AFL team the goal for Tasmania
AFL team the goal for Tasmania, as island footy fans await league decision
The end of June is approaching and that means the steering committee looking into Tasmanian football is almost ready to hand down its recommendations for the game in the state.
The ABC understands committee members Chris Fagan, Nick Riewoldt and Brendon Bolton have all pushed the AFL to create a framework and a set of criteria for the establishment of a Tasmanian AFL team.
On Tuesday, Tasmanian Nationals Senator Steve Martin gave a notice of motion to the senate calling for a Tasmanian team in the AFL by 2023.
An announcement by the steering committee is imminent, with its recommendations believed to already be in the hands of the AFL commission.
Will the pleas of Bolton, Fagan, Riewoldt, Martin and the bulk of Tasmanian football fans fall on deaf ears?
Or will the steering committee announce a set of criteria and a concrete date in which Tasmania must become AFL ready?
If it does, it'll be time to get to work.
An assurance that a new Tasmanian club would be economically sustainable would be number one on any list of criteria set by the AFL.
Tassie footy's fight for survival
It's no secret that Tasmanian AFL is battling, with fewer boys playing the game and clubs folding. Can the code come back from the brink?
Currently, the worst performing AFL clubs operate on a budget of $40 million. The AFL would need a guarantee Tasmania would be working beyond these numbers to not only survive, but thrive.
In 2008, confectionary giant Mars committed $4 million in sponsorship dollars to a potential Tasmanian team. Could it step up to the plate once again?
Former Zap Fitness chief executive Bob Cheek recently committed $1 million to a standalone AFLW team.
While the fitness king recently sold out of the company, his was a positive signal that a Tasmanian backer was looking to invest. Other prominent Tasmanian businesses would need to fill the void.
The Tasmanian Government would also be looked to for funding, with calls for it to sever ties with Hawthorn and North Melbourne at the end of 2021 and redirect the money it gives those clubs to our own team.
The AFL funds the Gold Coast Suns to the tune of $25 million a year; it too would be expected to partially subsidise Tasmania.
With a fresh, multi-billion-dollar broadcast deal to be inked after 2022, the AFL would be expected to find coin for Tasmania.
Club members would foot a chunk of the operating costs. It is not unreasonable to assume a new Tasmanian club would have 10,000 members signed up soon after launch.
Almost 10 years after being granted a license, Gold Coast is yet to hit that same mark.
Potential AFL criteria would emphasise the continuing strength of the game in Tasmania.
A full-time Mariners program, which is expected to be announced as a recommendation by the steering committee, is a good start.
Renewed hope of an AFL license would re-ignite interest amongst Tasmanian youth. The state league would suddenly become a far more attractive proposition for local and interstate players if it was underpinning an AFL setup.
The question of facilities is already answered.
With York Park, Bellerive Oval and the Kingston Twin Ovals already established as venues of AFL-standard, Tasmania would walk into one of the best stadium deals in the AFL, although an elite training facility would need to be built.
What if a set of criteria and a concrete date isn't part of the steering committee's recommendations? There will be several take-aways.
While true that AFL boss Gillon McLachlan has stated a Tasmanian team isn't a primary focus of the steering committee, it'll mean the wishes of three of the committees most prominent members were not granted.
It will do zero to silence calls for our own team, which are only growing louder.
It will leave the door open for the Tasmanian Government to re-up with the Hawks beyond 2021.
Discussions must already be happening behind closed doors, as we are already deep into the current five-year arrangement.
It should however be noted that the current deal is the second best return on investment in the AFL, in terms of major sponsorship.
A non-announcement will fuel speculation that Tasmania is being 'held' by the AFL for a full, or partial relocation, of an existing Victorian club.
Bolton, Fagan and Riewoldt are not pushing for the AFL to hand Tasmania a license, merely to set a date by which it should be ready to enter the big league.
We may not deserve that license just yet, but we surely deserve to be given the chance to show that when the time comes, we will be ready.
*By Chris Rowbottom (ABC News - https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-06-27/afl-future-in-tasmania-steering-committee-report-imminent/9911946)
(Updated 27 Jun 2018)