Norm Smith Medallist
- Sep 4, 2016
- AFL Club
Caroline Wilson's take
The deal that has secured the occasionally fraught and historically turbulent relationship between the AFL and the MCG for the next four decades was born out of a meeting one year ago in Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ office at No. 1 Treasury Place, just a five-minute stroll from the home of football.
League CEO Gillon McLachlan, MCG bosses Steven Smith and Stuart Fox and Collingwood president Eddie McGuire began the conversation with the Premier who was then considering a $300 million AFL request for funding to rebuild the relatively shabby Etihad Stadium and its Docklands surroundings.
The elephant in the room was football’s historic home and its long-term future. The unspoken position of Melbourne Cricket Club chairman Smith and his new CEO Stuart Fox was that the government couldn’t possibly consider a massive funding package for the AFL-owned Etihad without involving the MCG in the deal.
McGuire, a close confidant of Andrews, had unwittingly or otherwise proved the stalking horse for the AFL, putting forward an unfeasible but headline-grabbing alternative for a third stadium. As a key MCG tenant he played an influential role in setting up the dialogue.
What followed was 12 months of negotiations between McLachlan, Fox and Andrews’ key negotiator Justin Hanney. While McLachlan could not proceed with redeveloping Etihad, moving the AFL’s headquarters and capitalising on his political love child, the AFL Women’s, he was unwilling initially to grant the MCG grand finals on a long-term basis.
But the MCG returned serve with an offer of about $8 million each year for its tenant clubs, roughly guaranteeing an extra $170,000 for each tenant club and every home. Having traded away a guaranteed preliminary final, the MCG bosses demanded long-term grand final security. McLachlan, knowing any alternative was unfeasible, agreed.
The only Victorian clubs overlooked in the complex multi-stadium deal were Essendon, whose government submission came in late, North Melbourne and Richmond. Hawthorn, which spent much of 2017 in an administrative black hole and is still finalising plans for its new Dingley home, did not apply.
The Andrews government decision proved bitter-sweet for Richmond. Although the new MCG deal is worth an extra $2 million annually to the Tigers, CEO Brendon Gale said he was ‘‘shocked and deeply disappointed’’ to learn their submission to upgrade their sporting, community and Indigenous education facility at an overcrowded and under-resourced Punt Road Oval as well as providing facilities for their forthcoming AFL Women’s team was rejected.