AFL blueprint for third Stadiun Patrick Smith | August 01, 2008
ONCE you do the simple mathematics then the solution appears overwhelmingly sensible. If not expensive and bold as well. Certainly the final outcome will become a political and sporting issue of great drama.
Presently 16 AFL teams play football over 22 rounds which makes a total of 176 games. If west Sydney comes on line in 2012 and joins the Gold Coast as the 17th and 18th teams, then you have a serious problem. That is an increase of 40 games, assuming the numbers of rounds increase to 24, a significant number of which will need to be played in Melbourne.
Given the present workload of the two AFL venues in Melbourne, Telstra Dome and the MCG, and the tight contracts that bind clubs and the AFL to those stadiums, the league is now considering building a third venue. Its size and whereabouts are far from settled but a boutique arena with a potential to cater for 25,000 fans is a starting point.
Club chief executives attending a two-day information conference which ended yesterday were told the new venue was an option the AFL was seriously considering.
The AFL is looking to cater for the extra teams and off-setting the wretched and niggardly deals some clubs have with their landlords at Telstra Dome and the MCG. The meeting was told the new ground was one of several economic options.
A 25,000-seat stadium could work along the lines of Geelong's home ground which can return the club match receipts of around $500,000 a game.
A new stadium appeals both to the AFL and the clubs which are hamstrung by deals where most of the money earned on match day goes straight back to venue management.
The present deals are locked in and will hinder tenant clubs such as the Western Bulldogs, North Melbourne and St Kilda until the AFL takes ownership of Telstra Dome in 2025.
The AFL was loath to set down specifics because the growth in attendances and membership has increased rapidly. Average attendance for games in Melbourne is 40,000 but games with poorly performing non-Victorian clubs draw far fewer fans.
For example: Melbourne must draw 20,000 supporters to break even at the MCG and North Melbourne and the Bulldogs 30,000 at Telstra Dome. So hard has it been for clubs to negotiate with Telstra Dome boss Ian Collins that the clubs have handed the stadium deals over to the AFL executive to sort out.
Gillon McLachlan, the No2 man behind AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou, told The Australian yesterday: "Stadium returns are critical to club finances and we have always believed that they represented the greatest inequality to the success of clubs."
McLachlan's role as AFL chief operating officer is to oversee the expansion of the AFL to 18 teams, all stadium requirements and new broadcasting deals.
While McLachlan would not be drawn on the subject of a third stadium, he conceded the AFL was looking at a number of options to accommodate new clubs and enhance present stadium deals. With two new teams and possibly 20 more games, the AFL has a chance to renegotiate with the stadiums.
If the AFL goes ahead with its new ground then it will be more than a little politically sensitive. The AFL previously abandoned Waverley Park in preference for Telstra Dome and the size, whereabouts, ownership and usage of any new ground will create fierce debate.
Several chief executives left the meeting pleased that the AFL, which for some time had ridiculed suggestions of a third venue, had placed the investigation of another Melbourne playing arena on the immediate agenda. North Melbourne chief executive Eugene Arocca said: "If it was not on the AFL horizon before, it is now."
A presentation by Brisbane chief executive Mike Bowers drew unanimous support that venue deals cruelly differed from club to club, venue to venue and state to state and represented a chronic inequality within the league.
Bowers' presentation is expected to play a major part in the AFL recommending to the commission that the league's annual special distribution be retained at least until the end of 2011. It will be based mostly on the differential between club stadium deals and might be given another name to reduce the stigma that the funding is a league handout.
Other factors previously incorporated in ASD payments including the size of supporter base, membership numbers and fixture opportunities might be addressed in a secondary payment but one that would be closely monitored by the AFL financial team.
The AFL already has begun to build a small ground for training purposes at Blacktown in west Sydney that has the potential to be expanded into a stadium to accommodate AFL games. The AFL remains optimistic that it will be able to strike an agreement with the various Gold Coast and government parties to develop Carrara for the Gold Coast team.
If nothing else, the clubs stuck with the Telstra deals now have grounds for optimism.
Discussion on developments interstate and overseas.
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From the Australian,
A classic Victorian-oriented response to the wrong issue entirely - the problem is the insistence of the AFL to continue to subsidise embarrasingly small-minded and financially-inept Victorian football clubs; those with pathetic membership figures, the revenue-raising capabilities of a meat-tray raffle, and all the board-level stability of a game of musical chairs.
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