for more MCG home games and members access while our club is mute and apparently inwardly focussed on its own problems. Yes form is a critical priority however complacency and reduced sharpness on the commercial side is showing signs of increasing and we could be quickly blindsided and disadvantaged in our own lack of awareness to what’s going on in the industry outside the four walls of The Hangar..

Let’s hope Vozzo’s focus on footy, and his hands on involvement delivers results. Risk is his attention away from the business will mean less focus and drive on commercial results which ultimately will impact the clubs capacity to invest in its footy program, facility, Windy Hill and get deprioritised compared to more aggressive cross town rivals ahead of our Marvel contract expiring end of next year..

We need the entire Club during agsin. Hopefully Vozzo gets footy right initially, then turns his attention more evenly onto the commercial side to endure our Club is running on full cylinders on and off field.
 
Last edited:
Apr 23, 2016
30,229
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My initial concerns is that we’ve appointed a new CEO who’s innate skill and passion is footy operations and that early signs indicate that he’s fully invested in overseeing the footy program like a head of footy operations would. Now given the clubs external review has signalled a renewed football focus, the appointment is consistent with this theme but risk is the Club over corrects in the delivery of this and the commercial side of the business lacks focus.

Rightly, the suggestion that if you fix football everything else sorts itself out. This is partly true. Sure, the commercials improve with on field results. However the challenge will arrive in the next 12-24 months if footy isn’t starting to return results.

Essendon holds almost no cash reserves and runs a modest profit largely delivered by the net contribution from footy ops but also from grants and donations. This isn’t sustainable and the Club can’t keep calling on wealthy supporters to prop up the bottom line. We will need to reinvest in upgrades at The Hangar soon, Windy Hill redevelopment has hit problems and all this will require the club to continue to build its commercial performance. Even though the club is rightly distracted by footy focus for now. It can be quickly blindsided.

Membership is down, Carlton, Collingwood, Richmond will all have 15,000 more members in 2023. We’re stuck at Marvel Stadium and there’s no discernible move to listen to members who want the club back at the MCG. Clubs are now outwardly positioning themselves for more MCG home games and members access while our club is mute and apparently inwardly focussed on its own problems. Yes form is a critical priority however complacency and reduced sharpness on the commercial side is showing signs of increasing and we could be quickly blindsided and disadvantaged in our own lack of awareness to what’s going on in the industry outside the four walls of The Hangar..

Let’s hope Vozzo’s focus on footy, and his hands on involvement delivers results. Risk is his attention away from the business will mean less focus and drive on commercial results which ultimately will impact the clubs capacity to invest in its footy program, facility, Windy Hill and get deprioritised compared to more aggressive cross town rivals ahead of our Marvel contract expiring end of next year..

We need the entire Club during agsin. Hopefully Vozzo gets footy right initially, then turns his attention more evenly onto the commercial side to endure our Club is running on full cylinders on and off field.

Regarding the bolded; our on-field performance is pretty directly related to membership figures. All of those clubs have a lot more reason to be appealing to join up at the moment, that we have membership numbers as high as we do despite the decade we've had, the offseason we've had, and the expectations of the seasons to come is quite positive IMO.

Marvel wise, I know we used to have an exceptionally profitable arrangement to play there, if that arrangement still stands I can see why commercially EFC might not be as keen to have more MCG home games whilst we're in a rebuilding phase. Once we see on-field success I have little doubt that our membership numbers will be right up there with Richmond, West Coast and Collingwood at north of 100,000 which might make the Marvel arrangement less appealing as we're likely to consistently bring in large crowd numbers.
 

frodos gardener

All Australian
Apr 4, 2022
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My initial concerns is that we’ve appointed a new CEO who’s innate skill and passion is footy operations and that early signs indicate that he’s fully invested in overseeing the footy program like a head of footy operations would. Now given the clubs external review has signalled a renewed football focus, the appointment is consistent with this theme but risk is the Club over corrects in the delivery of this and the commercial side of the business lacks focus.

Rightly, the suggestion that if you fix football everything else sorts itself out. This is partly true. Sure, the commercials improve with on field results. However the challenge will arrive in the next 12-24 months if footy isn’t starting to return results.

Essendon holds almost no cash reserves and runs a modest profit largely delivered by the net contribution from footy ops but also from grants and donations. This isn’t sustainable and the Club can’t keep calling on wealthy supporters to prop up the bottom line. We will need to reinvest in upgrades at The Hangar soon, Windy Hill redevelopment has hit problems and all this will require the club to continue to build its commercial performance. Even though the club is rightly distracted by footy focus for now. It can be quickly blindsided.

Membership is down, Carlton, Collingwood, Richmond will all have 15,000 more members in 2023. We’re stuck at Marvel Stadium and there’s no discernible move to listen to members who want the club back at the MCG. Clubs are now outwardly positioning themselves for more MCG home games and members access while our club is mute and apparently inwardly focussed on its own problems. Yes form is a critical priority however complacency and reduced sharpness on the commercial side is showing signs of increasing and we could be quickly blindsided and disadvantaged in our own lack of awareness to what’s going on in the industry outside the four walls of The Hangar..

Let’s hope Vozzo’s focus on footy, and his hands on involvement delivers results. Risk is his attention away from the business will mean less focus and drive on commercial results which ultimately will impact the clubs capacity to invest in its footy program, facility, Windy Hill and get deprioritised compared to more aggressive cross town rivals ahead of our Marvel contract expiring end of next year..

We need the entire Club during agsin. Hopefully Vozzo gets footy right initially, then turns his attention more evenly onto the commercial side to endure our Club is running on full cylinders on and off field.

What worries me especially about continuing to rely on members for donations, and particularly wealthy benefactors, is it perpetuates the coteries’ influence in the running of the club. How can senior employees at EFC close their ears to the whims of the financial elite when they keep digging into their deep pockets to keep the machine going? Impossible to shut them out if we’re not strong on the commercial revenues.

Agree that footy is rightly the main focus and wouldn’t want that to change but I hope it’s not a short-lived cycle.
 

bombreys

Club Legend
May 8, 2015
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Essendon
So we have gone from a CEO who was all about he money to one who wants to run the footy program. I like the shift in focus to footy matters but I am not sure the CEO should be doing what the GM of football should really be covering. Also interesting about the free agents. Coach says we are not looking to go down that road right now. Looking to develop what we have. CEO says we are will be looking.

He sort of has to say we’ll consider free agents. I feel like it’s more of a cliché - ‘we’ll consider all options presented to us i.e. draft/trade/FA/etc’

We won’t go after any FA’s this year. Can’t even think of the last player we signed.
 
He sort of has to say we’ll consider free agents. I feel like it’s more of a cliché - ‘we’ll consider all options presented to us i.e. draft/trade/FA/etc’

We won’t go after any FA’s this year. Can’t even think of the last player we signed.
Kelly, end of 21
 
Interesting article about Essendon this year, supposedly an inside-ish view.

Have split some other quotes out to different threads to keep them on topic.

New CEO Craig Vozzo, the former West Coast recruiter and footy boss, has been a vastly different chief executive to successor Xavier Campbell.
Insiders talk of an extremely strong character who dodges publicity, a relentless hard worker who has footy smarts through the roof.
He has skilfully handled any existing tension between recruiter Adrian Dodoro and football boss Josh Mahoney.
When he talks football or list management with those officials they trust he knows his stuff.
He has literally filled those roles before so it has helped the football department run smoothly.


Same article credits him with some list strategy stuff, in particular retaining Redman.
 

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