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Top Dog wants equality talks

Date

Matt Murnane

WESTERN Bulldogs' new president-in-waiting, Peter Gordon, has wasted no time throwing his weight behind the idea of a summit to address the disparity between rich and poor clubs.

As revealed in The Age yesterday, Sydney chairman Richard Colless has described the issue as a ''ticking time bomb'' that can only be defused by open discussion between the AFL and its 18 clubs.

The AFL Commission and executive responded to Colless' call for a wide-ranging review of the competition and its structure by confirming it would hold a two-day summit before the start of the 2013 season.

Gordon said there was ''profound concern'' within the industry that the gap between bigger and smaller clubs could widen at an alarming rate, and ''intelligent discussion'' among presidents, chief executives and the AFL was needed urgently''.

''Because in the end, the best model of competition is one where the result of each game is unpredictable,'' he said. ''To do that, you need a measure of equality, and it's become very evident over recent years that there is an almost lineal correlation between the amount of money you've got to spend and success on the field.

''So if, as seems to be the case, the gap between rich and poor clubs is growing, then we need to work together to address it. We can't just rely on the AFL to address it for us.''

Gordon, one of Australia's most respected lawyers, is the anointed successor to David Smorgon, who will step down after 17 years as president, at the club's annual meeting on December 20.

His elevation to the top job was welcomed yesterday by former player Paul Dimattina, who created controversy last year by pushing for Smorgon to be replaced. Dimattina confirmed he would put up his hand for a position on the restructured board, that will feature Susan Alberti as the new vice-president.

Part of Colless' strongly worded proposal to the AFL - seen exclusively by The Age - called for the league to clarify its commitment to 10 clubs in Victoria. Colless named the Bulldogs when questioning whether the AFL had firm answers as to how the club - and others such as Port Adelaide and Brisbane Lions - ''continue to defy gravity when capital and current expenditure in football costs continue to jump''.

While Gordon conceded the gap between haves and have-nots was a threat to the Western Bulldogs' financial future, he said he left discussions with AFL Commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick and league chief Andrew Demetriou convinced the league ''recognises the importance of smaller clubs'' such as the Dogs, who have one of the lowest membership bases.

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