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How Tasmania's AFL dream could be killed by a $750 million dilemma

3rd April, 2024
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3rd April, 2024
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The AFL has handed a grenade to Tasmania. Asking the state to build a roofed stadium with a 23,000 capacity at a cost of $750 million has set them up to fail.

The AFL has never wanted a Tasmanian team. They are only concerned about one thing and that is bottom line and profit.

The entry of a Tasmanian team to the AFL will do little to increase profit as most Tasmanians already watch AFL, so the AFL would not gain any extra viewers to charge more for TV rights. All a Tasmanian team will do for the AFL is cause headaches for rostering and scheduling.

It took former Premier Will Hodgman to form a task force of prominent Tasmanian business identities to put forward a compelling business case to the AFL that it could not ignore. Even then the AFL were stubbornly commissioning the Carter report which ruled a relocated team would be the best option.

It then took new Premier Peter Gutwein to force the AFL’s hand by refusing to heavily support the Hawthorn and North Melbourne games played in Tasmania until a concrete timeline of entry into the competition was handed down. Along with many prominent AFL journalists and former Tasmanian players, the push for a Tasmanian team became so compelling the AFL was forced to relent.

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)

The AFL is acutely aware of the North / South rivalry in the state and they know that any government which backed a team based in the south would get voted out.

This rivalry goes back to the early 2000’s when the then Premier Jim Bacon upgraded York Park and delegated Hawthorn games to be played there.

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He said at the time ‘cricket in the south and AFL in the north’. A lot of northerners believe that the home of AFL should be in the north, and more than 20 years later would relish a team based in the south. That was proved on the weekend with the current Liberal government, which is backing the new stadium based on a 12% swing against it at the state election – plus the three electorates north of Hobart voting in three Jacqui Lambie candidates who oppose the Hobart stadium.

The crazy part about demanding a new covered, 23,000 seat stadium is that the current Blundstone Arena holds 19,500.

The AFL expect Tasmania to build a new stadium at a cost of $750 million for an increase of only 3,500. What is even crazier is that the stadium will only hold seven home games per year, as four home games have to be played at York Park to try and appease northerners.

York Park’s $130 million upgrade is feasible for four games in the north, but Blundstone Arena is not ok for seven games in the south?

Even crazier still, the AFL demands the stadium has a roof on it for these seven games per year when Hobart is Australia’s second driest capital city. Further, AFL games are regularly played in Canberra and Ballarat and both cities are colder than Hobart in winter and have no roof.

There is no doubt the new stadium has many economic benefits including winter tourism which is always slow that time of year and has the potential to transform the city – as has the upgraded Adelaide Oval and many other stadiums around the country.

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There is also no doubt to Tasmanians that the team needs to be based in the south because we need the ability to attract young players and build on a grassroots system that is hard to do in Launceston. Launceston also doesn’t have the hotel capacity to cater for a large influx of mainland supporters when big clubs like Carlton and Collingwood play here.

The AFL are fully aware of the North / South rivalry and have put a $750 million weight on Tasmania’s shoulders. Jacqui Lambie naively believes that she can renegotiate the deal, but the AFL won’t renegotiate because they are just waiting to pull out of the deal.

It will make life a lot simpler for them and make no difference to their bottom line. Jacquie Lambie and her voters will go down in history as the people who killed Tasmanians ‘AFL dream.

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