MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 03: Will Snelling (left) and Andrew McGrath of the Bombers celebrate during the 2019 AFL round 20 match between the Essendon Bombers and the Port Adelaide Power at Marvel Stadium on August 03, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

The Bombers have laid out a bold five-year plan to become one of the most powerful football clubs by the year 2026.

The blueprint, which was unveiled at Essendon's annual general meeting on Wednesday night, outlined the Bombers' main goals; to achieve their first premiership triumph since 2000 and to increase their membership tally to 125,000 (they had 81,622 members in 2021, behind just West Coast, Richmond and Collingwood).

The club is targeting premierships from its AFL, AFLW, VFL, VFLW and VWFL (wheelchair) teams by the end of the 2026 season.

Heading into the club's 150th season in 2022, Bombers CEO Xavier Campbell was optimistic about his club's ability to win a flag in the near future.

"Absolutely, as we are being very specific about [winning a premiership]. When will we win a premiership? I am not sure, but we believe we can win at least one premiership in the next five-year period," Campbell said, per The Age. 

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 13: Xavier Campbell the Bombers CEO speaks to the media during an Essendon Bombers AFL media opportunity on November 13, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. Federal Opposition leader Bill Shorten MP commited $4 million to support the second stage of development for the Bombers and Australian Paralympic Committee's home base, The Hangar, if elected at the next Federal Election. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

"I don’t know if it's next year, but I know in this next period if we as a group continue to build upon the foundations that we have got, the connection continues to build, the players continue to believe and they enjoy their football, [then] I think anything is possible. And we don't put a ceiling on that."

Despite entering the 2021 season under a 'rebuilding' label, the Bombers more than exceeded expectations, playing finals football and providing plenty of hope for the club's future.

"It's not that we weren't focused on winning premierships. Clearly, the underlying positions in all of our discussions, the commonality came back to that we want to win a premiership. That's a given, but maybe there is a more intricate focus now," Campbell added.

"Perhaps there are less of the other discussions and challenges than we have had in the past but, by no means is that an excuse either. It's beholden on us now to drive the club forward … hopefully, we are starting to build some momentum now."

The Bombers are looking to continue regaining the respect of their fans and the wider competition after the events of the 2013 supplements saga, during which 34 Essendon players were suspended for taking the banned substance Thymosin Beta-4.

AFL Rd 4 - Sydney v Essendon
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 08: Ben Rutten, coach of the Bombers, looks on during the round four AFL match between the Sydney Swans and the Essendon Bombers at Sydney Cricket Ground on April 08, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/AFL Photos/via Getty Images)

Campbell, who was appointed as chief executive in 2014, had high praise for senior coach Ben Rutten, who impressed in his first year as coach of the young Bombers.

"He has really got an eye for detail, and he cares, and it means an enormous amount. I am not saying that in comparison to others, necessarily. As a stand-alone observation that is what I would say," he said.

"I can see the connection that is not just being built with the players but the staff as well."

Essendon's goals by 2026:

  • Every team has won at least one premiership.
  • The most engaged professional sporting club member base in Australia with over 125,000 members.
  • A national leader in Indigenous community advancement on and off field.
  • To develop the industry’s leading player (on and off field) and staff development program through the establishment of the EFC leadership academy.
  • Complete redevelopment of Windy Hill, creating a destination precinct for women’s, state and community league football, allied health, medical, fitness and wellbeing services.
  • Complete Hangar development, creating a premier hub in the region for supporting community and education pathways, elite performance, and sports medicine services.
  • Top-rated club across key national brand metrics - attendance, broadcast, digital & social, apparel sales - through enhanced data analytics investment and capacity.
  • Generate in excess of $4 million net contribution per annum (incremental to existing business performance) through establishment of an independent investment ventures portfolio and commercialisation of Hangar.
  • Top-rated club for revenue generation across key (comparative) benchmarks: sponsorship, membership, corporate networks, philanthropy, retail sales.