There are many reasons why there is inequality in the AFL.
Poor decision making from a business standpoint, outlandish and lop sided stadium deals, and the fact that some clubs just don’t have enough fans to produce the profits of the larger clubs.
The cold reality of the situation is not everyone is on the same playing field.
Amongst the Essendon mess, football’s biggest issue has been briefly thrown in the shadows for the last nine months; the ‘haves’ versus the ‘have nots’.
Melbourne have become an easy target for opposition fans with the lazy cry of ‘the AFL paid for Roos’ with their ‘bailout’, whilst St. Kilda asked for a similar handout during and in the aftermath of Scott Watters debacle.
Brisbane Lions and Western Bulldogs are added to that list of clubs that are trying to work their way out of poor finances also.
North Melbourne and Port Adelaide have returned to a form of financial balance, but the reality is they need to take advantage of on-field resurgences or face falling into the financial black holes of the past.
Considering the amount of money the wealthier clubs are destined to make on membership sales, the introduction of a Blockbuster Tax on game day gate receipts is a practice that should be enacted.
In order to keep the competition stable and to keep clubs in a position that is safe from the pitfall that claimed Fitzroy and still hangs over the heads of others, a fund needs to be created from this ‘tax’.
Whilst one of the common arguments against a form of handout, is that it is a form of welfare that ‘applauds’ poor decision making by clubs. To suggest Melbourne and St. Kilda purposefully made poor business decisions to get a hand out is incredibly moronic at best.
Why would these two clubs purposefully drive themselves into the ground, not to mention in the process turning away many potential lifelong supporters from the club and missing out on a vital growth period?
If we take the poor decision making into account, they have come mostly from poor appointments in the football department. These have either been either due to poor player recruiting or poor coaching appointments.
Should the richer clubs be forced to pay for the mistakes of boards in their appointment processes?
No, they shouldn’t, but the issue of inequality in itself is arguably more tangible than many are led to believe.
North Melbourne chairman James Brayshaw recently recalled a story in which a player responded to a question of his potential destination with “Why would anyone want to go to North Melbourne?”.
The player had every right to respond in that way, the club had just recently fought off relocation and looked years away from any on-field success. The facilities were inadequate and they could not make the argument to any potential suitors to why they’d like to continue their career there.
The point is that all clubs shouldn’t have the same amount of wealth, but they should all have the basic right to attempt to lure new talent or those looking for new opportunities when it becomes available.
The vastly superior facilities of a Collingwood, Hawthorn or West Coast dwarfs the chances of any other clubs getting a look in at potential new recruits. In the era of free agency, this will become more of a factor than room in the salary cap or chance of on-field success in the ability to purchase players.
If this blockbuster tax were to be established, it shouldn’t be used to fund player or coaches. The terms and conditions of receiving the money should go into infrastructure or football department equipment.
Thus the idea of forcing smaller clubs to not only own an asset, but improve it’s chances of acquiring high quality staff or players without handing it to them on a plate.
Other restrictions such as reverting some of the funding to membership departments, may also help boost the chances of struggling clubs retaining supporters during difficult off-field periods.
Wealthier clubs should not have to pay for mistakes of others, therefore these should be necessary strings attached to these funds that are sourced.
Another form of opposition to the blockbuster tax is the argument that ‘supporters of other clubs have to pay for it’.
Every cent you spend at the football already ends up there, and considering it should be put forward that the tax shouldn’t apply to memberships; just gate only tickets, could potentially promote casual fans to sign up as members due to higher pricing at big games.
Although fixing the glaring inequality in stadium deals is potentially a ‘magic bullet’ in the fight for equalisation, the blockbuster tax (with the required strings attached), isn’t a bad idea for short term funding for the future of the game.