In the strongest indication yet of its desire to take over management of Princes Park, the AFL has engaged a consultant to study the feasibility of it buying the lease of Carlton's home ground.
Carlton was one of the main topics at Monday's meeting of the AFL Commission, which was told that a consultant had been appointed to do "due diligence" on the proposed purchase of Carlton's lease. By hiring a consultant to study financial pros and cons of the deal, the league has confirmed its strong interest in taking over Princes Park — a proposal that Carlton hopes will rescue it from its financial morass.
Carlton views the selling of the Princes Park lease — which runs until 2035 — as its preferred method of improving its cash and debt positions instead of following the path of the Bulldogs, Kangaroos and Melbourne and seeking annual special assistance. The Blues already have used a $4 million re-direction order from the AFL to keep their financial heads above water.
By handing control of the ground to the AFL, the Blues automatically would save themselves the huge cost of maintaining the ground — it now costs about $1.8 million annually, most of which would be saved if it sold the lease to the league. The Carlton board has approved the concept, in principle, though with the ground's redevelopment also requiring the approval of the state and local governments (the City of Melbourne), the deal promises to be complicated.
Carlton was one of several topics at Monday's commission meeting, which focused on strategy for the next five to 10 years. The game's ruling body also canvassed how it planned to spend the television rights money (about $700 million, plus contra) it has won from Channels Seven and Ten, which are believed to be in discussions with pay TV carrier Foxtel.