The AFL isn’t sure about Eddie McGuire’s proposed radical re-design of Melbourne’s elite sporting venues but it does want new funding directed into Victorian stadiums.
The Collingwood president has flagged the possibility of demolishing Etihad Stadium and building a $1 billion new AFL venue in the shadow of the MCG to take over the mantle of Melbourne’s second stadium.
McGuire went so far as to brief Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on the revamp, with AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan revealing he’d also discussed the idea with the outspoken Magpies club boss.
Speaking on Wednesday, McLachlan declined to detail whether he thought a new stadium was needed or if any funding from the AFL’s billion-dollar broadcast rights deal could be shepherded into capital works.
Instead, he lauded McGuire’s contribution as the start of a conversation that he believes should end in renewed funding for AFL venues.
“The great thing that’s happened today is that investment in stadia has been put on the table,” he said.
“The NSW government has announced nearly $2 billion of money going into their stadiums.
“We’ve seen the success of Adelaide Oval. A new Perth Stadium is coming on.
“Quite rightly this discussion is about stadia in this town.”
The future of the 54,000-capacity Etihad Stadium – which the AFL will own by 2025 at the latest – is at the heart of the debate.
McLachlan conceded it needed improvement but believed it to be a “fabulous asset”.
“It’s a hell of a stadium,” he said.
“It’s like any major asset in any major city. You need to continue to invest to be best in class.
“The stadium now is 15 years old and it continues to be invested in on a yearly basis.
“But when you’re competing with Adelaide Oval and the new Perth Stadium coming along in 2018, it’ll be 20 years old.”
Andrews said McGuire’s proposal was warranted continued discussion.
“I’m always for talking about ideas, debating and discussing ideas,” Andrews told reporters on Wednesday.
“We are a great sporting city but we can never … sit around doing nothing.”
But former premier and Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett said the necessary relocation of Australian Open venue Hisense Arena rendered the proposed new stadium “dead”.
Western Bulldogs chairman Peter Gordon attacked the idea of putting two stadia in the one precinct.
“The western region of Melbourne is the fastest growing population base in Australia, and will be for the next 30 years,” he told radio station SEN.
“I still prefer the Docklands as a venue.”