Gold Coast chairman Tony Cochrane has slammed AFL icon and former Brisbane Lions coach Leigh Matthews for “short-sighted” claims that Queensland can’t support two teams.
Matthews, who was initially sceptical when Gold Coast entered the competition in 2011, told the Seven Network on Monday night he still believes there is not enough demand to warrant two AFL sides in south-east Queensland.
Cochrane said Matthews’ criticism lacked common sense and ignored the increase in both broadcast earnings and junior participation that the AFL’s frontier expansion efforts has generated.
“I can’t believe how often you have to defend yourself against your own in this sport, it’s quite interesting,” Cochrane told SEN Radio.
“The statement doesn’t look at the long-term view, it just looks at the immediate short term – we’re not winning enough games, how do we fix that, get rid of the other mob.
“Life’s a bit more complex than that.”
Cochrane said the AFL simply cannot afford to ignore the Gold Coast market, the sixth biggest in the country, and laughed off suggestions the Suns had cannibalised Brisbane’s support.
“Maybe in Melbourne you see a city that’s an hour apart as one marketplace. We see Brisbane as a completely different city and I think 600,000 Gold Coasters would support that statement,” he said.
“You can’t say all the potential people that could be fans or future footballers in that region – we’ll just leave you to the NRL.”
The Suns and Lions have struggled in recent years, both on and off the field, with recent crowds modest at the Gabba and Metricon Stadium.
The Lions have won just once this year, over Gold Coast, while the Suns have crashed after a bright start to the season.
Fellow expansion side Greater Western Sydney is on track to achieve a maiden finals berth.
Matthews, the current deputy chairman of the Lions, said he didn’t expect anything would change in Queensland under the current AFL administration.
“The people who made that decision are still running the AFL,” he said.