Tasmania is simply too poor to support its own AFL team, according to AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan.
Dashing any Tasmanian hopes that some of the league’s $2.508 billion broadcast deal windfall might be spent establishing a side on the island state, McLachlan said on Wednesday that economics stood in the way of a Tasmania-based side.
“Tasmania deserves its own team. It just does,” McLachlan told National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday.
“Their participation rates, their ratings, their attendance, they are as passionate as any state.
“Their numbers stack up with Victoria and in my view they deserve their own team.”
It’s the business case McLachlan can’t see working in Australia’s smallest state.
“The brutal reality right now, the economy and scale of growth mean they financially can’t support their own team playing 11 games, you need $45 million,” he said.
The AFL’s approach to Tasmania contrasts sharply with the “expansion” markets of New South Wales and Queensland.
The league aggressively pursued the stronger markets of Western Sydney, Canberra and Gold Coast by establishing new clubs GWS Giants and Gold Coast, spending tens of millions of dollars to do so.
With around 500,000 people, Tasmania is smaller than the catchment areas of the two expansion sides.
McLachlan said the broadcast deal secured the current 18-team format and he couldn’t envisage any changes to the AFL clubs for at least a decade.
“With respect to expansion, I believe we have the right number of teams in the right slots for the foreseeable future and the foreseeable future is 10 to 15 years,” he said.
Tasmania currently hosts Victorian-based clubs Hawthorn and North Melbourne as guest teams in Launceston and Hobart.
Hawthorn has played matches at Aurora Stadium since 2001, and last month agreed a new deal to play four home-and-away games a season there until 2021.
The Kangaroos played three matches at Blundstone Arena in Hobart this season but are without a similar long-term agreement.
McLachlan foreshadowed changes to the arrangement in future.
“That’s the one state that I think, as I look around Australia – we are happy with where everybody is – (but) I don’t think Tasmania is quite right yet,” he said.
“We need to get the model to work down there and we’ll continue to work on that.”