Recently appointed Australian Football League (AFL) chief, Andrew Dillon, has staunchly defended the much-debated formula for free-agency compensation. He asserts firmly that it has contributed to making the competition more equitable than in any previous era.
Suspicions were swirling regarding the fairness of North Melbourne being awarded pick 3 in the imminent AFL draft. This lucrative advantage was a compensation for the departure of free agent Ben McKay—who initially joined the team as a number 21 pick—to Essendon with a six-year contract in place.
The grumblings centered around whether the compensation was overly generous, particularly as McKay finished seventh in North’s best player rankings in 2023, a year when the Kangaroos ended up last. Dillon, however, made it clear that no adjustment to the formula was necessary, stating that the arrangement, formulated around a player’s age and guaranteed payments, remains unaltered since its inception.
Dillon explained, “The compensation formula is firmly anchored in Ben’s age and his guaranteed payments. There is no ambiguity; the formula delivers the result.” He added that the formula has consistently delivered since free agency was introduced in 2014. Through the veil of player salaries privacy, Dillon assures that the formula delivers fair result, making it unnecessary to change the current system.
Dillon, a central figure in the introduction of free agency, stressed the importance of fair equilibrium between clubs losing a player and not receiving fair return. He reassured that the compensation will continue as part of the contracts agreed with the players association.
Looking ahead, Dillon indicated that some revisions might be needed if a mid-season trade system were implemented. Despite this, he believes that player exchanges have improved significantly across all clubs. Even in light of the Kangaroos’ consecutive failures, Dillon maintained that the competition’s balance has never been more harmonious.
Highlighting the successes of the AFL, Dillon remarked, “One of the defining attributes of the AFL is the competitive balance we’ve maintained. Evidence of this balance can be seen in the AFL results over the last 10-20 years, showcasing one of the most evenly-matched competitions.” This was particularly evident in the recent finals series where the margin of victory was a thin 20 points across five matches at the MCG.
Dillon emphasized, “Our competition is astonishingly balanced, and all the various mechanisms contribute to this equilibrium. In isolation, all these parts go into creating such balance. Free agency and compensation are integral to these equalisation measures.”