The Tasmanian government’s taskforce has presented the most detailed and heavily-researched plan yet, covering the key bases of where the team would be based (Hobart), where games should be played (Hobart and Launceston), stadia upgrades/construction (please government!), player retention and, most critically, the business case and explanation of how this would be funded.
If there’s a road map laid down, the Tasmanian advocates still face their toughest task over the next several years, which will be to convince a number of key constituents (“stakeholders” in corporate-speak) that this is not only achievable, but desirable and even morally irresistible, that the arc of football history bends towards the justice of a Tassie team.
Gillon McLachlan is not as critical to this outcome as many Tasmanians imagine, blaming the AFL chief executive, as they do, for the paradise postponed of a bona fide Tasmanian team, rather than the fly-in, fly-out Hawks and Kangaroos.
Four key parties must be lobbied, cajoled and convinced for Tassie to land their team.
McLachlan will not be at the helm of the AFL when the decision is made on whether Tassie is ready. His successor – whom Taswegians hope will be one of their own, Richmond’s CEO Brendon Gale – will have a greater say, given the lead time is at least five years.
But the AFL commission will need to be convinced. To date, there has been a degree of Tassie scepticism within the sport’s governing board, who, with impeccably corporate backgrounds, invariably look at the potential “growth” of football, a mindset that inevitably prioritises larger “developing,” non-football markets.
No less critical than the commission will be the 18 existing clubs, who get a vote on the matter (a super majority required). Hawthorn and North Melbourne, while they have little choice but to lend public support to Tassie, have vested interests in retaining their deals for a while yet, and 16 other clubs must be convinced that they won’t be financially sapped by the entrance of a 19th team, that Tassie will pay its way.
They will need to persuade the Federal government – whoever is in power at the witching hour – that a Tasmanian team warrants the expenditure of hundreds of millions to build a Hobart stadium (eg $300 million for a stadium at Macquarie Point) and upgrade Launceston.
Finally, the Tasmanians must get influential players, particularly the best and brightest young Tasmanians in the competition, on board and assure everyone that colder Tassie won’t suffer from the exodus that has bedevilled the semi-tropical Gold Coast – an issue that the taskforce report addressed, in the knowledge that retention is a potential road block to the dream.