Top economist Saul Eslake says the numbers stack up for Tasmanian AFL side

Respected economist and Tasmanian AFL team taskforce member Saul Eslake said a Tasmanian team would save on ongoing costs while delivering better content, more tourists and a bigger economic impact.

A NEW Tasmanian AFL team would deliver local fans 11 games a season and save taxpayers more than $1 million a year, a State Government report reveals.

The Sunday Tasmanian has exclusively obtained a copy of the government’s 2008 business case that helped open the AFL’s eyes to a team from the island state.

Respected economist and Tasmanian AFL team taskforce member Saul Eslake said a Tasmanian team would save on ongoing costs while delivering better content, more tourists and a bigger economic impact.

The business case, produced by the Department of Economic Development and Tourism and James Hird’s former business Gemba, was so strong even AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou was forced to go from “never, ever” to “next cab off the ranks”, praising the state for a professional report that ended claims Tasmania could not support its own team.

Mr Eslake said the case stacked up.

“Even Demetriou had to say it ticked all the boxes, he then went on to say you’re still not getting a team but even he had to admit it ticked all the financial boxes,” Mr Eslake said.

“There is a legitimate concern on the part of Tasmanian people, ‘How can we afford this when we don’t have decent schools and hospitals?’ I totally understand that but the actual point is it would cost the Tasmanian Government less than it is presently putting into Hawthorn.

“And what do you get from Hawthorn and the money you are putting in for North Melbourne from the TT-Line? You get a small number of games a year against teams that have no followers in Tasmania and they have no meaning for the competition as a whole.

Hawthorn fans show their support during the game against the Brisbane Lions at Aurora Stadium.

“That is not a criticism of Hawthorn, I think Hawthorn has done a magnificent job by Tasmania.”

The Hawks deal delivers four premiership games a season to Launceston and “Tasmania” on the famous yellow and brown jumper at a cost of about $3.5 million a year, with bonuses for finals and grand final appearances.

The North Melbourne contract sees the Roos pick up $500,000 a year from the government-owned TT-Line’s marketing budget, and an additional half a million from the Hobart City Council and the RACT. The Hawthorn deal ends after the 2016 season, while the Roos’ contract runs out at the end of this year.

There is now a push on to have one team commit to eight games a season in Tasmania as the next step to the state landing its own side.

The 2008 report stated there would be initial one-off establishment costs for a new team of $8 million that may come from the AFL, which has spent millions establishing the Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney teams, or from taxpayers.

The Tasmanian team’s case is largely based on the Geelong model, a regional area with its own stadium and supporter base.

Using this as a case study and membership take-up rates per capita achieved when the West Coast Eagles and the Adelaide Crows entered the competition, Mr Eslake said a Tasmanian team would achieve an immediate membership of 25,000 from either locals switching allegiances or taking up secondary memberships to watch AFL games at home.

Since 2008, Tasmania has increased its annual contract with Hawthorn and spent considerably on infrastructure at both Launceston’s Aurora Stadium and Hobart’s Blundstone Areana.

With a slight increase to a 25,000-seat capacity at Aurora Stadium, Mr Eslake said the Tasmanian team would have the fourth best stadium deal in the competition, behind only Geelong and the two West Australian clubs.

The third major revenue raiser would be sponsorship but the case found this would not be the insurmountable hurdle so many here and interstate believe.

“People say, ‘Who is the major company in Tasmania able to sponsor a Tasmanian team?’ ” Mr Eslake said. “The answer is there isn’t one, but you wouldn’t look for one.

“If you look at the major sponsor of existing clubs, Emirates is the major sponsor of Collingwood. The Emirates office isn’t in Collingwood or Abbotsford, it is in Abu Dhabi. They do it because they want the exposure.”

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