The club a couple of years ago was very outspoken about their on-field goals. I think it was finishing in the top 4 by 2018 and contending for a flag over a 3 year period? Something along those lines. You can find articles about it if you dig for them. We obviously failed miserably and nothing ever came from it. The club acts like it never happened.
They shifted goalposts in an almost gaslighting way by telling us that 10 other clubs would love to be in the position of being obliterated by West Coast in the EF last year. “We should be happy we even made it” apparently.
They communicated their goals, but didn’t communicate progress. A huge sign of incompetency is the lack of accountability…
But was that ever the goal? Why in the world would a club coming off a wooden spoon with so much uncertainty set such an ambitious goal? The answer lies in what we DID communicate in the past couple of years. Off-field progression.
Hear me out. This may be taken as a conspiracy theory, but I believe that our number 1 goal was to rebuild from the financial impact of the saga. That’s obviously straight forward and understandable. We were brought to our knees after the worst scandal in AFL history. Our debt was I think over 10 million dollars at a point. There’s no way on-field performance is prioritised over our financial position and rebuilding our brand. I actually think the club was very smart in how they handled the off-field aspect of the club.
The shifting of goalposts and abandoning of projections indicates that on-field performance was never the real goal. Think of it as clickbait. What did we actually achieve though? We cleared our debt and smashed membership records. We had the same memberships as successful teams like West Coast, Collingwood and Hawthorn. Those ambitious goals around top 4 and contending generated hype and money for the club. I don’t believe they ever expected us to achieve those goals. Supporter engagement is the key component to financial stability. The best time to profit is in the off-season because on-field performance won’t hold the club accountable. By the time the season starts, most of the money is made.
The constant communication from the club over the last 2 years is “be patient, we’ll be a very good side”. I think Woosha even said exactly that recently. From a business perspective, it makes sense. It’s the only way you can sell hope. Deflect away from now and paint a picture of what it will be like.
In fact, everything we did makes complete sense if we only look at it financially. Making huge trades to smash membership records, keeping Daniher instead of trading him to sell hope, the succession plan to provide “stability” etc. The club is still very much in “survival mode”. Think of the following: What happens to memberships if Daniher is traded? How will we sell the hope of a premiership when our best player, a father-son from an Essendon family, leaves the club for a couple of speculative picks? The only way Daniher was ever leaving is if he left for an established player we could use to sell hope. Pick 9 or whatever wasn’t going to do that. Another question to ask is: what happens to memberships if we concede the mistake of re-signing Woosha by sacking him? Here comes the perfect plan of selling hope: the succession plan.
The succession plan essentially guaranteed at least two years of supporter engagement. If 2020 goes to ■■■■, well Woosha is out the door. If 2021 goes to ■■■■, well it’s Rutten’s first year. We’ll hear plenty of “the gameplan takes time to implement” and “Dimma took 7 years”. Essendon supporters are still actually blaming Woosha for our on-field perfomance this year even though Rutten is basically the coach lol. Succession plan probably worked exactly how they envisaged it. Just another contingency plan.
Focusing on finance was smart in the short-term, but will it be in the long-term? What happens in a couple of years when we’re faced with the reality of needing a rebuild? Generating hype can only last for so long. On-field failure means you cannot attract quality players. It also means that memberships and attendances eventually stagnate. Then they’ll stop receiving prime-time slots and start accumulating debt. It has a flow on effect.
So many of our decisions do not make sense from an on-field perspective, which is why I believe it was never the aim. My theory isn’t farfetched either because Richmond before they won the premiership explicitly stated they didn’t intend on winning a premiership in one of their plans. My memory is a bit clouded, but it might have either sparked the internal review at the end of 2016 or it might have been discovered during that review.
TL;DR - Essendon click-baited the supporters.