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A$360m in Tasmanian team funding requires new stadium – AFL chief

Featured image credit: Jeremy Rockliff

The Australian Football League (AFL) has pledged to spend A$360m (£203m/€230m/$243.2m) on a Tasmanian team, but has maintained that funding for a 19th franchise is dependent on a new stadium being developed.

Gillon McLachlan, chief executive of the Aussie rules league, yesterday (Thursday) addressed a tourism and business lunch in Hobart, the intended destination of the new stadium and team. The funding package would include a minimum of A$15m in the stadium, A$10m in the club’s training facilities, A$93m towards game development, A$33m to help develop grassroots talent and $209m in distributions to the new team over the first decade of its existence.

However, the proposed A$715m stadium project for Hobart has proved a divisive topic locally. The Tasmania Government in December set out its case for A$240m in federal government funding for the project that is designed to deliver an AFL team to Hobart.

The strategic business case for Tasmania’s new arts, entertainment and sports precinct was delivered to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, with the price tag for the stadium having reduced from what was previously outlined.

Tasmania’s Government and the AFL in November reached an in-principle agreement for the creation of a new team in the state, with the A$750m funding of a new stadium the only remaining impediment. At the time, McLachlan and Tasmanian Premier Jeremy Rockliff described the agreement as a “great step forward” after years of discussions.

The final business case presented to the federal government states the roofed stadium at Macquarie Point in Hobart will cost A$715m. The requirement for federal funding has dropped from around half the total cost to A$240m.

The Tasmanian Government has committed A$375m, the vast majority in 2026 to 2028, but is seeking that the Commonwealth provide A$50m in 2026-27, A$175m in 2027-28 and A$15m in 2028-29. With the AFL contributing a further A$15m, the state claims the remaining A$85m will be generated through borrowings against land sale, or lease for commercial uses.

Speaking yesterday (Thursday), McLachlan said: “Without the stadium, there is no team. The commission and AFL clubs have made it clear that the stadium is the last key requirement. I know some people have said they support the team but not the stadium, but we have been consistent with the message that we can’t have one without the other.

“Our fans want, deserve, and expect the best experience, which needs the best stadiums, and the supporters are voting with their feet. That is why there can be no team without a stadium. We need to establish a team for future success, not future failure. It’s that simple.

“In the economics of new football clubs in 2023, a first-class stadium is imperative for a team trying to turnover A$40-50m annually – a commercial reality to be competitive.”

McLachlan’s comments came after 10 Tasmanian federal politicians signed a letter earlier this week calling on the AFL to grant the 19th licence without the requirement of a new stadium.

However, McLachlan countered: “I would note that new or fully redeveloped stadiums were a pre-requisite for the Gold Coast Suns and GWS Giants prior to entry in the AFL.  To be clear, this is not and has never been just a Tasmanian requirement.”

The business case put forward in December also provided more details on the vision for the roofed stadium, using the planned ‘Te Kaha’ stadium in Christchurch, New Zealand, as an inspiration. A 23,000-capacity ‘boutique’ stadium is envisioned, including corporate and events spaces, plus the potential for 1,500-person hotel accommodation.

Projections are for the planning phase to be completed by late 2024, a contractor appointed in early 2025 and construction complete by mid-2028.