No level playing field

FAVOURED: The AFL continues to push the North Melbourne bandwagon in Tasmania with a new five-year deal to play in Hobart and control of the proposed state academy. Picture: Getty ImagesAt the risk of gate crashing the little love fest that the AFL and North Melbourne have going on in Hobart at the moment there are some observations that need to be made following the historic first night AFL matchbetween North and Richmond a week or so ago.

Firstly, I have no qualms with the Roos signing a new five-year deal to play down Southand well done on attracting a record AFL crowd of 17,844 on a freezing cold night –a worthy achievement.

But you have to wonderhow many of those were enticed out by the 45 per cent cut in general admission ticket prices, the fireworks display and pre-game concert.

I don’t recall the AFL offering any such enticements before Hawthorn matches at Aurora Stadium in the past.

If the AFL funded the pre-game enticements,then we should ask how much was spent on them and when can we expect the same in Launceston?

If the TT-Line paid for them –we should beasking why were they spending state government enterprise funds (read taxpayer funds here) on such pre-game entertainments?

Speaking of North Melbourne’s new sole Tasmanian sponsor – why has theTT-Line not been up front with the Tasmanian public about what the dollar figure is for the new five-year Kangaroos deal?

TT-Line chairman Michael Grainger refused to specify the amount of taxpayer funds being spent on the new deal citing “commercial in-confidence” as the reason.

NeitherNorthMelbourne nor the state government commented on thedeal’s monetary value either for the same reason.

Hard to see how that excuse holds up when, as far as we know, there’s no other team vying to play games at Bellerive Oval as part of a sponsorship arrangement.

And no-one else was rushing to pay for the deal including the Hobart City Council, which opted out of the original cost-sharing arrangement.

The state government has always been upfront and transparent about the full cost of the Hawthorn deals but it seems the same onus does not apply to a government business enterprise wholly ownedby the state government and thetaxpayers.

All we know is that the deal will cost more than the original $500,000 a game for each of the three North Melbourne games.

To cite commercial in-confidence as the reason for not revealing the full cost to the public of Tasmania is rubbish – what don’t they want us to know?

Not good enough Mr Grainger or Mr Hodgman – time to come clean and tell us the truth.

The underlying problem in all of this is the fact that there is not a level playing field in Tasmania at present as far as the AFL is concerned.It is not a matter of parochialism, it is a matter of fairness –the Tasmanian public are not fools so don’t treat us as such.

AFL supremo Gillon McLachlan obviously has a plan for footy in Tassie and that plan is centred on North Melbourne playingat both ends of the state with Hawthorn vacating the premises.

McLachlan, speaking before the Friday night game, effusively praised the North deal and the proposed football academy as “the start of a new dawn of football for Tasmania. We are incredibly committed to this market and we’ve got a clear plan from the grassroots right up to elite and I am thrilled to be here.”

He described the Kangaroos relationship with Hobart “as the best thing we’ve done so far”.

Guess he forgot about the Hawks’ 15 years of hard work in the state and the 9000 members who support them.

Can’t recall McLachlanever being so gushing in his praise of the Hawthorndeal and what they have done in the state.

If any club deserved the right to play the first AFL night game in the state it wasthe Hawks as reward for their longevity and loyalty.No wonder Hawthorn chief executive Stuart Fox feelsthathis club’s commitment to Tasmaniahas been overlooked and unappreciated by the AFL.

McLachlan has already decided the state’s proposed talent academy will be handed over to North Melbourne and apparently a Hawthorn’s request for a Northern-basedacademy refused.

No reason has been given for the AFL’s decision to backNorth for the proposed Tasmanian academy and no-one has asked the question why not the Hawks, who were here first and have been here longer?

Alastair Clarkson has said that clubs like the Hawks are “shitty as all buggery” that other teams have got acadmies and they haven’t.

McLachlan andHodgman have to realise there is massive state support for Hawthorn and should be wary if they expect everyone outside of Hobart to jump on their North Melbourne bandwagon.

Of the state’s population of about520,000, nearly 60per cent live outsideof Greater Hobart and many are die-hard Hawks supporters.

We don’t all live in Hobart, but we all vote, and we’re not easily conned.

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