Opinion: The Future of Victorian Teams

Written by Motts on June 5 2013

Those who have following this site for awhile will know that we don’t limit ourselves to just SuperCoach related discussion. On occasion, we explore some of the deeper issues in footy. This post was put together by one of our readers who wants to remain anonymous (although some of our longtime readers will know who he is – please respect his desire for anonymity in Comments). His point of view does have the potential to inflame passions so I ask that if you do have an opinion to please stick to rational arguments as opposed to expletive filled, emotion-based ones.

Let’s put this Melbourne issue into perspective.

If it wasn’t for the comittment of one of the greats of the game during his twilight years of terminal illness, the club would have folded.

Hawthorn experienced a potentially similar fate until a benefactor in the form of a previously highly successful Premier of the State bailed them out single handedly with his contacts. Their sustainability appears bright in the short to medium term as they have strong on and off field investment strategies.

North Melbourne. What can you say? Bailed out by a pair of Western Australian brothers whose expertise rises to short term media and low grade business experience. After enduring the Ansett autocracy ( albeit with great on field success) surely the few Kanga members left deserved the opportunity to feel democratically party to the new regime.

Western Bulldogs. As much as I am an online mate with PA, I can’t help but feel sorry for him and all other Bulldogs members. 60 years is a long time to wait for a real chance at a Premiership. My take here is that the Smorgon era was once again far too insular when considering alternatives.

Saint Kilda. What is going to happen here once Joey, Dal, Lenny and Saint Nick give it away in the next couple of years? FURL was certainly not looking at the club’s sustainability and they are surely gonski off field when there is no sign of success in the mid/long term.

What is the motivation for this post?

I have a cousin playing for Melbourne. I have a son that has a chance of being drafted in the near future.

These young boys who yes, have an undeniably great opportunity to earn a living doing what most of you only dream about, also deserve to know that the system they are investing their most important years into is professionally, financially and ethically without question.

My issue here therefore is with the AFL’s equalization policy. It is becoming clearer every game week that an expansion program into Sydney and Brisbane whilst maintaining the level of Victorian clubs is clearly unsustainable.

The competition needs to expand nationally to continue to be financially sustainable therefore their needs to be a rationalisation of the Melbourne clubs. I’m sure this will cut deep with the members and fans of those unsustainable clubs however as has occurred over the past twenty years, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

To add weight to my assertion please consider these two facts.

1. Since South Melbourne were sent to Sydney, they have won two premierships and have rarely not been in contention post the Willesee/Edelstein era;

2. Similarly, once Brisbane overcame the Skase era the Fitzroy faithfull jumped back on and to this day have embraced the club with the three- peat in the early noughties.

Lets look at the stats. Since the inception of the AFL, premierships have been won by 11 Melbourne teams (including all of the first
six) and 13 non Melbourne teams. Therefore, in other words, Melbourne teams have only won 7 premierships in the past 21 years although they are represented by the majority of the competition.

Finally, as I say to my staff, I want to hear solutions not problems!

The AFL should have representation from Melbourne teams that are sustainable such as Collingwood, Carlton, Essendon, Hawthorn and then rationisation should include the following:

1. North to Tasmania

2. Bulldogs to Darwin

3. Melbourne to amalgamate with Hawthorn

4. Saints to continue as they have demonstrated a sound business model and are an icon of Melbourne culture.

This analysis is not intended to engender club or State bias. My intent has been described previously and I would therefore encourage constructive assessment and analysis of this position.



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78 thoughts on “Opinion: The Future of Victorian Teams”

  1. Some fair points made. It does seem rational when even more today, the gap between the ‘rich’ clubs and ‘poor’ clubs is becoming more and more evident…


  2. Interesting thoughts.

    Ultimately, if something like this were to be enacted, there would be MASSIVE costs involved in moving the base of operations for most clubs to new locations. Training facilities would need to be established, as well as appropriate playing venues (Darwin specifically). Would the costs be comparable to simply trying to “fix” the Melbourne-based clubs?

    The wishes of the players would also have to be considered – uprooting a Melbourne family and moving them to Darwin would be rather drastic – as well as the impact on club employees (how many, if any, support staff would move their families across the country).

    Would players be given the option of exiting contracts early – moving to other clubs, or retiring completely – if an interstate move wasn’t in their best interests? Would it be possible to restaff a football club in a new state if the majority of their existing staff chose to resign/accept redundancy?

    Would clubs moving interstate be bolstered at upcoming drafts considering they could feasibly lose half their playing lists? If so, what effect would this have on the remaining clubs considering we’ve already had GC and GWS awarded the lion’s share of the new footy talent coming through the ranks?

    I could see this being a logistical nightmare – and the damage it could cause may far outweigh the potential benefits.

    Devil’s advocate – would it be better to let the weakest clubs “die” and then start from scratch in new areas (ala GC and GWS)?


  3. As a South Melbourne/Sydney supporter, now relocated to Brisbane,whose family support Hawthorn and had family friends closely involved in the Fitzroy family hierarchy I believe I have some good input on this topic.

    North Melbourne (or should we say the Kangaroos) and the Western Bulldogs have no long term possibility of financial viability. Period. Both teams have only ever had any form of financial stability due to the financial input of individual people.

    Fitzroy (Leon Wiegard) and Sydney (Geoffrey Edelstein) attempted this model unsuccessfully and it is simply unsustainable.

    Relocation or merger of these teams is the only viable option, with either the bulldogs or roos geographically (and even in colour) suited to a merger to each other, making a stronger western suburbs team, or melbourne.

    The roos have actively sought out merger, relocation, and sold off their games to other locations for years, eg ACT or their current attempts in Tasmania. Yet at every opportunity to save themselves they have reneged.

    The bulldogs have also renamed themselves, and relocated games to stay afloat but it has made little difference to their viability. Less guilty of flirting with survival, but none the less repeated chances to merge have been theirs to take.

    Should be given a final option, and then have the pin pulled. History is less for them than Melbourne or St Kilda, not joining the VFL until 1925.

    St Kilda is in better financial state and with the relocation of South Melbourne to Sydney (and to a lesser degree the end of Waverley and the Hawks base there) they have more financial chance of survival and a potentially bigger supporter base.

    I would think that their attempts to curry favour with the AFL and the NZ market will be viewed favorably and their status as a founding VFL member would also help them.

    But they need a relocation or merger soon as most of their stats are ageing and performances are facing.

    Why restrict to Australia? Both NZ and South Africa are definitely on the AFL’s expansion radar.


  4. I have long had similar concerns to this.

    If you look around the world, how many major codes can boast as many top flight teams from one city (or even state)? The only one that instantly comes to mind is London and the EPL with Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and Fulham Premier League mainstays and the likes of West Ham and QPR often joining them. The difference in both the size of the competition and city population are stark though and for me it is really no true comparison.

    I think that the AFL missed a large opportunity a few years ago to make the game in Melbourne more economically sustainable. When Gold Coast and GWS were joining the league I thought that North heading to the Coast and the Bulldogs heading to GWS made sense.

    Melbourne and St Kilda are interesting ones, as foundation clubs I feel like they should somehow be protected from relocation/merger, but the Fitzroy example is hard to argue against. After all, the Brisbane Lions the equal most successful club since the turn of the century.

    It is such a hard issue to broach as personally, I could never see myself supporting my club (Essendon) ever moving or merging. Also, supporting a club that is financially stable and has such a large supporter base, I am aware that it is really an outsider commenting on weaker (both financially and supporter-base sized wise) teams.

    While the below would no longer work, my thoughts a few years ago were:
    – West Coast Eagles and Fremantle Dockers in WA
    – Port Adelaide Power and Adelaide Crows in SA
    – Either Hobart or Launceston Hawks – with Hawthorn relocating and avoiding merger (I never looked into it deeply enough to know which is a better city to base here) in Tasmania
    – Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast Kangaroos in Queensland (a merger worked for Brisbane and I could see it having worked for North)
    – Sydney Swans and Greater Western Sydney Bulldogs in New South Wales
    – This left, Essendon, Carlton, Collingwood, Geelong, Richmond, Melbourne and St Kilda in Victoria. It left it at a 16 team competition, but left just the six teams in Melbourne (and one in Geelong), which I saw as more economically sustainable long-term.

    With the way that Gold Coast and GWS are now set up I can’t really see any merger/relocation of the Kangaroos or Bulldogs anymore. Taking it back to a 16 team competition by merging North and the Bulldogs, while moving another financially struggling club to Tasmania seems to make sense to me if you were to do something today.

    The biggest current issue would be TV rights. The AFL is now locked into an 18 team competition for the immediate future and they love money and lowering the number of teams in the competition risks hurting that, so nothing can really happen for a while anyway.

    It is such a sensitive and divisive issue, but it is definitely something that the AFL has to look at long-term.

    Over the last couple of decades, there are always a decent number of struggling teams in the league (finance wise) and with GWS and Gold Coast looking like they will have very strong teams in the next three-five years, if teams like Melbourne, St Kilda, Western Bulldogs or North are struggling on the field in that time, they may be needing huge handouts from the AFL to stay afloat.

    I enjoy an even competition and feel that to keep that a reality in the future (barring constant monetary and draft pick compensation from the AFL), something has to change in Melbourne.

    Really is such a hard topic to broach, so credit to Anon for the write-up…


  5. I was pondering the above comments and thought why not write them down instead.
    For what it’s worth let’s consider the question is the AFL purely a business? If so, yes the bottom line is the most important motive, even at the expense of loyalty, tradition etc. But businesses are run for the profits of their owners, be they individuals or shareholders. Who “owns” the AFL? If the cliche answer is that it is “the peoples'” game then clearly the game is not just a business and therefore should not have a narrow profit motive. Furthermore the comments on individual bail-outs suggests a club’s right to be in the competition should be left purely to “market forces”.
    Secondly, does the game need to expand to be financially sustainable? I would suggest it already is sustainable through the multi billion dollar TV rights and it only needs to expand for GROWTH, not sustainability. If and when we have a truly national competition, how do we then grow again? Overseas? NZ, Asia etc? Why?
    Thirdly, the reasons Fitzroy and South Melbourne succeeded in re-location was the constant (even still today) subsidies they received from the AFL, it wasn’t because of an instant conversion of locals going to AFL games.
    Lastly, what is the solution? Perhaps we could have a system much like our Federal/State GST where the gate sales each week are pooled together then divided evenly? Melbourne’s draw of playing every Sunday twilight game will never generate any money and perpetuates the problem.


  6. Melbourne is a special case in its own right. As codifier of the laws of the game (aussie rules was in the early days known as melbourne rules) and the oldest organized professional football club of any code in the world it has enormous potential for marketability and is history exceeds almost any club in the world barring only perhaps wimbledon, st andrews or the mcc, both due to that age, the making of the laws of the game and that incredible barassi era.

    Could you imagine the ICC letting the Marlebone Cricket Club fail?

    But, without a doubt it is the biggest basketcase of the lot. Its future relies on a merger with a club with competent administration and coaching, as relocation and/or buckets of money cannot fix the rot there. Of the options there either Roos or Doggies are the best options.

    Perhaps a WB relocation to Northern territory for TV rights (local NT businesses could not hope to support them financially as the market is too small) and maybe some games played in south east asia, with St Kilda gradually building a market in NZ and slowly relocating games there, and a Dees/Kangaroos merger?

    Financially Roos relocating to tassie, doggies and dees merging and St Kilda to NZ makes shorter term success more likely.


  7. Furthermore, by definition, in any competition there always has to be some-one on the bottom of the ladder. Do we just get rid of them because they are not performing in that year? Then we have someone else on the bottom…….who is not performing……


  8. I find it funny how both the Suns and Gaints were given so many concessions when they entered the competition, it just meant clubs that didn’t perform well during those two years were going to get low-balled in draft picks.

    Everyone loves a winner so its understandable but unfortunate that clubs like The Roos, Dogs, Saints and Dees can not find major sponsors to back them long term. Also some supporters are fickle and will not renew their membership or go to games if they’re club is getting hammered week in, week out.

    These clubs CAN NOT compete FAIRLY when they can only afford to spend around 92.5% in their allocated salary cap when teams like GWS and Suns are allowed to go over it for the next 8-10 years. There should also be a salary cap on all staff members at each club not just the actual players, I think this will lower the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ both on and off the field.

    Go the mighty eagle,s 😉


  9. I don’t want to get into this discussion as the ramifications of a North Melbourne relocation is something i am not prepared to contemplate.

    But what i do fail to understand is the 4th bullet point.

    “Saints to continue as they have demonstrated a sound business model and are an icon of Melbourne culture.”

    Huh? You may have a point on the business model side of things although i am not up to my elbows in AFL financial facts and figures. My real issue is claiming that St Kilda are any more of an icon of Melbourne culture than any of the other second tier AFL teams. Surely Melbourne has greater claims to be a Melbourne icon for obvious geographical reasons? St Kilda as a suburb is truly a Melbourne icon with backpackers world wide heading to Acland St, Luna Park etc…. but St Kilda FC’s connection to the suburb has long disappeared. A St Kilda resident is no more likely to barrack for St Kilda than they are Collingwood, Essendon et al. In fact, i’d go as far to say that all of the second tier Melbourne teams have equal Melbourne icon status. They are all part of Melbourne’s culture and heritage. They are all Melbourne through and through. So in fact i’d counter that your 4th point in fact affirms the importance of maintaining ALL Melbourne sides into the future. We don’t want another Fitzroy. We don’t want to lose another large slab of supporters who become disenfranchosed with the AFL, with the code.

    While business logic would have us remove or relocate a number of Melbourne teams, we have what we have and the AFL is doing what it can. IE, make it work for there is no other viable option. It’s a flawed model but it is still the model we have inherited.


  10. Good debate, which could expand into many directions, but the AFL needs to make some hard decisions on some of these clubs that are not performing, on and off the field.

    Its an absolute disgrace that some of these clubs say they are professional, yet every year they go hat in hand to the AFL for $$$ and then dont even have the competence to run their club.

    Hey AFL, you’re only as strong as your weakest link.


  11. What about melbourne to tasmania…the van demons… (van diemens land?…..get it?)

    Sorry bad joke.

    Not sure of the melbourne hawks merge but in the next 20 years the afl will want teams in tasmania and darwin/cairns. With maybe a team based in canberra.

    Ideally the afl (long term) would want only 6 in melbourne being essendon, carlton, collingwood, geelong, hawthorn and richmond.

    Anyone for the melbourne tigers? Punt road training facilities basically in the car park at the mcg? Keeps the name melbourne going in the afl and training in melbourne….


  12. 1. Hawthorn will not be merging with anyone. Let’s end that rubbish right now.
    2. A Tassie teamshould have been a priority. They have the supporter base in general, and the tassie govt is cashed up (refer Green and GST billions they disproportinately receive!). There are some complications with Launceston/Hobart, but it can be nutted out. No existing teams should have to move there.
    3. Merging of the Kangas and the Demons is a no brainer imo (sorry RB!). Geographically makes sense, and the two supporter base numbers would just about make up one tier 1 club’s supporter base.

    The rest is difficult. Saints and Bulldogs are culturally different off the field so it would be difficult for them to merge. Not sure NT are ready for a team either. IMO GWS was a mistake and the focus should have been elevating a Tassie team and merging Kangas/Demons.


  13. No one wants to lose there club but we have to try to close the gap between the bigger and smaller clubs, I thought High Expectations made a point about gate sales being pooled together and divided evenly,also PA point about a salary cap on all staff members.Two good points I’ve thought about for years. Bigger clubs wont like sharing there gate returns, but they get the big matches. If the big clubs continue to get Anzac days and blockbuster games the gap will continue to widen and clubs will go under.


  14. Im a dees fan and we had a golden opportunity to be a successful club again. Years of early draft picks before the expansion clubs, well you all know how that turned out! It beggars belief how they could stuff things up so badly, but hey they did. Are you aware we resigned connolly, (the football department manager) while on his afl assinged holiday? Jackson is there now to find out if the club can be saved as a stand alone identity.without afl handouts it cant…talks of mergerd will be happening as we speak.


  15. As has already been stated they are stuck with 18 teams until the next Foxtel negotiation. As Rupert is already subsidizing the AFL perhaps he will be able to bankroll the Dees as and when required.

    I wonder over the coming years how they will keep the fans coming back. Blockbusters are fine but the GWS v any Vic team have to be run at a loss. I think even the Pies only got 35,000 last year and many would have been free Auskick tickets. The crowd between Pies and Swans a few weeks back were also bolstered by these free tickets.

    The hype will always be there and the die hards will follow it all to the bitter end but its definitely a low point of the modern games evolution at the moment.


  16. Partial Solution: Merger of Melbourne, Western Bulldogs and North Melbourne ( or any subset of the two).

    They could be the Western Melbourne Kangaroo’s…… Whilst I don’t support any of the three club’s, and am not particularly a fan of the merger concept. If I was a supporter of any of these clubs I would prefer it if they stayed in Melbourne than relocate interstate. I would also rather merge with another team and keep an equal portion of my history and do it on my own terms, rather than go-bust and be absorbed by another team, or even worse forced to relocate interstate and lose my clubs identity completely.

    Anyway, you asked for solutions… not even sure I like now that I’ve written it, but it does seem better than some alternatives if it is truly not sustainable the way it is.


  17. I’ve always imagined that Victorian based teams could be pushed out and funded by regional centres to engage and open Victoria.

    Western Bulldogs = Western Bulldogs and move to Ballarat.
    North Melbourne Kangeroos = Northern Kangeroos and move to Bendigo
    St.Kilda Saints = Mornington (or Sorrento) Saints and move to the Peninsula
    Melbourne Demons = Melbourne Demons. The AFL needs Melbourne.

    All other teams can stay if they see it fit, but I think it should be put forward as an offical AFL suggestion to the Hawks to move to Tassie when they eventually fall down the ladder.
    Other option if for Saints to become the Southern Saints and move to Tassie.
    I think regional footy is a big part of our future though. Jobs, entertainment, stable crowds and supporter bases.

    Let me know what you think.


  18. The AFL has committed to an 18 team competition to the broadcasters as part of their billion dollar deal for the TV rights. Therefore, it’s fair to say there is no way known there will be a merger between any teams happening any time soon.

    If anything the AFL will need to start ‘footing the bill’ for some of the have-not teams that are currently running huge debts until they can start operating in the black on their own volition.

    Otherwise they’ll need to streamline the competition much like the NSL was when it became the A-League in time for the next lot of broadcasting rights coming up for grabs.

    Then you might see some tough decisions made on clubs that have entrenched histories in the VFL/AFL and perhaps on a few of the money pits interstate also.


  19. Ur kidding write? what abount the epl and the london teams, if the city is the hub of the sport and the club is able to stand then y not keep these teams, moreover the fact that u belive that st kilda should be retained aand not not the hawks show that your argument is rather hollow and bias , and i dont care if you dont belive me but im not a hawks


  20. They will need to go overs on the next coach but Mark Neeld isn’t the problem… it clearly goes far deeper than that and a change of philosophy wasn’t the answer.

    But it comes down to not being able to spend money they don’t have. Hence why Neeld and his cronies are safe as houses for the next year at least.

    Every team on the bottom of the ladder all have one thing in common… debt.

    Not a single one pays the full salary cap and dare I say if they could they’d pay a lot less than the minimum the AFL allows. Hence why Melbourne are recruiting cast-offs rather than must-haves from other clubs. They have no currency aside from draft picks at the trade table which they need to use to try and right the wrongs of recruitment officers past and draft the next gun of the future. They have one they can’t use… they obviously need a lot more.

    Angus Johnston, CEO of the Lions, has applied for salary cap assistance… you know… a cash injection on a yearly basis from the AFL that would allow them to pay the full salary cap that the highly profitable clubs have. This would allow them to make a serious play for example a Buddy Franklin, Paul Roos or a Trent Cotchin if money was the factor in those gentlemen leaving their current clubs or arrangements.

    If Melbourne had the same luxury does everyone get the same impression that I do that other areas would improve? Crowds would improve, results would start to go their way and the profits would start rolling in to allow more money to go towards their football department and support staff.

    So I’d be happy to assume that a bail out wouldn’t be necessary for the Demons… the ability to pay the full salary cap to attract the stars… and more importantly members, sponsors and the fans we won’t be having this discussion in 5-10 years time.


  21. Surely if you’re going to get rid of a Victorian team it has to be Essendon…If a team gets caught red handed pumping all sorts of vitamins (yeah right) into their players at half time then I would have thought its only logical they are first cab off the rank to get the boot.

    You could merge Essendon with Collngwood that way they don’t lose their precious Anzac Day. Maybe Melbourne and St.Kilda could merge too because Saints & Demons are kinda similar.


  22. My two bobs’ worth:
    – I think St. Kilda need a real stadium down my way -not just training facilities- on the Mornington Peninsula, just as Geelong have KP/Simonds stadium. We could be the team on the other side if the bay.
    – Still not sure why they didn’t go to Casey where Melbourne’s VFL team is now based!
    – Renaming & rebranding to the Peninsula Saints/ Southern Saints.
    – Would also do amazing things for our tourism down here!
    – Hopefully breathing new life into our club, with the added bonus of saying goodbye to the dissapoinment of the haunting ’97 ’09 & 2010 recent GF’s as we look towards a successful future (yes, most likely after 2015 at the earliest).
    – Move to a ground that is played outside, I still believe we were so used to playing under a roof that it really hampered our GF efforts in the naughties. Takes a lot for me to say that ’cause I love the Docklands.
    – We just have so many passionate past and current players in coaching, playing roles who live down this way who love the club, I can’t see it not being a real winner for the future of our club & my hometown. With the opening of Peninsula Link it wouldn’t take too long to get there & would be a real ‘day out’ for families just as my own family look forward to the occasional game at Geelong.



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