Global financial problems challenge AFL
Friday, November 14 2008 @ 07:12 pm ACDT
Contributed by: Brett Northey
The global financial meltdown has already reached Australian sport.
With the AFL proposing two new AFL clubs in the next few years, some have urged they delay the program until the world economy turns around. Originally a new stadium on the Gold Coast was mooted, but with the area's two major investment management firms, MFS and City Pacific, and major developer Raptis, enduring financial problems this year, that now appears off the cards in the short to medium term. A re-development of the old Brisbane Bears ground at Carrara is now more likely. See New stadium plans off the table as GC17 puts its case.
Nevertheless, the AFL Commission appear determined to push ahead with the new clubs. Whether that resolve holds firm should be revealed next week as the Commission meet to discuss the issue.
It could be argued that the current economic climate makes a Tasmanian bid more attractive than West Sydney, though it's also worth noting that one of the vocal supporters of a Tassie bid, formerly Australia's richest person, Andrew Forrest, lost over half his wealth, on paper at least, in the share market fall this year. Ironically he has been replaced at #1 by Frank Lowy, the man behind soccer's big push in Australia. Convincing any sponsor to get on board, be it in Sydney or Tasmania, will be a difficult task. Perhaps the likeliest decision by the AFL is to proceed with West Sydney with caution, not stopping the project, but not fully committing to it until the economic outlook is clearer.
Finding a major sponsor is proving elusive for some of the Melbourne-based clubs, and it wouldn't surprise to see the AFL needing to put more money into them in 2009 than already the case.
The AFL has also warned clubs on the possible loss of existing sponsors and a downturn in members. The League has also vowed to cut its own spending, with reportedly up to $5 million cut in 2009. Hopefully that won't impact on the relatively modest international budget - it's in just such times that bold undertakings can yield their greatest benefits.