Australian state Tasmania’s bid to establish an expansion team in the Australian Football League (AFL) has been given a boost after the league pledged to invest AUD360 million ($242 million) into the state over the next 10 years if it is successful.
The funding pledge was announced by AFL head Gillon McLachlan during a visit to Tasmania as he looked to shore up support for plans to build a new AUD715 million stadium at Macquarie Point in Hobart to house the new team.
The new stadium has been cited as a condition for the state being granted entry into the national competition, but many Tasmanians deem the price tag unacceptable and have said they rather the government invest in the state’s health system and public housing projects.
Speaking to Tasmanian tourism and business leaders yesterday (February 23), McLachlan announced the AUD360 million investment sweetener and reiterated the league’s stance that the launch of a new AFL team hinged on the new stadium being approved.
He said: “Without a stadium, there is no team. The stadium is now the last key requirement.
“We have a moment in time here decades in the making, to have a strong Tasmanian team and a sustainable club.”
Breaking down the 10-year investment, the AFL said around AUD90 million of the funding will go to local and grassroots development, including participation programs, coaching, and umpiring, to grow the game, while another AUD33 million is set to be used to fund three new talent academies in the state in the north, northwest, and south, to foster young talent.
McLachlan said AUD210 million will be used as “base funding” for the launch of the new club and added that the league will also chip in at least AUD15 million toward the new stadium.
Tasmania’s state government has so far pledged AUD375 million towards the stadium project and is now seeking AUD240 million from the Australian federal government.
Australia’s prime minister has previously said the proposal will be examined in the lead-up to the country’s May federal budget.
Ten Tasmanian federal politicians have signed a letter urging the AFL to grant the state a 19th license without the requirement of a new stadium.
The letter said: “Tasmania is one of the founding football states and has a long history of making rich contributions to the national game.
“We deserve a team of our own without having to make taxpayers pay for a stadium – something that no other state has had to do to get a team.”
However, during his speech, McLachlan said the stadium clause was not unique to the Tasmanian team.
He said: “I would note that new or fully redeveloped stadiums were a prerequisite for the Gold Coast Suns and GWS Giants prior to entry in the AFL competition. To be clear, this is not and has never been just a Tasmania requirement.
“Our fans want, deserve, and expect the best experience and the best experience needs the best stadiums and the supporters are voting with their feet.
“That is why there can be no team without a stadium. We need to set up a team for future success, not future failure. It is that simple.”
In November, the Tasmanian state government and the league struck an in-principal agreement on the commercial terms of the new team.
The league accepted the Tasmanian government’s commitment to pay AUD12 million per year over 12 years to underwrite the club, as well as AUD60 million to build a high-performance center in Hobart that will also house the administration.
Along with securing federal funding for the proposed stadium, the state’s bid needs the backing of club presidents who need to approve the addition of a new AFL team.
Six of the 18 AFL teams have publicly backed Tasmania’s bid after being given the financial details last year, including Hawthorn, Geelong, Richmond, Adelaide, the Western Bulldogs, and Gold Coast.
Image: Morgan Hancock/AFL Photos/via Getty Images