AFL Open to Restoring Melbourne’s Disused Suburban Stadiums to Save Clubs Money

March 25, 2013

The Australian Footbal League (AFL) is open to restoring one of Melbourne’s disused suburban stadiums to help poorer clubs make money from low-drawing games.

Chief executive Andrew Demetriou says Carlton’s training base Princes Park and Richmond’s Punt Rd Oval are both options.

The AFL and all clubs met last week met to discuss ways to counter a growing gap between the AFL’s rich and poor clubs.

The inability of the smaller Melbourne-based clubs such as the Western Bulldogs and North Melbourne to compete financially is exacerbated by poor deals at Etihad Stadium.

There have been calls for the AFL to help by buying that venue early, rather than wait until 2025 when it’s due to take ownership under its current contract.

But with the AFL unwilling to meet the current asking price, Demetriou says there is a realistic prospect of refurbishing a third Melbourne venue.

“There is. Particularly when you consider that our commitment to the number of games at (Etihad Stadium) goes down in 2014,” Demetriou said.

“We have got a number of games that would be attractive in an 18-20,000 seat venue, games we know we’re not going to get more than that.

“But if you’ve got a full house in a ground you can get a great atmosphere.”

Three of the Kangaroos’ home games at Etihad last season drew fewer than 20,000 spectators, while the Bulldogs had two such matches, all of which would have cost the clubs money.

The league has conducted a feasibility study on Princes Park and found it to be a viable option.

It’s the most recently-used suburban stadium for AFL home and away games, the last of those in 2005, and is still used for pre-season matches.

The Kangaroos, who already play two home games in Hobart, have also pushed to play some in Ballarat.

But while the AFL is open to that idea, the current Victorian Government’s unwillingness to help fund a stadium upgrade is a sticking point.