Sources said the report lays out the costs of fielding a Tasmanian team and how the team would derive revenue from three major sources: normal club operations – such as membership, sponsorship and gate receipts – the AFL and the state government.
In effect, sources said that the report explained how the new team would pick up the $7-8 million in Tasmanian government funds that are, directly and indirectly, going to Hawthorn and North Melbourne for their games – eight in the 2020 home-and-away season – in Launceston and Hobart respectively.
Those clubs’ deals expire at the end of 2021, but, as the new Tasmanian premier Peter Gutwein suggested on Thursday, could be renewed for short-term periods from 2022 until “around 2025 once the current contractual arrangements end”.
The proposed new stadium on the waterfront would have a capacity of close to 30,000, with proponents acknowledging that it would require federal government funding. The University of Tasmania stadium in Launceston, where Hawthorn plays home games, has a capacity closer to 20,000.
The ground-breaking report – composed by a Tasmanian government-backed taskforce led by businessman Brett Godfrey that includes ex-Saints champion Nick Riewoldt, ex-Woolworths boss Grant O’Brien and well-connected Ricky Ponting Foundation chief executive James Henderson – is expected to be released within the next two weeks.
“From a timing point of view I think it’s [2025 onwards] about spot on,” Gutwein said.
“I don’t think we’re ready for a Tasmanian AFL team immediately.”
Gutwein has been a forceful advocate for an AFL team as treasurer under just-departed premier Will Hodgman, telling The Age in March last year that it was not a question of “if but when” Tasmania had its own AFL team. He said this should happen in “the next five to seven years” which is in keeping with the report’s recommendations.
McLachlan was briefed on the thrust of the report on Thursday. The report addresses some of the perceived obstacles to Tasmania gaining a team, not only the economics of a Tasmanian team, but the issue of player retention, which saw the task force speak to many of the AFL’s approximately 30 players who were recruited from Tasmania. The task force also sought the views of influential AFL club bosses to help build a case for the state. Riewoldt is said to have been an important voice on the issue of retention.
Sources said the recommendation that the team be based in Hobart was logical, and that the splitting of games between Hobart and Launceston reflected the political realities of Tasmania and the state’s decentralised population spread and the fact that Launceston was more accessible to a majority of the state, even though it is smaller.
The north-south divide has long been an issue within Tasmanian football and an impediment to Tassie football and a perceived issue for the state’s entrance into the AFL in the eyes of sceptics.
The report outlines the decline of Tasmanian football at grass roots level since 2008, when participation rates were among the highest per capita in the country, clearly suggesting that an AFL team would reverse that decline by heightening interest in the game and providing a pathway in what historically was one of the proudest and most passionate Australian football states.
The membership figure cited as attainable by advocates for Tasmania is 50,000. But the report also points out that Tasmania has a significant expatriate population who would support the new team.
Jake Niall is a Walkley award-winning sports journalist and chief AFL writer for The Age.