All those millions of fans watching the AFL broadcast coverage next year have Lauren Cranstoun to thank, at least in part. As a member of the team that struck the broadcast deal to take the game to as many people as possible around the country, Lauren is at the forefront of Australian football and the AFL brand’s reach into Australian homes. Coming from a legal background has certainly helped her succeed, as has her ability to stay cool in high-pressure situations. Although, she knows she couldn’t have gone as far as she has without her employer’s support.
Coming from a regional Queensland town that largely barracked for rugby league, it might seem odd that Lauren would find herself in the upper reaches of AFL administration. But as it all unfolded Lauren was smart enough to know when good fortune was speaking.
“After law school, I commenced working as a lawyer at the Australian top-tier law firm, Allens, specializing in Mergers & Acquisitions. Whilst there I made Senior Associate and went on secondment to the Australian Takeovers Panel.”
Lauren’s time there allowed her to hone her legal skills and drew her into a valuable network.
“The Takeovers Panel is a peer review body made up of senior members of Australia’s business community (including several of the AFL’s current and former Commissioners).
“I spent nine months on secondment from Allens as legal counsel at the Panel, focussed on using my legal skills to resolve disputes on hostile takeover bids whilst managing broader commercial and policy issues.”
Tackling a new career challenge
When she felt a career change was needed, Lauren started looking a little outside the box and off the linear paths of a conventional legal working life. She started thinking that perhaps the grand arena of her career might not be the Supreme Court, but rather the MCG.
“I was looking for a new challenge in applying my legal and commercial skills within an industry that I was passionate about. The role at the AFL happened to come up at the most opportune time.”
It was clearly a fortuitous moment for the AFL as well. As the organization began preparing for the broadcast rights deal for the coming period, Lauren was already heavily involved as the AFL’s Senior Legal Counsel.
Her connection to the media deal drew her further in and soon she was part of the executive team involved in the negotiations.
“I stepped in to support our Executive team with commercial negotiations and documenting the ultimate deal. This work, and the outcome that we managed to achieve, is the highlight of my career to date.” During the negotiations, Lauren was appointed to her new role as Head of Broadcast & Venue Commercial Management, shifting from a legal role into an important new role for the industry.
Being so closely involved in a multi-billion-dollar deal – the biggest in value in Australian sporting history – had significant business implications not only for the AFL but for broadcasters and sponsors alike. It’s certainly an achievement worth flexing.
However, when we asked Lauren about the deal, she was keen to emphasize the benefits to the broader Australian football community.
“Negotiating the most optimal media rights deal creates financial security for our players, clubs, and the entire AFL industry, whilst enabling the AFL to invest heavily into community football and our pathway programs.”
Employee benefits to cheer about
Lauren’s extraordinary and highly successful career wouldn’t have been the same without AFL’s benchmark parental leave provisions – paid leave for 24 weeks.
“In 2020, I took 10 months of parental leave, returning initially on a three-day-a-week basis and gradually increased back to full time.
“My experience of parental leave was a little more unusual than most as I was already working from home right up until my parental leave, and then I came back from leave into Melbourne’s pandemic lockdowns.
“But the ability to work flexibly has been important to me for juggling my young family whilst giving me the confidence to take on a new role.”
For all the glamor of huge media contracts, working in the top level of a professional sport, and benchmarking parental leave policies, it’s the leadership development opportunities that excite Lauren about her work at the AFL.
“I’ve been fortunate to participate in several development programs organized by the AFL for emerging young leaders,” she says.
“My personal highlight was the Accelerate Emerging Executive Program which I participated in during 2022 with young female leaders across the AFL industry.
“The program encouraged me to actively take stock of my strengths and develop my areas of potential. I recognized during the program that I am at my best when I am intellectually challenged by high-stakes projects that have a major impact on the AFL.”
The AFL actively supports its talented leaders and encourages promotions (like the one Lauren received during the broadcast right negotiations) to areas outside their core expertise to help further their development. This, plus access to the leadership programs, and AFL’s up-to-date approach on family-work balance has ensured that not only will Lauren be not only sticking around, but she will continue to go forward at the AFL.
Sharing the values of the game, the company, and the community
We all know that teamwork is something that drives the game of AFL. But it also drives how the game is run too, and that’s something that will keep Lauren committed to its future.
“As a sport with the highest number of paid female athletes in the country, our investment in diverse talent in every aspect of the industry is critical to our continued growth and success.
“We play as one team – I thrive when I work as part of a team and when I can share a laugh with, or just be there to support, the people I get to work with.”