The Australian Football League’s social agenda

Robert Gill


National sport codes are in the position of being leaders for upholding and promoting social responsibility values, due to their engagement with the public and media commentary.  Sport is ideally placed to be lead awareness for social issues, particularly around equality and inclusion. In Australia, the biggest national sport code is the Australian Football League (AFL) governed by its Commission.  The AFL Commission is very aware of its ability to lead social discussion and drive policy around many community issues and challenges.

The code at its professional level has evolved from a localism culture to a ‘commodified sport’, characterised by high-level business objectives, technology and sport elitism.  The code has a strong emphasis on brand and reputation resulting in advanced professionalism and commercialisation.  The Commission endeavours to protect its brand, and appears well aware of the importance of ‘social responsibility positioning’ in order to manage and enhance its brand. This paper looks at the social agenda the AFL promotes and analyses its positions against Organisational – Public Relationship theory to understand if the AFL motive is for commercial branding or is for contributing to the greater good in the communities it AFL operates in.

This case study reviews the social agendas the AFL promotes through its media and community presence. The case study approach of comparing the analysed media and policy output from the AFL against contemporary academic literature on social responsibility will aid sports organisations in developing their strategic communication.


sport; social responsibility; AFL; community engagement; strategic communication

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