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.
Describing the disparity between rich and poor clubs as ''a ticking time bomb'' the game's longest-serving chairman has called upon the game to ''stop pussy-footing about the problem and put it on the table''.
The AFL Commission and executive has responded to Colless's strongly-worded proposal and has confirmed it will hold a two-day summit before the start of next season to bring 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 Herald and distributed to club presidents and the AFL, he 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, this year's 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's 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 Herald. ''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.''