Essendon rocked by massive new blow amid AFL coaching turmoil

Xavier Campbell and Ben Rutten, pictured here at Essendon Football Club.
Xavier Campbell and Ben Rutten have both departed Essendon Football Club. Image: Getty

Essendon have been rocked by the resignation of CEO Xavier Campbell as the club's tumultuous week goes from bad to worse.

Campbell's departure on Wednesday comes less than three days after he declared he was confident he had the full support of the board and new president David Barham.

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The chief executive, who had been in the post since 2014 and worked at the Bombers from 2009, had been a supporter of recently-sacked coach Ben Rutten.

Campbell was only re-signed as CEO in May on a two-year contract until the end of the 2024 season.

But last week's board meeting, where Barham took over from Paul Brasher as president, and the unsuccessful pursuit of now North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson, turned the club on his head.

“Being CEO is more than a job and it has been an absolute privilege, a pleasure, and an experience I will always be proud of,” Campbell said.

“I have done everything in my power to restore the club’s financial, structural, and cultural stability; to help pick up the pieces and put the club back together after the heartbreak, chaos, and instability of my first four years was one of the more difficult tasks I will face in my professional career. And despite the challenges of this past week – I believe we have done that.

“Under the previous boards and the presidency of Paul Little, Lindsay Tanner and Paul Brasher we have delivered these outcomes. I leave the club confident in the knowledge that despite the challenges of the past week or so it is in stronger shape than people may believe. We have an exceptionally strong financial base, significant membership base and a talented and young playing group that will help us build toward our next premiership.

“With the many strong building blocks that are firmly in place at Essendon, the decision to appoint a new coach and a bold vision under new president Dave Barham, there is an opportunity to take the club on to finals success and ultimately, a premiership. And I hope as much as anyone that we do that.”

Campbell played a key role in steering the Bombers out of the fallout of their supplements saga, including the 2016 suspensions of the 'Essendon 34'.

Xavier Campbell, pictured here during Essendon's clash with Richmond.
Xavier Campbell looks on during Essendon's clash with Richmond. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Dave Barhem pays tribute to Xavier Campbell

In a statement, Barham hailed Campbell's strong leadership in reforming Essendon's "governance, cultural and structural processes" amid the fallout from the saga, and managing legal procedures related to AFL anti-doping and WADA appeals.

Campbell also helped to re-sign players in the wake of the scandal, retaining sponsors, ridding the Bombers of associated debt and ensuring the club was a financial powerhouse.

The outgoing CEO called for the fractured AFL club to unite under Barham to help them find finals success, and ultimately a premiership.

"I hope as much as anyone that we do that," he said.

"What this needs is; a focused and well-supported president, a board united in its intent, strategy and voice, working in lockstep with management, supported by loyal and committed members and fans who believe in the club, the direction it's heading and the team that can take it there.

"Our playing group deserves nothing less than this. Our AFLW team deserves this. Our fans and members deserve it and are ready for it."

The Bombers will immediately commence a search for Campbell's replacement.

Chief commercial officer Nick Ryan will assume the role as acting CEO in the interim.

with AAP

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