All parts of the AFL are under review to find areas where costs can be cut and changes made, and questions are being asked about whether the existing structures and ways of operating as a competition are still appropriate and viable.
Those questions extend to recruiting, state and development leagues, international rules competitions and every facet of the game.
Cochrane launched a spirited defence of the game’s new markets, on the Gold Coast and in western Sydney.
“No business cuts the areas of growth,” he said. “You go to where you do not have growth and whatever you try nothing seems to work and you think about cutting that. You don’t cut the only area of growth the AFL has and that is in the expansion market and AFLW.
“It is a senseless debate. It does not hold up in economics or to any rational debate and, fortunately, where it matters in the AFL commission, with the AFL executive, with the club presidents and the club chief executives, there is no debate.
“I have never seen all of those people in sync like they are right now in dealing with this. Eighteen clubs have gone into this and 18 clubs will come out of this.”
He said now was the time to consolidate spending but it did not mean contracting in the important growth areas that increased revenue.
The Suns were paid a higher total distribution from the AFL than any other club last year – $27.5 million. They are also responsible for paying for the management of Metricon Stadium.
The GWS Giants last year were given $23 million in distributions and recorded an operating loss of $866,000. Of the Victorian clubs, St Kilda were paid $20.6 million, $4 million more than any other Victorian club.
Five AFL clubs last year posted operating losses, the biggest of which was Melbourne, who recorded a loss of just over $1.5 million. Only three clubs last year increased their revenue and two of those were GWS and the Suns. The other was North Melbourne.
Cochrane said there needed to be a realignment of wages and salaries as well as staffing levels right across the league, saying the debt incurred to keep the clubs afloat would take years to repay.
“I am very amused at some of the commentary – outside of that group of the AFL and the commission and the club presidents and CEOs – that talk about the AFL in isolation as though things just return to normal,” he said.
“We are not in isolation. We are caught up in this as businesses and individuals around the world have been and it will take two years [to] five years to work through.
“The two expansion clubs added a ninth game to each round and the ninth game adds revenue, the broadcast money of that ninth game is greater than the cost of the 17th and 18th teams, so it makes just no economic sense.
“On top of that why would you consider doing that in two of the most populous states in Australia and in fast-growth areas of those states where we have finally, after many years of work, made real headway?
“We have 300,000 registered participants playing the game in Queensland, as many girls playing the game in Queensland as any state outside Victoria.”
Michael Gleeson is an award-winning senior sports writer specialising in AFL and athletics.