AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou is confident his league will return to a state of competitive balance in one or two years after the introduction of 18th side Greater Western Sydney.
The AFL uses the draft, salary cap and revenue sharing as explicit measures in an effort to create an equal playing field among its clubs and generate maximum interest, and revenue, from fans.
And despite a $220 million investment in GWS and Gold Coast that has significantly altered the equalisation measures, the league’s newest clubs won’t be anywhere near a level playing field when they compete against the likes of Collingwood and Hawthorn in 2012.
Demetriou admits another season of one-sided results – as was the case last year – will hurt the AFL but suggests it won’t be a long-term trend.
“There’s a gap and we shouldn’t deny there will be a gap. There’ll be a gap for the first one or two years,” Demetriou said at NSW Parliament House on Wednesday.
“But you’ll see a correction in three years when these lads are two years older. They’re more experienced.
“They’ll be a very strong team but, in the meantime, we’re going to endure a bit of pain.
“But we expect that. We’re not delusional, we understand that there’ll be some large margins but, along the way, they’ll surprise a couple of people.”
Demetriou also praised the introduction of a substitute as a measure to keep the game even and fair.
“We all know that the ‘three and one’ has been a success – not just on the injury front but it’s been a success because it’s made the competition fairer,” he said.
“A player can go down early, as happened in the grand final, and it’s still three against three (on the bench).
“We’ll see what happens in the future but, so far, so good.”
Demetriou was flanked by a host of Swans and Giants players in a reception hosted by Barry O’Farrell where the NSW Premier was presented with a split jersey – with half of each club’s playing strip.