Image for Footy ... a solution?

Now I’m not going to say from the outset that I think the government spending 8 million dollars a year on a one elite sport is a good idea, when there are plenty of more worthy causes.

There are probably better ways to increase tourism, like those “Tasmania: Go behind the bushes” banner ads I keep seeing, and it’s not necessarily the best or most cost effective way to get kids or adults motivated to participate in sport themselves, something I may elaborate on in the future.

But what I will say, is that if that money is going to be spent on one sport, the money could be spent much more wisely. And while the Tasmanian government and its GBEs continue to pander to the AFL, it is clear that nothing will change.

Let’s look at the two lead contenders in the battle for football primacy.

First, the old favourite, AFL.

Highest crowd at Bellerive - 17,500 Nth Melbourne vs Richmond in 2015

Highest crowd at York Park - 20,000 Hawthorn vs Richmond in 2006

The crowds at York Park have seen some drop-off, as also happened in Brisbane with the Kangaroos when it was decided they wouldn’t be considering a permanent move there.

The average has generally been around 15,000, still more than GWS and Gold Coast have been able to consistently manage at their home grounds with their own teams.

If a home crowd for a Tasmanian AFL team surpassed this on a regular basis, as it could well do, extra seating capacity could be needed at one of these venues, especially when Tasmania is playing drawcard sides.

Finances: Based on the most conservative numbers available from recent figures. I’ve left out some of the smaller figures, but the general gist is there.

Present annual spend of 8m+ composed of:

4.5m Tas government sponsorship of Hawthorn bringing 4+1 pre-season

1.5m TT Line and HCC spend on North Melbourne’s 3-game deal.

1m+ Momentum Energy spend on Geelong/Adelaide/St. George-Illawarra

1m+ Aurora stadium naming rights.

Try as I might I couldn’t find definitive figures for these last two.

Possible revenue:

8m+ Maintain existing government funding.

5m Corporate sponsors, this is the level of sponsorship achieved by the lowest endowed clubs. As Tasmania would have the benefit of an exclusive pool of Tasmanian businesses, rather than competing with Melbourne clubs, as well as access to the same national and international sponsors as other clubs, at least this minimum number should be possible.

12m Normal AFL distributions - The amount of divided general AFL revenue which all clubs get, although struggling new clubs in rugby and soccer territory such as GWS and the Gold Coast are endowed with far more.

3m Membership (15000@$200), arrived at by looking at average crowd numbers, the fact that there are currently 25,000 AFL club members in Tasmania and the fact that 8000 of those are presently Hawthorn members, most of whom likely signed up to get cheap tickets to York Park games. Either way, if the number is less it would merely balance out with the membership obligation under expenses.

1.5m Merchandise revenue. I’m not sure how much Tasmanians would spend, but this seems a reasonable minimum, based on other clubs. It’s equates to $3 per capita, or $100 per member / attendee.

2.5m+ Gate revenue share. Tasmania would get to keep all ticket proceeds as the owner of the stadium, and as Hawthorn does now at York Park under its very lucrative deal. You’ll notice on the link below that they’re ahead on gate takings.

Total Revenue 32m+ Even without a restaurant/pokie venue, which is attached to every AFL club except for North Melbourne.

Expenses, based on the cheapest run clubs:

Football: 20m

Administration: 4m

Sponsorship, events: 4m

Membership: 3m

Merchandise: 1m

Total Expenses 32m

So for the same government outlay, we would have nearly double the amount of AFL games being played in Tasmania. The assertion by the AFL CEO that Tasmania is too poor and it costs 45 million to fund a team, is obviously not the case, as seen from official figures reproduced here:

Second, the new contender, Soccer.

While it’s been in Australia for a while, there’s no doubt that soccer is undergoing a renaissance. Due largely to the long standing grassroots participation which has now, in Tasmania (not to mention elsewhere), begun to surpass that of the somewhat complacent AFL.

A-League Team:

The $8 million figure from the government’s commissioned feasibility study would easily be covered if the government matched their existing commitment to AFL, although I’m sure sponsors could easily be found to cover at least part of the cost. The study does mention that revenue would cover almost the entire cost. But doesn’t disclose the revenue sources, even by type, citing the oft heard “commercially sensitive information.”

The cost of upgrading crowd capacity at KGV Park to 25,000 would probably be around $100m, although merely doubling KGV Park’s existing capacity from 4000 to 8000 would be sufficient for current crowds, and substantially cheaper. It has also been suggested to continue the present policy of marking rectangular pitches within ovals such as York Park, Bellerive, or North Hobart Oval, although soccer fans may not be as thrilled with the idea.

The government’s plan to scrap the idea of an A-League side came despite the A-League’s enthusiasm for such an idea, and despite the fact that it would ultimately cost the government less than it spends on AFL, granted the Tasmanian crowds might be ½ the size, but also for ¼ of the team running cost, and Tasmanian A-League crowds for friendlies or pre-season competition have compared well to those of half the teams and grounds in the regular season.

The solution?

To solve the north-south rivalry, or perhaps just to entrench it along football code lines, the games can be divided thus to reflect the existing strengths, attendances, and participation rates (although the fact that Launceston holds the A-League match attendance record by a margin of 1000 is an exception to this):

AFL Team - main base Launceston, but some home games played in Hobart.

Soccer Team - main base Hobart, but some home games played in Launceston.

As the seasons only slightly overlap, there won’t be a lot of crowd stealing, although soccer may get a little competition from cricket. In the times the football seasons do overlap, the teams could alternate their home games, so that every second week each city gets to see
some national football. Cricket could also possibly be worked into the schedule, with it and soccer alternating cities over summer.

And no I haven’t mentioned either of the rugby codes, I’ll leave it to someone else to attempt to argue that we could support a national team there.

*Ben Cannon is a lapsed writer and musician originally from northwest Tasmania. He is presently living in Melbourne ... with an adopted cat and the possum who may or may not reside somewhere in the roof and who has a penchant for apricot leaves. Ben is studying a Bachelor of Health Science with a focus on Naturopathy. He wasn’t exactly a star athlete at school, but does occasionally enjoy being frustrated by spherical, ovoid, or conical objects.


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