Port Adelaide vs Adelaide

Port Adelaide vs Adelaide Photo: David Mariuz

Former Etihad Stadium boss Ian Collins advised Port Adelaide against signing the contentious Adelaide Oval agreement, warning chairman David Koch that the club would be broke within three seasons under the deal it was being offered.

Collins' 20-page review, commissioned by Koch and delivered to the club last year, predicted a number of pitfalls in the agreement, which have since become reality and will be debated at next week's review of the Adelaide Oval contract to be chaired by AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan.

Fairfax Media understands Collins was so concerned about the deal being handed to both Port and the Adelaide Crows that he aired those concerns with his close friend and AFL commissioner Bill Kelty.

Both the Crows and the Power were alarmed at the high costs and low match returns from early season games.

Both the Crows and the Power were alarmed at the high costs and low match returns from early season games. Photo: Getty Images

Kelty is understood to have passed the Collins report to McLachlan.

It has also emerged that Port Adelaide chief executive Keith Thomas was under pressure through 2013 to retain his job so fierce was the animosity from the SANFL - which then still held the licences of both the Power and the Crows - as Thomas continually challenged aspects of the Adelaide Oval contract.

The Power board was being pressured by the some key SANFL players to remove Thomas despite his strong relationship with the AFL, successful football appointments and achievement in unifying Power and Port Magpie factions.

The highly sensitive negotiations to move AFL football from AAMI Stadium to the Adelaide Oval - highlighted by outgoing AFL boss Andrew Demetriou as the greatest achievement of his regime - took more than four years to come to fruition.

It was a saga punctuated by acrimony and some fiercely emotive battles between the South Australian football governing body, the government, the AFL and the two Adelaide AFL clubs.

Signed at the 11th hour in March 2014, both clubs only agreed to terms on the condition of a mid-season review of the agreement, which will start on July 18. Adelaide and Port Adelaide remain disenchanted at the financial model and concerned the agreement was reached in haste with the AFL determined to complete the deal on the eve of the season.

Despite a record membership, attendances, on-field success and unprecedented corporate support, Port Adelaide is unlikely to achieve a profit this season and remains hopeful of a break-even result.

Adelaide is forecasting a modest profit of between $100,00 and $200,000. Against that, both clubs have far exceeded attendance expectations at Adelaide Oval with total crowd numbers after 16 games at least 120,000 ahead of pre-season forecasts.

While the Adelaide Oval has proved one good news story for 2014, both the Crows and the Power were alarmed at the high costs and low match returns from early season games, and remain concerned that the forthcoming review sees the Stadium Management Authority under no legal compulsion to change the deal.

The contract deadline in March also saw the two clubs buy their licences back from the SA Football Commission in a 15-year financial agreement that will come in the form of South Australian game development grants.

McLachlan, who oversaw the landmark Adelaide Oval agreement, will be assisted in the review by his general manager of strategy and club services Sam Graham. The AFL's legal and finance boss Andrew Dillon and Ian Anderson have also been heavily involved in the Adelaide Oval contract and the early match returns respectively. The new AFL boss McLachlan refused to comment on Thursday when asked whether he had seen the Collins report.

Collins would not return calls from Fairfax Media on Thursday. The long-time Carlton CEO, AFL executive and Docklands stadium boss, virtually from its outset, is also consulting to Brookfield Multiplex, the consortium that has won the tender to to build the new Perth Stadium, which will host all West Coast and Fremantle AFL games.

Twelve  months ago Collins warned Port Adelaide the club would be signing away any significant say in the running of the stadium and would unfairly force both Port and the Crows to carry too heavy a burden in underwriting its SANFL members. He warned Koch the club was being forced into an unfair contract weighted heavily towards the Stadium Management Authority and by extension the SANFL.

Thomas and Crows chief Steven Trigg - who was forced out of negotiations for six months while suspended last year by the AFL - will be fighting for their clubs from next Friday at the review. Both clubs reportedly are pushing to earn 70 cents from every dollar earned at their home games - a percentage comparable with that earned by the WA clubs at Paterson Stadium.