The Roar
The Roar



The AFL holding Tasmania to ransom with stadium political football is an utter disgrace

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25th March, 2024
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At what point did Aussie Rules football move from being a tough resilient blue-collar game to a ‘spoilt rich kid’ in the penthouse that needs pampering?

That’s what the AFL is looking like by holding the state of Tasmania and the newly formed Tasmanian Devils to ransom over a stadium: if you don’t build, you don’t play.

Unless I am missing something, a state-of-the-art brand-new piece of infrastructure is not going to improve the standard of the on-field competition or integrity of the sport – rather catering to the game’s corporates and sponsors at a business level. I feel that’s what this is really all about.

Just days after the club was launched last week, more than 160,000 people have signed up to be foundation members.

The sign-up price may only be $10, and it is many will be secondary members from supporters of other clubs wanting to be a part of history – but it still shows the interest from footy fans in having a Tasmanian team part of the elite competition.

Yes, a roofed 23,000-seat stadium Macquarie Point was part of a deal negotiated and signed off on between the state government and the AFL in order for Tasmania to get its own AFL team licence.

But it quickly raised anger among the opposition parties, who, on behalf of their constituents, say the money could be better spent elsewhere (not to mention any possible cost blow-outs).


A few days ago at the time of writing, Tasmanians went to the polls, with the stadium a pivotal election issue. The state is currently heading towards a Liberal minority government, but there was a significant swing away from the sitting party towards the minor parties and independents.

While Jeremy Rockliff, who made the initial deal, likely will still be premier, he won’t have it all his own way. Labor, the Greens and the Jacqui Lambie Network could have the numbers to join together to oppose any votes on the stadium development – at least on the terms that the AFL wants and has agreed to.

The team doesn’t come in until 2028, so there is still plenty of time for deals to be done and concessions to be made, but if the rhetoric is anything to go by neither side wants to give an inch – and there is also plenty of time for things to go off course.

And if it does, imagine telling hundreds of thousands of members you’re not getting a team that has been unveiled, and for all intents and purposes is up and running.

The AFL administration must be willing to give an inch and compromise for the sake of the game.


No matter where the Devils play, it is not going to affect the game’s overall plans for growth– nor will it determine whether the Tasmanian side will be successful.

AFL House should be more worried about football-related things, like securing quality players and ensuring talent pathways for the expansion side are strong.

As we saw in the NRL, when the Dolphins came in, there was a mad rush from existing clubs to re-sign and secure their biggest stars, leaving few marquee players for the Redcliffe-based franchise.

A competitive team on the park is what is going to drive the club’s growth and repeat attendance at games, rather than any fancy venues.

The issues raised with the existing stadiums in Launceston (which is already set for an upgrade) and Hobart, such as lighting, access and seating, would be far more economical to upgrade for full-time use than a turnkey project, given those stadiums have already had success in hosting AFL games in the past.

DEVONPORT, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 18: The Tasmania Devils Foundation jumper is revealed during the Tasmania Football Club Launch at Paranaple Convention Centre on March 18, 2024 in Devonport, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

The Tasmania Devils foundation jumper is revealed. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

I have also heard nonsense about the weather and a roof being an absolute non-negotiable necessity, as the cold windy winters on the island state may make it difficult for players.


To me, that’s just home-ground advantage for the Devils – the same way as playing at the Gabba in the warmer months needs players to adjust to the heat. Suck it up.

During the campaign, Labor leader Rebecca White suggested that the existing stadiums be used until the club and AFL could prove that the demand was there, before any plans for new infrastructure were made.

It makes sense. That way, the Macquarie Point venue wouldn’t become a white elephant if actual attendance dropped off after the initial introduction of the AFL side.

Former Collingwood President Eddie McGuire has been a staunch supporter of building the stadium, based on the economic impact.

“The unemployed will get jobs building the stadium,” he noted on Nine’s Footy Classified back in May 2023.

“They’ll learn how to do things in the gig economy. Look at the economic impact of Victorian major events, that’ve turned Victoria from being a rust-bucket place in the 90s into the world’s most liveable city within 20 years.”


Mr Rockliff last year was quoted saying the new stadium meant: “4000 jobs and billions into our economy”.

But is it too simplistic to use ‘potential’ economic growth in the long run to justify short-term spending?

An article in the Berkeley Economic Review a few years ago looked at this very issue in regard American sports teams. The author, Karthik Vegesna concluded:

“Building sports stadiums has served as a profitable undertaking for large sports teams, at the expense of the general public”.

Its findings could easily be applied here in Australia too. The AFL may find a way to wrangle a profit out of the new venue, but how exactly will the benefits filter down to the community?

Economic advantages often get woven into the tangled web and complexities of government budgets and lost in the detail, then become political propaganda; but overall, it will be hard for Tasmanians to actually feel better off once it is built.

The number of protests across the state over the past 10 months, and the loss of Liberal votes, prove that people already know this.


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The real issue is not, it seems, whether the state needs a new stadium, or the economic benefits that would ensue – but that existing venues don’t have enough hospitality suites and bars for the game’s management and sponsors to have a more comfortable beer and meal at the footy.

Real fans of Aussie Rules will go anywhere to support their team regardless – that is shown every weekend across the country, right down to local suburban and country leagues, where there’s little to no comfortable stadium-style seating.

What it boils down to in the end is this: does the AFL really care about there being a Tasmanian team?

If it does, then it will work with all sides to find a workable solution, no matter what obstacles, political or otherwise, arise over the next four years, rather than playing its own game of politics.