Richmond has become the first team in AFL history to appoint a female club president after Peggy O’Neal was voted into the role at a board meeting yesterday afternoon.
The US-born lawyer has served on the Richmond board for eight years and her appointment came as a surprise after the role was expected to go to one of her fellow board members Maurice O’Shannassy or Malcolm Speed. She will take over from outgoing club president Gary March who stood down last week.
March said that O’Neal was one of the most outstanding board members he had worked with and welcomed her appointment as the first female club president. He said they had previously kept her candidacy ‘in-house’ to deflect the focus of her gender.
”There were many capable candidates, but she was one of the outstanding candidates and she got the position on merit,” he told The Age.
”The fact that she’s the first female president of the AFL/VFL, I just think is a fantastic thing for the Richmond Football Club. It just shows how far we’ve come as an organisation.”
O’Neal said her appointment as the first female club president was “deeply humbling” and reflected the club’s “progressive attitude.”
“I think it says much about the Richmond Football Club’s … broad commitment to diversity, and in this instance, the important role females play in the game at all levels,” she told richmondfc.com.au.
“It is a privilege to lead such a great football club and I look forward to working with the board and management to build on the momentum we have established in recent seasons,” she said.
O’Neal, who hails from Virginia in the US, has lived in Australia for the past 24 years. She was previously a partner at Herbert Smith Freehills and is now a consultant lawyer with Lander & Rogers.
She also chairs the club’s risk and compliance committee and serves as a non-executive director on the boards MLC nominees, Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation and Retails Responsible Entity Limited.