In the realm of today’s AFL football, the equalisation argument seems to be gathering momentum with calls for off-field spending costs to be spread more evenly across the competition.
Geelong CEO Brian Cook’s suggestion that the Cats would be happy to contribute up to a 20% profit tax has created a debate as to whether the more financially sound AFL clubs have an obligation to spread the wealth and help prop up lesser clubs.
Cook’s comments come on the eve of an equalisation summit, allowing AFL and club chiefs to come together and exchange ideas on how to help those clubs in need. One proposed idea to keep the lower clubs financially in touch is to introduce a profit tax, essentially taking a percentage out of a club’s annual profit and distributing it to clubs in need.
In theory, the concept of ensuring that AFL clubs are able to equally complete with their on and off-field expenditure seems to be a valid one, however, the main problem with this profit tax proposal appears to be that the clubs that are run efficiently and allow themselves the luxury of spending more money to better their on-field chances are being effectively penalised financially for doing so.
The notion of fair play and equality is admirable but unrealistic, however, and seems to be going just a little bit too far when successful clubs are being asked to effectively sacrifice some of their hard-earned profit in order to keep inefficient operations afloat.
An extreme view of the equalisation debate could even be seen as rendering financial success redundant to a degree, as clubs that are run well are effectively being penalised financially for doing so.
Well run clubs are actually able to generate a substantial amount of their overall revenue, no matter where they finish on the ladder each year, through memberships, sponsorships and superior marketing, which should be used as a blueprint for other struggling clubs to learn from in order to maximise their chances of success, both on and off the field.
The larger worry for the AFL is for the poorer clubs that are not able to keep up successfully with the required standards.
Clubs that expect to be hand fed money from other financially successful clubs and also from the AFL, just to remain in the league whilst never becoming a genuine premiership threat, are a real concern considering their constant drain on the games finances.
This also does lead to the suggestion that if these underperforming clubs aren’t indeed able to stand on their own two feet financially, then exactly what are they hoping to achieve by continuing to remain as an elite AFL club.
In reality, these lesser performing clubs are simply struggling to just make ends meet each year whilst in bad seasons, often they are simply leaking money and draining sponsors and supporters’ wallets and with it, their hopes.
The AFL does have a responsibility to maintain the overall health of the competition, but it would be better served by ensuring the grass roots level of game is well maintained and funded, rather than spending inordinate amounts on clubs that are just not up to competing and standing up to the rigours of competing in today’s cut throat AFL competition.
Survival of the fittest is a harsh way to look at it for these struggling clubs, however, some hard calls will have to be made for the greater good of the game, and soon.