Gary Pert is worried the pressure on the bigger clubs to give up a greater share of revenue could give the league a bland feel. Photo: Josh Robenstone
Collingwood chief executive Gary Pert fears that clubs could resemble ''McDonald's franchises'' if harsh equalisation measures are introduced.
Club bosses and the AFL will reopen discussions once the holiday period is over to negotiate the next stage of plans to close the gap between the AFL's wealthiest and poorest clubs, one of the key agenda items of the coming season.
Pert says he cannot remember a time when there have been more clubs under financial stress, but is worried the pressure on the bigger clubs - such as Hawthorn, West Coast and the Magpies - to give up a greater share of revenue, could give the league a bland feel.
Players are also calling for greater equalisation measures as part of a mid-term review of the collective bargaining agreement, claiming not all have the chance to succeed because of the gap in football department spending.
''There has got to be a solution that works for every club. To me, there has never been a time where there have been more clubs in financial stress,'' Pert said.
''I don't think any of this discussion is about all clubs should be exactly the same. When you get recruited to a club, whether it means you are going interstate or a club that has different levels of training facilities, there are no two clubs that are the same.
''As an industry we should never be trying to create that. Yes, the players association are right that when you are recruited to a club, you are going to experience that club relative to the facilities and the location and the resources and the financial position they are in.
''That's just the reality, otherwise we turn the AFL clubs into a group of McDonald's franchises, that all look the same but are located slightly down the road.''
Magpies president Eddie McGuire has raised concerns about a ''welfare-state mentality'' in the league. If more revenue is shared, the Magpies want clubs to show they will spend it prudently.
''One of the great things about our game and what supporters have seen over the last five to 10 years is the advancement in the programs that we run and the support that we give to players in our medical [department] and trainers and coaches … and what we are seeing now is these highly trained, highly skilled athletes that require an investment in the football department to keep on developing these players to be elite,'' Pert said.
''We can't ever forget that the main competition … is other codes, other interests that could take our junior players away at an early age or take our crowds away.''
The Magpies remain one of the leading football department spenders, pouring in $22.46 million in 2013 - an increase of more than 5 per cent. They declared a $5.23 million operating profit in November and will spend about $1.5 million on their digital media division this year, becoming the first club to boast a major television studio. But Pert said there were no plans to have their own television channel when the new broadcast rights deal is brokered.
Two AFL announcements in recent months are set to help equalisation. An extra $1 has been added to the existing $2 gate levy, while a three-year contract with sports drink Gatorade will be spread among all clubs.
Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon has said the discussion is not about curtailing big clubs but about ensuring the smaller clubs could compete economically.