AFL boss Gillon McLachlan leading by example on issue of spinal cord injury


AFL boss Gillon McLachlan leading by example on issue of spinal cord injury

Consider for a moment that the person most likely to suffer a spinal cord injury in Australia is a male between 15 and 24 years of age, and it’s easy to understand why AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan has committed the support of the Australian Football League to an initiative like the Big Day Off.

James McQuillan fits the profile to a tee, and is one of many young men who have suffered a spinal cord injury (SCI) in the prime of their young lives, playing a sport that so many Australians know and love. Twenty-two year old James is the inspiration behind the Big Day Off, having sustained quadriplegia playing country football in Victoria in 2014.

Only about 12% of spinal cord injuries are sporting related, but what that translates to is approximately 44 (often young) lives changed drastically and permanently every year. This means more than a loss of mobility, it’s a loss of independence, sensation, bodily control and even the ability to breathe unaided in some cases.

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Thankfully there is now a lot of time, research and training that goes into making sports safer. And for the most part when it comes to competitive sport, as a nation, in fact as a global society, we have decided that we’ll take the risks – that the positives outweigh the negatives. A recent survey by World Rugby revealed that although parents are understandably concerned about the risk of injury, 92% felt that the benefits of children playing sport far outweigh the risks. Benefits like keeping fit, maintaining and improving mental and social skills, and learning teamwork.

Midfielder for the AFL's Greater Wester Sydney GIANTS and Big Day Off ambassador Jack Steele

Midfielder for the AFL’s Greater Wester Sydney GIANTS and Big Day Off ambassador Jack Steele

We are a nation passionate about playing and supporting sport, and as Australians we thrive in the spirit of competition both on and off the field. Many of us worship at the altar of at least one sporting code or team be it AFL, NRL, ARU, ANL, horse racing, Supercars, or the more recently established A-League. However, the reality is, there is no preventing spinal cord injury. Not in sport, nor in life, not at this point anyway.

To that end, we have to do what we can to support those who live with SCI on a daily basis, and work towards finding a cure for this debilitating condition. The support of an organisation like the AFL goes a long way towards achieving both of these goals, and CEO Gillon McLachlan has issued a call to action for all businesses and employees to get involved, stating:

New AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan poses for a photo prior to the press conference announcing him as the new CEO of AFL at AFL House, Melbourne on April 30, 2014. (Photo: Sean Garnsworthy/AFL Media)

“The AFL is proud to support James McQuillan and the Big Day Off initiative, a fun and easy way for businesses and staff to work together to support Australians with spinal cord injuries. 

At just 20 years of age, James sustained a serious spinal cord injury during a football match in 2014 while playing with the Albury Tigers. Inspired by his resilience, the AFL is committed to supporting the Big Day Off and helping to raise money so people like James can overcome the day-to-day challenges of living with a spinal injury.”

Simple, innovative and effective…how does the Big Day Off work?

The Big Day Off is a straightforward and engaging way for businesses to support a great cause by putting up an additional day or days off work for their staff to win.

Businesses simply register and nominate a number of days off available for staff to win – we suggest a day per 50-100 employees, but this is entirely up to the individual organisation and decision maker. The registrant (this can be an administrator or appropriate person who can champion the initiative) then receives an ID code that staff can use to purchase tickets. Once a business is registered, staff can purchase as many tickets as they like ($5 each) to win an additional paid day off work – to spend doing whatever they like. It’s that simple.

All proceeds from ticket sales go to Australian spinal cord injury support and research charities that help people with SCI with their day-to-day needs, and funds research that will ultimately help to find a cure for the condition. (Find out more about the not-for-profit organisations that we support)

The entire BDO sign-up and ticket purchase process takes place online between March 31 and June 1, meaning the process is quick, simple and requires zero cash outlay for businesses to participate.

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Leading by example

The Big Day Off represents an innovative and progressive chance for businesses to engage staff in a meaningful way – one that benefits the company, the cause and of course the winners. And while it’s hard to put a value for your staff on an extra paid day off, we’re willing to bet it’s at least $5, if not a whole lot more.

A lot of great businesses have signed-up to take part this year including the NRL, Slater + Gordon, Lloyd’s Australia, Dutch Media, Res Publica, Medicines Australia, Johnson and Johnson Medical and many more.

Join these organisations and make your statement as a business leader that is committed to supporting young, Australian men and women affected by spinal cord injury.

“Together, with James, we encourage everyone to get involved by registering your business or nominating your boss or manager. Join us in making the 2016 Big Day Off a success.” Gillon McLachlan, CEO Australian Football League.

Learn more or register your business today.

(Entries and tickets sales close midnight June 30)