Tasmanian AFL Club Bid History

 

The Tasmanian AFL bid refers to several Australian rules football teams that have proposed to eventually join the Australian Football League (AFL) and the AFL Women's (AFLW). Proposals have been made on several occasions since the expansion of the Victorian Football League into an Australia-wide competition started in 1987.

 
 
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Tasmanian AFL bid

With a historically strong supporter base for Australian rules football, one of the highest participation rates in the country and strong local leagues, Tasmania had held back from expressing serious interest in the VFL. But, with the relocation of the Sydney Swans and admission of teams from Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide, Tasmania began a push to enter the national competition.

Between 1996 and 1998 a bid was prepared that involved the construction of a 30,000-capacity stadium in the Hobart showgrounds in Glenorchy, at the cost of $34 million. The stadium would have been the team's only home ground, but the appeal was unsuccessful and the stadium was not built.

On several occasions the AFL has dismissed notions of admitting a Tasmanian side into the national competition, frequently citing a relatively small state population and a lack of sponsorship interest. The intrastate rivalry Hobart and Launceston about where a home ground would be located has also contributed to problematic bids.

A government-backed Tasmanian bid was prepared in response to the AFL admitting new licences for the Gold Coast and Western Sydney for the 2010 and 2011 seasons. While the AFL admitted that the state had put together a stronger business case, it was once again rejected by the league. AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou was quoted to have said to the Tasmanian premier Paul Lennon "Not now, not ever". Hobart's major daily newspaper The Mercury started a petition in response to this news on 16 April 2008. The premier vowed to bypass the AFL CEO and take the appeal directly to the AFL Commission.

On 30 July, the Tasmanian government announced that it had secured a major sponsor, Mars for the bid in a deal worth $4 million over 3 years. It was long doubted by the AFL that the Tasmanian club would secure corporate interest before a proposal is accepted by the AFL and this announcement came as a major shock as it was before a sponsor could be found for either the Gold Coast or Western Sydney Clubs and as AFL clubs Richmond and Western Bulldogs was left without a major sponsor for 2009. In addition to the Gemba financial audit of the bid to meet the AFL criteria, the Tasmania team had secured more than 20,000 potential members, ahead of the Gold Coast and Western Sydney bid in raw numbers.

 
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Club Bid History Information

(click headings below for more information) 

 

AFL team proposals →

1990: Tasmania defeats Victoria

Tasmania: 20 14 (134)
Victoria: 14 17 (101)
Venue: Bellerive Oval

On the 24 June 1990, Tasmania's state team defeated the Victorian state team in front of a full house at Bellerive Oval fuelling the first calls for the state to house its own AFL team.[7] Colin Alexander kicked 4 goals for Tasmania during the match.

1991–1997: 14th, 15th & 16th AFL licences →

In 1991, Fitzroy played three games in Tasmania.
In 1992 Roger Curtis, then president of successful Tasmanian State League side Clarence, flagged the inevitable decline of Tasmanian football without the presence of its own AFL side. Curtis said that "The only way to get the kids playing football here is to give them access to the best product available and that, of course, is AFL football ... You would have to call the side 'Tasmania' as fans simply won't follow a relocated side with its traditional name, even if it was Collingwood".

In April 1994 The Tasmanian Sports Minister, Peter Hodgman, spoke to the AFL about the possible introduction of a local team to the league and had raised the possibility of state funding.

Between 1994 and 1997 the bid was prepared for a Tasmanian team that involved the construction of a 30,000-capacity stadium at the Hobart Showgrounds in Glenorchy, at the cost of approximately $30 million

2008–2011: Tasmania beaten by Gold Coast and Western Sydney →

The AFL's continued rejection of the Tasmanian AFL team has raised significant controversy, with the Government of Australia launching a Senate inquiry in 2008 which AFL Commission CEO Andrew Demetriou and chairman Mike Fitzpatrick both declined to attend. At the enquiry, Tasmanian senator Kerry O'Brien brought into question the AFL's commitment to the game in Tasmania, and stated that he believed that with continued neglect, the popularity of soccer could overtake Australian rules football in Tasmania. There are already more children playing soccer than Australian rules football in Tasmania.
The AFL argued that the New South Wales based participation numbers were in excess of that in Tasmania,[17] furthering their argument that a team in Western Sydney was a higher priority. The Senate enquiry found that insurmountable cultural barriers would make such a move non-viable.

In April 2008, Tasmania's former premier Paul Lennon revived the push for an AFL team by travelling to AFL House in Melbourne where the latest bid was officially launched. Although Lennon subsequently retired in May, the responsibility of steering the bid went to Economic Development Minister Paula Wriedt. Wriedt said Tasmania only made the case for a Tasmanian team, and were not trying to beat the Gold Coast or Greater Western Sydney to be the 17th or 18th club.
AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou has said: "They probably do deserve a team, we shouldn't dismiss the contribution that Tasmania has made to our game... They are absolutely entitled to put forward a proposal, but the commission has already decided where the 17th and 18th teams are going."

The bid received a significant boost on 30 July 2008, with the announcement that the confectionery company Mars committed to being the proposed club's major sponsor.
Some media commentators have speculated that the AFL holds Tasmania open as a soft target for relocation of struggling Melbourne clubs. In 2010, there was increased speculation due to North Melbourne's commitment to move four home games annually to Hobart's Bellerive Oval.

2011–2017: Off the AFL agenda and bare draft crop →

In April 2014, AFL deputy chief executive Gillon McLachlan said he supported a "single team representing Tasmania". He stated Tasmania would be the next team to join the AFL, but that this would not happen for at least a decade.
The Herald Sun's Fox Footy 2015 Footy Fans Survey of 14,000 fans that covered a wide range of topics included a question asking "Where should the AFL invest its expansion resources?" The results for the particular question had 78.03% supporting Tasmania as the location the AFL should focus its expansion resources on with the next region New Zealand on only 8.75%.
In 2016, the Garlick report confirmed that a stand-alone Tasmanian team would have to wait until current broadcast deals expire at the end of the 2022 season to enter the AFL.
For the 2016 AFL National Draft no Tasmanian players were drafted. The following year only one player was drafted.
In April 2017, the Tasmanian Government indicated its interest in relocating the Gold Coast Suns to Tasmania in the event the club collapses.
In September 2017, the AFL awarded a licence for an AFL Women's team for the 2019 AFLW season for a combined "Tasmania-North Melbourne" team. The submission for a licence was a joint project of the North Melbourne Football Club and the Government of Tasmania.

Early 2018: AFL steering committee and A-League team bid →

In early 2018, AFL Tasmania CEO Rob Auld resigned, and the following day Burnie and Devonport withdrew from the Tasmanian State League, citing lack of funding making them unable to field sides, thus leaving the competition without any team from North Western Tasmania.
The same week, AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan was quoted as saying he “had a really clear plan for Tasmania”; that week, the AFLX launch took place as well as an announcement that the Gold Coast Suns received $25 million in subsidies for 2017.

On 16 February 2018 the A-League, a key rival of the AFL, announced it would expand its competition by two teams for the upcoming 2019-20 season and flagging that a Tasmanian bid was a key contender, though the bid was rejected in June 2018 after being cut from the FFA shortlist.
On the 23 February 2018 during an interview on SEN, newly appointed AFL Tasmania CEO Trisha Squires did not have a position on whether Tasmania was better off with two fly-in-fly-out Victorian sides or its own side. She also described talk of a standalone Tasmanian team as a "distraction".
Subsequent to these events, a steering committee was formed in March. On 3 July 2018, the committee delivered its findings. McLachlan announced the following recommendations to rebuild and unify Tasmanian football over the next three years:

• The AFL will invest an extra $1.4 million in Tasmania in 2019.
• Create three regional administration hubs to help run community football.
• Generate AFL affiliation with community leagues.
• The TSL will remain the state’s top-tier competition and continue to receive AFL funding.
• Extend Tasmania’s junior pathways from under-12s to under-18s with more opportunities to play in intrastate tournaments.
• Junior levies will also be removed.
• A full-time under-18s Mariners program with Tasmania to compete in the TAC Cup from 2019.
• Tasmania was granted a provisional licence to re-enter the VFL in 2021.
• There will be greater investment in the talent pathway for women, with a girls’ side to take part in TAC Cup from 2020.
• A Tasmanian advisory board, made up of Tasmanians, will be set up to oversee the changes.
• All programs are to be re-branded under a name to be decided by the Tasmanian people.

Mclachlan also stated the success of these plans would help determine a potential date for a Tasmanian team to enter the AFL

Late 2018: Political and social pressure and branding announcement →

Several days later, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten pledged $25 million in funding for a Tasmanian AFL team, contingent on the Labor Party winning the 2019 federal election.
On the 21 September 2018, Trisha Squires announced that representative Tasmanian football teams administered by AFL Tasmania would be known as the Tasmania Devils and would wear green, yellow and maroon.
On 11 October 2018, Adrian Fletcher was named as the Tasmania Devils TAC Cup coach.

VFL teams →

Tasmanian Devils Football Club (2001 – 2008):

In 2001 the Tasmanian Devils Football Club was formed and competed in the Victorian Football League until 2008.
During the 1990s, Tasmania had shown strong interest in joining the AFL and after rejected bids in 1995 and 1997 the Australian Football League instigated the formation a Tasmanian team for the newly re-constructed Victorian Football League. The Tasmanian Devils Football Club formed in 2001 and was admitted into the VFL in its inaugural season the same year. The AFL continues to own the club.
The nickname "Devils" was chosen as the moniker for the club after the tenacious marsupial predator the Tasmanian devil which is indigenous to the island of Tasmania. The club colours green, red, gold (and black) were inspired by the original State of Origin "map" guernsey and are also Tasmania's sporting colours.
The Devils established home grounds in both Hobart and Launceston to deal with the long-standing north-south rivalry. Originally northern home games were played at Ulverstone, Devonport, Burnie and at Launceston's Aurora Stadium while North Hobart Oval hosted games in the south. At the end of the 2005 season the team moved from North Hobart Oval to Bellerive Oval for home games in the south and began playing all northern home games at Aurora Stadium.
2001 and 2002 brought mediocre results but, under the direction of coach Matthew Armstrong, the Devils made the finals for the first time in 2003, finishing a respectable third. The 2004 and 2005 seasons saw the Devils again making the finals.
At the start of the 2006 season the Devils and the Australian Football League's North Melbourne Football Club began a partial alignment, allowing North Melbourne listed players to play for Tasmania when not selected in the seniors, and arrangement which lasted from 2006 until 2007. This was unpopular among local fans, significantly harming the popularity of the club; and the season proved to be a disappointment on-field, with the Devils finishing ninth and missing the finals.
During the 2006 season, Armstrong stepped down as coach due to internal pressure from the playing group, ending his six-year term as Devils coach. North Hobart premiership coach and former Devil Brendon Bolton was made stand in coach for the remainder of the year.
Tasmanian and former Sydney Swan Daryn Cresswell was named coach of the club for 2007 after a successful career as an assistant coach at Geelong and the Brisbane Lions; however, hampered in part by Cresswell's off-field issues which included a gambling addiction and eventual fraud conviction, the club finished wooden spooners both seasons he coached the team, winning only six of a total 34 games.

At the end of the 2008 season, AFL Tasmania decided to withdraw the Devils from the VFL competition in favour of restarting a new Tasmanian league encompassing the entire state.

Tasmania Devils (2021):

The AFL plans on fielding a Tasmanian team in the Victorian Football League in 2021 as a potential precursor to a team entering the Australian Football League.

Victorian AFL clubs in Tasmania →

As Tasmania is the last Australian state to house an AFL team, and is also a heartland state of the code - unlike New South Wales and Queensland - the league has often used the state for Melbourne based clubs to host games in Tasmania subsidised by local and the Tasmanian state governments.

• Fitzroy (1991–1992)
• Hawthorn (2001–present)
• St Kilda (2003–2006)
• North Melbourne (2012–present)

Supporters →

Tasmanian news website and newspaper The Mercury has been a vocal supporter of the bid. Kevin Sheedy has argued that Tasmania is not too small for an AFL team. He stated that population is irrelevant, and that a Tasmanian side could draw support from abroad in a similar way to the Green Bay Packers. In 2008 Tasmanian bank MyState Financial offered $300,000 over three years in sponsorship of a team.

Government supporters:
• Tasmanian Government – $19,000,000 over 5 years (2015 deal with Hawthorn)
• Tasmanian Government – $2,500,000 over 5 years (2017 deal with North Melbourne Women's team)
• Hobart City Council – $600,000 over 2 years (2014 deal with North Melbourne)
• Spirit of Tasmania – $1,800,000 over 3 years (2016 deal with North Melbourne)

Corporate support:
• MARS – $4,000,000 over three years (2008 proposal)
• MyState Financial – $300,000 (2008 proposal)

Media supporters:
• Kevin Sheedy
• Tim Lane
• Mitch Robinson
• Nick Riewoldt
• Matthew Richardson
• Andy Maher
• Caroline Wilson

Venues and travel →

Due to the population split of Tasmania between Hobart and Launceston it has been proposed that a future Tasmania club use two home grounds Launceston and Hobart which are approximately 200 km apart.
It has often been suggested that the home games could be split between the two population centres with Hobart hosting six games a year and Launceston hosting five.

Hobart:
Hobart is Tasmania's largest city with a population around 230,000 which is comparable to Greater Geelong. The record crowd for an Australian rules game in Hobart was 24,968 for the 1979 TANFL Grand Final at North Hobart Oval.

Launceston:
Launceston is the second largest city in Tasmania housing nearly 90,000 people which is comparable in population to the Federal Division of Fremantle. The northern half of Tasmania is home to half the states population. It is the economic centre of Northern Tasmania. The record crowd for an Australian rules game in Launceston was 20,971 at York Park an AFL minor round fixture in 2006.