I think Patrick Smith in the Oz is proving to be the most clear-headed journo on the AFL’s expansion/relocation policy (he's the bizarro Roy Masters). This is another good article from him which suggests that WSFC and maybe even GC17 are really just plan Bs if Melbourne clubs can't be coerced into moving north.
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/st ... 70,00.html
Relocation just won't go away but clubs might without itPatrick Smith | June 11, 2008
IT says everything about the ruthless AFL environment that when the competition is at its wealthiest - with much more to come - three Melbourne clubs are threatened with all but instant execution.
David Smorgon, the Bulldogs president through mostly thin and thin, is not exaggerating when he states that the Bulldogs, Melbourne and North Melbourne would crash and burn almost overnight if the league stopped the annual special distribution of its mighty wealth. The three clubs this year received a total of $4.1million in AFL assistance.
Adelaide chairman Bill Sanders speaks for a silent minority - rapidly heading towards a majority - which wants all AFL aid to vulnerable clubs stopped at the end of the 2009 season.
The AFL commission recognises that no matter how leanly and efficiently the three clubs are run they cannot survive on their own. League officials conceded this to The Australian yesterday.
No matter how these clubs trim their football department spend, no matter how they slash their salary-cap payments, no matter how they grow membership or sponsorship. The economics of football mean they cannot help but spend more than they raise.
The devil in all this detail is historical contracts with Melbourne's two playing venues, the MCG and Telstra Dome. The three clubs are locked into long-term deals that deliver piddling returns.
The Bulldogs have averaged 33,000 spectators this season, according to the AFL. Brisbane has drawn 27,000 to the Gabba on average. Yet league figures show that while the Bulldogs average 6000 more at their home games, Brisbane will make $5m more this season from its ground attendance. It gets worse for North at 30,000. Any fewer than the average figure and North has to write a cheque to the stadium.
Sydney draws 31,000 and Melbourne 38,000. The Swans make a killing and AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou has to threaten Melbourne fans to turn up for their Queen's Birthday match at the MCG. Geelong has played three games at its home ground this season and made $1.5m.
Overall attendances are heading for another record level and it's driven by the Melbourne clubs, yet crowd figures have the ability to drive at least three of them broke.
The AFL adjusts its distribution accordingly but that agreement lapses at the end of next season. Sanders says that should be the death of any such largesse. Demetriou concedes Sanders' view has growing support.
The AFL has the money but not the disposition to pay out these clubs' debts and let them start afresh. The drip-feed system has allowed the league to manipulate clubs and control dissent.
The AFL denies this emphatically, claiming the ASDs are time-consuming to administer and tie up staff unnecessarily. We take that advice in good faith but when you are on an ASD you play where you are told. Darwin here we come. Gulp.
The decision on the future of the ASDs rests with the commission. The ruling body is aware that if it drops the assistance it cuts the throat of three clubs. Drape the coffins in club colours. But it knows it must carry the goodwill of the majority of the clubs for it to stick. Angry Victorian clubs have overthrown a commissioner they felt was anti-Melbourne before and would do so again with enthusiasm.
We should not take the view of Adelaide and the other clubs too altruistically. There is a new imperative within AFL football since the commission told the presidents last November its intentions to establish clubs in the Gold Coast and western Sydney.
The concessions being finalised for the new licences are both broad and deep. They effectively quarantine the present clubs from the very best players, both young (draft) and experienced (uncontracted), for at least 2010 and 2011. And more if the new clubs are not initially competitive. While clubs cannot pay bills without money they certainly cannot win matches without players.
If two Melbourne clubs were to relocate to the new northern markets then concessions, if any, would be manageable and the rest of the competition would back itself to pick the jewels out of the drafts.
Clubs such as Essendon want to replicate Hawthorn's rebuilding which was done with regular early access to the draft and shrewd trading.
Fremantle needs desperately to rejuvenate its list through the draft. Richmond needs to overhaul its list. So does St Kilda. The only clubs rebuilding from 2010 and beyond will be the Gold Coast and western Sydney. Unless, of course, there are relocations.
And that's the sting to the mounting pressure on the commission to drop assistance to struggling Melbourne clubs. Without special distribution North, Melbourne and the Bulldogs cannot survive in Melbourne. The commission is convinced of that.
But two of the clubs can if they move north, for the AFL has put aside - again at the request of the clubs - rich relocation packages that would ensure the club's future.
The league is a little bit like that. You scratch our back, we will stab theirs.
Personally, I’m still offended that clubs like Melbourne, North and Footscray, which are well supported by national standards, are deemed to be “struggling” and have their survival threatened by their governing body.
Partly it’s their disadvantegous stadium contracts (outlined above). Partly its being shut out of the lucrative blockbuster fixtures. Partly its about having the draw rigged in favour of double Essendon – Collingwood – Carlton games each year instead of a balanced draw which would give the smaller clubs the same access to the fixtures against big clubs as the big clubs get to each other.
But mostly its about the AFL (read: Demetriou) manipulating the situation to make those three clubs look like relocating to Homebush or Carrara is their only option for making it through the next decade. I really can’t respect this behaviour from the AFL and I hope that those three clubs fight for their heritage and their fans.
It just doesn't wash that the AFL is more willing to prop up two new clubs at $10m+ each every year for an indefinite period but cries poor at handing out $4.1m pa to cover 3 existing clubs.
And if I supported North, the Dogs or the Dees I would be deeply resentful of the other 13 clubs if they voted to end financial assistance so as to force unwilling relocation, thereby avoiding brand new clubs coming in with extravagent draft concessions...
...actually (puts on conspiracy hat*) the massive draft concessions for the new clubs are a large stick to beat the Other13 about with to get them to side with relocation. The carrot being the relocation $$ on offer to the Threatened3. Maybe GC17 and WSFC aren't even genuine prospects for entering the AFL, maybe they're just part of the threat? We're through the looking glass here, people.
* yes, it's made of tinfoil