Concerned club presidents Peter Gordon, Ben Buckley and Peter Summers could approach the AFL Commission next month to lobby for a better deal for their clubs at Etihad Stadium.
Disappointed at the refusal from head office to compensate the Western Bulldogs, North Melbourne and St Kilda for years of financial inequity dealt to the three co-tenants, the three club bosses who spoke last week are planning a further meeting to push their cause and review whether to take the step of directly intervening in AFL talks.
And Fairfax Media understands the Victorian government, still considering the AFL’s plans for a $300 million redevelopment of the stadium and the Docklands precinct, is closely watching the protracted negotiations with the clubs for a better deal as it moves towards an election year.
The Daniel Andrews government is looking at a widespread funding package of stadium revamps in key sports in next year’s pre-election state budget but is concerned over how the financially struggling Etihad Stadium clubs will benefit from the new deal. The AFL is close to a deal with anchor tenant Essendon after a protracted year of negotiations but is some way from achieving agreements with the Bulldogs, Kangaroos and Saints.
Hailed as a game-changer for the financially struggling tenant clubs when the AFL purchased the stadium for an estimated $200 million more than a year ago, those clubs fear that undertaking looks far removed from reality.
However AFL chief Gillon McLachlan played down those concerns, confident the clubs would ultimately be satisfied with their new deal. “We’ll get there,” McLachlan said of the lengthy negotiations. “They [the clubs] will be fine.”
McLachlan undertook when the stadium, which the AFL conceded in the government revamp proposal had become “run down”, was purchased last October that: “Owning Etihad Stadium enables the AFL to continue to strengthen the financial health of several of our Victorian clubs …”.
Western Bulldogs chairman Peter Gordon has said the three clubs deserved that compensation for the significant monetary disadvantages forced upon them for the first 15 years of the Docklands deal. That view is strongly backed by St Kilda.
The Saints view the historic settlement as part of the overall negotiation of the new Etihad contract. “Everyone including the AFL recognises the previous deal was inequitable to three clubs in particular,” said Gordon. “To some extent, this was addressed, at least from 2014, in competitive balance funding formulae. As a matter of fairness, addressing the other years of the inequitable arrangements ought to be considered for the three clubs.”
North Melbourne chief Carl Dilena three days ago expressed his disappointment over the AFL’s move to strip club funding from central equalisation revenue for the three Etihad co-tenants as part of the new deal.
Dilena likened the AFL’s tactic to “giving with one hand and taking away with the other.” St Kilda chairman Summers confirmed he was attempting to schedule a meeting with the other presidents before next month.
The Saints’ debt of more than $6 million is the largest of the Victorian clubs; the Bulldogs having significantly reduced their debt to less than $2 million with the Kangaroos now debt free. St Kilda deputy CEO Ameet Bains, who had been part of that club’s team negotiating with the AFL, will take over as Bulldogs chief executive in December.