Since 1885, the Richmond Football Club (RFC) has been an active member and competitor of the elite Australian Football League (AFL). Based in Richmond, Melbourne, the RFC is one of the oldest and most famous Clubs in Australia. The RFC is also home to the largest membership base in the AFL – 100,000 members – the first Club to ever reach this impressive figure.
Employing 180 staff (full time, part time and casual) and 45 AFL footballers, the RFC is a unique operational environment. For many employees, half the year is spent in a week-to-week cycle based on the AFL football fixture, while others are engaged with programs, initiatives and deliverables that span the entire calendar year. Richmond’s operational structure comprises of a Board of Directors, Chief Executive Officer and a senior executive team overseeing each of the Club’s departments: football operations, communications and marketing, consumer business, finance and administration, people and culture and commercial operations.
The Club’s core business is football: a membership-based organisation in a high-performance, elite sporting environment. Its main product offerings include fan experiences, merchandise, corporate sponsorships and engagements, community initiatives, and health and sport participation. Adhering to the regulations of an elite sporting code and catering to the needs of thousands of passionate fans also means that the Club navigates a dynamic media landscape, receiving a great deal of weekly scrutiny over its on-field and off-field performance. With 11 AFL premierships to its name, over $80 million in yearly turnover, and consistent on-field outcomes, the Club has demonstrated admirable success. Yet while premierships might be the ‘ultimate’ goal in this competitive industry, the RFC’s definition of success relies just as much as what it accomplishes off the field.
At Richmond, culture is everything, and ‘how’ the Club succeeds is essential as the success itself. Through an alignment of vision, purpose and a dynamic strategic platform, the Club has successfully cultivated a ‘Strong & Bold’ Club culture that uses football to work to a greater purpose: inspiring and serving the broader community through a range of industry-leading initiatives.
With a Board comprising 40% women, the RFC was a pioneer in 2013, becoming the first Club in AFL/VFL history to be led by a female president, Peggy O’Neal. The Club also co-established the Male Champions of Change (MCC), a national body comprising 13 CEOs from seven different sports to facilitate collective decisions that drive the advancement of women in all aspects of sport. Home to a new women’s team, which will enter the AFLW in 2020, the Club also boasts one of five AFL wheelchair teams, and in 2018 became the first AFL Club to sponsor an LBGTQI organisation, Midsumma Festival.
A crucial element of the RFC’s operations are driven by its leadership off the field, through a raft of community initiatives around Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination, cultural diversity, inclusivity, and gender equality.
In 2011, the RFC formalised its commitment to a new journey of engagement with Indigenous Australia through the Club’s first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). This coincided with the founding of the Korin Gamadji Institute (KGI): an Indigenous-led education and training facility designed to support and empower young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to lead and determine their own futures. Housed on-site in the Swinburne Centre at the RFC’s Punt Road Oval HQ, the KGI has since launched a suite of Indigenous-led initiatives, notably its watershed Richmond Emerging Aboriginal Leadership program (REAL).
In just eight years, this now globally recognised program has engaged nearly 1500 young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals aged between 14 and 21 years. Through an immersive curriculum, the program mentors students on cultural affirmation, leadership, active participation in civic life, health and wellbeing, and career pathways.
Since 2011, REAL has matured into a comprehensive four-phase program, with newer programs joining alongside: the Laguntas football, KGI netball, and Boorimul programs, all of which support cultural strengthening, leadership, health, education, training, and employment pathways for young Indigenous women and men.
This suite of programming – with REAL at the heart of it – overlays strongly with the Club’s core purpose and value: ‘Connecting to Thrive and Win’. This relates to connection with each other, connection through partnership, and connection with the broader community: a key pillar of the Club’s operational success.
By seeding a family of key partnerships, particularly with Indigenous-led organisations like Reconciliation Australia, Culture is Life, the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre, Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, and the National Congress of Australia’s First People, the Club has co-created an essential ingredient for the advancement of Reconciliation: trust.
Richmond enjoys an admirable level of trust with Indigenous Australia. This trust is appreciated every year at the annual Dreamtime at the ‘G event: an RFC-led match that reaches an average crowd of 80,000+ and a TV audience of over 1.2 million. Richmond was proud to be the direct catalyst for establishing the Dreamtime game back in 2005, which then led to the creation of the national Sir Doug Nicholls Round: a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander contributions to the game and the broader nation. This round, and event, remains an enduring success: a key opportunity to unite Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australia through storytelling and communication on a national scale.
As part of the Dreamtime match in 2011, the RFC commissioned Indigenous artist Jirra Harvey to design the Club’s first ever Indigenous guernsey; this led to the AFL mandating that all AFL clubs develop their own unique Indigenous guernsey as part of the Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round.
The Club continues to achieve important milestones in cultural awareness. In 2017, it became the first sporting club to become a signatory to a National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples Accord. This dovetailed in 2018 with the RFC presenting in at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York City.