JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

AFL's ticking time bomb

Sydney Swans chairman Richard Colless.

Sydney Swans chairman Richard Colless. Photo: Paul Rovere

SYDNEY chairman Richard Colless has questioned the AFL's commitment to 10 clubs in Victoria in calling for a wide-ranging review of the competition and its structure.

Describing the disparity between rich and poor clubs as ''a ticking time bomb in the AFL universe'' the game's longest-serving chairman has called on the game to ''stop pussyfooting about the problem and put it on the table''.

Richard Colless' email

The AFL Commission and executive has responded to Colless' strongly worded proposal and has confirmed it will hold a two-day summit before the start of the 2013 season bringing together the 18 presidents and chief executives.

It is believed Colless has already put some of the wealthier clubs offside by proposing taking profits from blockbuster games and distributing them among the poorer clubs. He has also raised capping football department spending. In a letter obtained by The Age and distributed to all club presidents and the AFL, Colless has written: ''It is not being alarmist to state that in our view more than several clubs could be considered technically insolvent without the financial guarantee of the AFL.''

He described the Swans, 2012 premiers, as ''perpetually one bad season away from serious financial difficulty''.

Colless stressed yesterday he was not pushing for a reduction of clubs but wanted the AFL to clarify its position on retaining 10 clubs in Victoria. ''As a business model I'm interested to hear how the AFL sees the competition in five years,'' said Colless, ''not 30 years as they have looked at in their models.

''Do we want a team in Tasmania? Are we wedded to 10 clubs in Victoria? Is that set in stone because if not that changes the debate. Personally I would walk over broken glass to retain all our clubs but I want to hear where the AFL sees it.

''I'm not pushing any particular line but I'm not sure if the AFL has any firm answers on how Port Adelaide, Brisbane and the Western Bulldogs for example continue to defy gravity when capital and current expenditure in football costs continue to jump.

''The poorer clubs are being seen as a drag on the wealthy clubs. Do we just allow the market economy to rule and everyone take care of their own or do we continue with the socialistic approach. Do AFL subsidies take away creativity?''

Colless' push for a summit was applauded by most fellow presidents increasingly frustrated at attending AFL ''information sessions'' rather than debating the growing concerns over the games lopsided structure - a structure Colless warned in his letter would ''ultimately have an adverse impact on supporters, sponsors and media rights''.

''This is not a debate over whether we have one or two substitutes,'' Colless told The Age. ''That is not something we need to be interested in. If we are to have a two-day summit without pushing our own agendas we need to put it on the table that half the AFL clubs are struggling to survive.

''If their results on field continue to increasingly mirror their bank balances then we have a very big problem.'' Earlier this year Commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick described the financial burdens carried by struggling clubs as ''unfinished business'' for AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou.

In terms of Victorian clubs North Melbourne, the Bulldogs, Richmond and St Kilda are all still battling varying degrees of seven-figure debts while the Kangaroos, Saints, Bulldogs and Melbourne would all lose significant amounts of money this year without AFL subsidies.

North Melbourne tried - but failed - two years ago to reach a deal to play seven home games in Tasmania. It currently has a two-home-game deal with Hobart, Hawthorn plays four home games in Launceston and St Kilda is looking to relocate an increasing number of home games to Wellington.

''We've had a decade of unbridled growth and good news,'' said Colless, ''but the question now is that still the case? I'm not so sure. You can't have clubs losing $3 million a year, as is the case with Port Adelaide without some alarm bells ringing.

''An option that should be debated is a return to full equalisation of match-day ticket revenues which would compensate for the accepted inequities in the draw (accentuated by having two expansion teams) and assist in addressing the burgeoning financial divide.''

Colless added yesterday that the clubs needed to revisit the debate of capping increasing football department costs - a push strongly opposed by wealthier clubs such as Collingwood, West Coast and Hawthorn. The spiralling costs of football staff has raised concerns at AFL headquarters and the commission table.

The full email

From: Richard Colless
Sent: Friday, 14 September 2012 5:08 PM
To: 'Tony Peek
Cc: 'Andrew Ireland'; 'Mcmaster, Andrew N'
Subject: PRESIDENT'S MEETING AGENDA

Tony,

Our club believes that there is a ticking time bomb in the AFL universe. Namely the growing disparity amongst the "haves and have nots."

There's a real bifurcation developing. Say 9/10 clubs in the first category and 8/9 in the other.

None of this is revelationary.

However, given the additional costs that need to be borne by clubs eg compulsory ASAs, Rookies (plus them now being optional), Career ending Insurance, inequitable commercial fixtures due to preferred draw for clubs in blockbusters, the gap is inevitably going to widen.

I can't speak with authority about any clubs other than mine. But we are perpetually one bad season away from serious financial difficulty. We have no working capital or reserves. We'll turn a profit this year because we've got into a preliminary final and we've deferred/cancelled various programs. It is not being alarmist to state that in our view more than several clubs could be considered technically insolvent without the financial guarantee of the AFL.

The rich club set the standard with the ability to offer high payment to staff. There is also real pressure on clubs to upgrade facilities often with debt. As the AFL is aware we have decided that this is something our club will not do. Rather we will manage with much lower cost refurbishments which while frustrating we think is prudent given the circumstances.

All of that said, there is no simple solution that is likely to be instantly acceptable for all Clubs, but make the point that maintaining a competitive football department is increasingly problematic for roughly half the competition. If on-field performance mirrors off-field financial clout, the outcome will be a lopsided competition which will ultimately have an adverse impact on supporters, sponsors and media rights.

An option that should be debated is a return to full equalisation of match day ticket revenues which would compensate for the accepted inequities in the draw (accentuated by having 2 expansion teams) and assist in addressing the burgeoning financial divide.

From a more strategic perspective, and perhaps for another time, we would also urge the AFL to again consider addressing match day ticketing arrangements that impact all clubs. The impact of current match day “clipping the ticket” arrangements are taking a massive amount out of the game on a weekly basis, and we have the experience whereby Ticketek make more revenue in some games than we do from match day ticket sales.

The preceding should not be construed in any way as a criticism of the AFL or of the financially stronger clubs but rather the basis of a discussion as to where, based on current trends, the competition might be in say 5 years time.

Regards,

R

46 comments so far

  • Sounds to me that Colless is just getting ready to go to the AFL and ask for a handout. He's probably annoyed that the bosses are spending big buck at cross town rivals GWS.

    If Colless wants a share of the blockbusters gate receipts, then perhaps he'll be happy to split the 8 guaranteed points the Swans will get from their 2 local derbies each year.

    And if he is so hell bent on a level playing field then he should agree that all clubs are on exactly the same salary cap with no extra granted based on which cities the clubs are based in.

    Commenter
    Duck
    Location
    Olympic Park
    Date and time
    October 17, 2012, 9:16AM
    • "perpetually one bad season away from serious financial difficulty'"

      Isn't he running the club?

      The AFL has rocks in its head if it takes any advice form this tool.

      Commenter
      Alex
      Location
      Geelong
      Date and time
      October 17, 2012, 9:41AM
    • Your a very smart man Duck

      Commenter
      General Soreness
      Date and time
      October 17, 2012, 9:43AM
    • Spot on mate. Colless and the Swans are in a perfect situation. Its the AFLs front line and comments like that will ensure that the Swans are treated with kid gloves by the AFL - everything from MRP leniency (it goes all the way back to Dunkley in 1996, through to Barry Hall numerous times) to handy draws. And the extra 10% in their salary cap is a farce and totally agree with Kennett and others who say its a relic from the 90's. The club has won two flags in the past 7 years, and is a perennial finalist - I'm not sure the club needs the extra $800,000 or so in its cap, so it can go out and snare the best available young forward (Tippett) after just winning a flag!

      Don't get me wrong - I have a soft spot for the Swans and hope they remain competitive, but in this socialist system of the AFL, it seems that the Swans are treated a little more equal than others.

      I do agree though with Colless that 10 Victorian clubs is unsustainable, but Im not going to mention clubs who should be the crosshairs.

      Commenter
      DJCJ
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      October 17, 2012, 9:49AM
    • yeah, good one. Attack the Swans and display your ignorance. If you actually read and understood Colless comments you would comprehend his concern is with the game of Australian Rules and the survival of all existing clubs, in all states. All Victorian and NON Victorian Clubs need to be strong and healthy for the game to continue to grow and appeal for future generations. Currently the Saints, Dees, Bulldogs and North are struggling to compete with the growing costs of running a football departments. Their are many imbalances in the AFL e.g. When was the last time Collingwood played the Cats in Geelong? etc. All these matters like Sydney's living costs need to be examined in a fair and open way and that's why he wrote to all AFL clubs and the AFL itself. Small views like yourself are the death to the growing future of this great game.

      Commenter
      dee
      Date and time
      October 17, 2012, 10:08AM
    • No if you know anything about politics he is getting on the front foot to try and divert attention his club is getting about their extra salary cap room.

      Nothing from him ever and now he starts getting vocal?

      Commenter
      Nathan
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      October 17, 2012, 11:20AM
    • @dee - speaking of ignorance - what has Collingwood playing Geelong at Geelong got to do with this article? If you want to go down your path - why do Sydney always get the home game blockbuster against Collingwood in the middle of the season? - let them come down and play the Pies on the MCG instead of the Olympic stadium turned rugby ground made into an oval.

      Commenter
      Ed
      Date and time
      October 17, 2012, 11:42AM
    • Equalisation of match day revenue is the most ridiculous concept. Tickets do not cost the same everywhere, so why should some of my hard earned money go to supporting too many teams in Victoria? Our ticket prices here are twice what they are in Melbourne. This is why West Coast and Freo make so much money, from our pockets. Why should it go to support teams I wouldn't care if they disappeared.

      Commenter
      Nick
      Location
      Perth
      Date and time
      October 17, 2012, 12:27PM
    • @ General Soreness - I assume you mean "You are ....". "Your" makes no sense.

      Commenter
      JD
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      October 17, 2012, 2:28PM
  • 'I'm not pushing any particular line but........" R. Colless

    There is always a 'but'!

    Did Mr Colless make comment on the 'equalisation' fund or was this strategically omitted?

    Commenter
    Roy F
    Location
    Brunswick Street
    Date and time
    October 17, 2012, 9:23AM

    More comments

    Make a comment

    You are logged in as [Logout]

    All information entered below may be published.

    Error: Please enter your screen name.

    Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

    Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

    Error: Please enter your comment.

    Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

    Post to

    You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

    Thank you

    Your comment has been submitted for approval.

    Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

    Related Coverage

    AFL 2015

    Round 1
    Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
    CAR 78 vs RIC 105 Report Stats
    Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
    MEL 115 vs GCF 89 Stats
    SYD 72 vs ESS 60 Stats
    BRI 74 vs COL 86 Stats
    WBU 97 vs WCE 87 Stats
    Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
    STK 78 vs GWS 87 Stats
    ADE 140 vs NTH 63 Stats
    FRE 75 vs PTA 68 Stats
    Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
    HAW 123 vs GEE 61 Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 2
    Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
    WCE 131 vs CAR 62 Stats
    Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
    RIC 66 vs WBU 85 Report Stats
    GWS 101 vs MEL 56 Stats
    COL 63 vs ADE 90 Report Stats
    GCF 76 vs STK 104 Stats
    PTA 44 vs SYD 92 Stats
    Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
    GEE 60 vs FRE 104 Stats
    ESS 78 vs HAW 76 Stats
    NTH 133 vs BRI 51 Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 3
    Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
    COL 140 vs STK 66 Stats
    Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
    CAR 84 vs ESS 105 Stats
    ADE 80 vs MEL 55 Stats
    SYD 111 vs GWS 90 Report Stats
    NTH 105 vs PTA 113 Stats
    BRI 58 vs RIC 137 Stats
    Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
    HAW 127 vs WBU 57 Stats
    GEE 105 vs GCF 96 Stats
    WCE 81 vs FRE 111 Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 4
    Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
    RIC 51 vs MEL 83 Stats
    Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
    STK 81 vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
    ESS 49 vs COL 69 Report Stats
    GWS 119 vs GCF 53 Stats
    PTA 99 vs HAW 91 Stats
    FRE 74 vs SYD 60 Stats
    Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
    BRI 65 vs WCE 118 Stats
    GEE 67 vs NTH 83 Stats
    WBU 125 vs ADE 68 Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 5
    Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
    CAR 45 vs COL 120 Stats
    Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
    RIC 76 vs GEE 85 Stats
    SYD 73 vs WBU 77 Stats
    GCF 118 vs BRI 54 Stats
    NTH 70 vs HAW 130 Stats
    WCE 120 vs GWS 33 Stats
    Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
    MEL 50 vs FRE 118 Stats
    STK 80 vs ESS 82 Stats
    ADE 91 vs PTA 115 Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 6
    Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
    COL 59 vs GEE 100 Stats
    Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
    NTH 109 vs RIC 74 Stats
    WBU 87 vs STK 94 Stats
    GWS 108 vs HAW 98 Stats
    GCF 78 vs ADE 119 Stats
    MEL 50 vs SYD 88 Stats
    FRE 80 vs ESS 52 Stats
    Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
    CAR 75 vs BRI 84 Report Stats
    PTA 68 vs WCE 78 Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 7
    Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
    ESS 82 vs NTH 93 Stats
    Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
    ADE 119 vs STK 73 Stats
    HAW 155 vs MEL 50 Stats
    CAR 57 vs GWS 135 Stats
    SYD 120 vs GEE 77 Stats
    WCE 135 vs GCF 43 Stats
    Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
    WBU 88 vs FRE 101 Stats
    RIC 105 vs COL 100 Report Stats
    BRI 102 vs PTA 65 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 8
    Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
    GEE 140 vs CAR 63 Report Stats
    Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
    STK 78 vs WCE 131 Report Stats
    GWS 108 vs ADE 84 Report Stats
    GCF 63 vs COL 132 Report Stats
    HAW 69 vs SYD 73 Report Stats
    FRE 115 vs NTH 42 Report Stats
    Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
    ESS 136 vs BRI 78 Report Stats
    MEL 103 vs WBU 64 Report Stats
    PTA 43 vs RIC 76 Report Stats
    View All Fixtures
    Round 9
    Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
    SYD 122 vs CAR 62 Stats
    Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
    HAW vs GCF 13:45AS
    MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
    WBU vs GWS 16:35ES
    RIC vs ESS 19:20MCG
    ADE vs FRE 19:40Adelaide Oval
    Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
    BRI vs STK 13:10G
    COL vs NTH 15:20MCG
    WCE vs GEE 16:40Domain Stadium
    View All Fixtures
    Round 10
    Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
    FRE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
    Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
    CAR vs ADE 13:40MCG
    GCF vs SYD 16:35MS
    ESS vs GEE 19:20ES
    PTA vs WBU 19:40Adelaide Oval
    Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
    GWS vs BRI 13:10Spotless Stadium
    NTH vs WCE 15:20BA
    STK vs HAW 16:40ES
    Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
    MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
    View All Fixtures
    Round 11
    Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
    PTA vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
    Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
    GCF vs FRE 13:40MS
    WCE vs ESS 16:35Domain Stadium
    NTH vs SYD 19:20ES
    Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
    COL vs GWS 13:10MCG
    STK vs MEL 16:40ES
    View All Fixtures
    Round 12
    Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
    ADE vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
    Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
    RIC vs WCE 19:50MCG
    Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
    CAR vs PTA 13:40MCG
    GWS vs NTH 16:35Spotless Stadium
    WBU vs BRI 19:20ES
    Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
    GEE vs MEL 15:20SS
    View All Fixtures
    Round 13
    Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
    FRE vs COL 20:10Domain Stadium
    Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
    SYD vs RIC 19:50SCG
    Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
    HAW vs ESS 13:40MCG
    BRI vs ADE 16:35G
    STK vs WBU 19:20ES
    Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
    CAR vs GCF 15:20ES
    View All Fixtures
    Round 14
    Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
    SYD vs PTA 19:20SCG
    Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
    COL vs HAW 19:50MCG
    Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
    RIC vs GWS 13:40MCG
    GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
    WBU vs CAR 19:20ES
    MEL vs WCE 19:40TIO
    Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
    ESS vs STK 13:10ES
    ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
    FRE vs BRI 16:40Domain Stadium
    View All Fixtures
    Round 15
    Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
    PTA vs COL 19:50Adelaide Oval
    Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
    RIC vs CAR 19:50MCG
    Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
    ESS vs MEL 13:40MCG
    WBU vs GCF 16:35CAZ
    NTH vs GEE 19:20ES
    WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
    Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
    GWS vs STK 13:10Spotless Stadium
    HAW vs FRE 15:20AS
    BRI vs SYD 16:40G
    View All Fixtures
    Round 16
    Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
    NTH vs ESS 19:50ES
    Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
    GEE vs WBU 13:45SS
    GCF vs GWS 14:10MS
    COL vs WCE 16:35ES
    SYD vs HAW 19:20ANZ
    FRE vs CAR 19:40Domain Stadium
    Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
    MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
    PTA vs ADE 15:20Adelaide Oval
    STK vs RIC 16:40ES
    View All Fixtures
    Round 17
    Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
    CAR vs HAW 19:50ES
    Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
    GWS vs GEE 13:45SO
    ADE vs GCF 14:10Adelaide Oval
    RIC vs FRE 16:35MCG
    ESS vs PTA 19:20ES
    BRI vs NTH 19:20G
    Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
    WBU vs COL 13:10ES
    MEL vs STK 15:20MCG
    WCE vs SYD 16:40Domain Stadium
    View All Fixtures
    Round 18
    Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
    HAW vs RIC 19:50MCG
    Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
    GEE vs BRI 13:45SS
    COL vs MEL 14:10MCG
    SYD vs ADE 16:35SCG
    CAR vs NTH 19:20ES
    GCF vs WCE 19:20MS
    Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
    PTA vs STK 13:10Adelaide Oval
    ESS vs WBU 15:20ES
    FRE vs GWS 16:40Domain Stadium
    View All Fixtures
    Round 19
    Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
    ADE vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
    Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
    COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
    WBU vs PTA 14:10ES
    BRI vs GCF 16:35G
    GEE vs SYD 19:20SS
    WCE vs HAW 19:40Domain Stadium
    Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
    MEL vs NTH 13:10MCG
    GWS vs ESS 15:20Spotless Stadium
    STK vs FRE 16:40ES
    View All Fixtures
    Round 20
    Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
    SYD vs COL 19:50SCG
    Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
    ESS vs ADE 13:45ES
    NTH vs STK 14:10BA
    PTA vs GWS 16:35Adelaide Oval
    GEE vs HAW 19:20MCG
    BRI vs CAR 19:20G
    Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
    RIC vs GCF 13:10MCG
    WBU vs MEL 15:20ES
    FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
    View All Fixtures
    Round 21
    Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
    HAW vs PTA 19:50ES
    Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
    COL vs RIC 13:45MCG
    GWS vs SYD 14:10Spotless Stadium
    GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
    STK vs GEE 19:20ES
    ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
    Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
    NTH vs FRE 13:10ES
    CAR vs MEL 15:20MCG
    WCE vs WBU 16:40Domain Stadium
    View All Fixtures
    Round 22
    Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
    GEE vs COL 19:50MCG
    Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
    GWS vs CAR 13:45Spotless Stadium
    HAW vs BRI 14:10AS
    NTH vs WBU 16:35ES
    ESS vs RIC 19:20MCG
    GCF vs PTA 19:20MS
    Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
    ADE vs WCE 13:10Adelaide Oval
    STK vs SYD 15:20ES
    FRE vs MEL 16:40Domain Stadium
    View All Fixtures
    Round 23
    Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
    COL vs ESS 00:00MCG
    RIC vs NTH 00:00ES
    HAW vs CAR 00:00MCG
    GEE vs ADE 00:00SS
    SYD vs GCF 00:00SCG
    MEL vs GWS 00:00ES
    BRI vs WBU 00:00G
    PTA vs FRE 00:30Adelaide Oval
    WCE vs STK 02:00Domain Stadium
    View All Fixtures
    AFL 2015
    Overall standings
    Team P W L D % Pts
    Fremantle 8 8 0 0 155.29 32
    Sydney Swans 9 7 2 0 134.49 28
    West Coast Eagles 8 6 2 0 158.17 24
    GWS Giants 8 6 2 0 118.87 24
    Collingwood 8 5 3 0 129.90 20
    Adelaide Crows 8 5 3 0 116.32 20
    Hawthorn 8 4 4 0 145.81 16
    Richmond 8 4 4 0 107.64 16
    View all
     
    Featured advertisers