Early Buyout Of Melbourne's Etihad Stadium Could Provide Competitive Balance In AFL
An early buyout of Melbourne's second Australian Football League venue, Etihad Stadium, is "seen by tenant clubs as critical to their ability to compete on equal footing with the competition's powerhouse clubs," according to Greg Denham of THE AUSTRALIAN. As part of its "equalisation program, the league is endeavouring to take control of Etihad Stadium, which is owned by a private consortium," in advance of its handover to the AFL in '25. In the "hands of the league, the Docklands stadium's tenant clubs who traditionally struggle -- North Melbourne, the Western Bulldogs and St Kilda -- have been promised better financial deals in line with other Victorian clubs" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 2/4). In Sydney, Patrick Smith wrote it is "just one of several dramatic measures the AFL has been prepared to investigate to close the dangerously widening gap between the league's rich and poor clubs." Last year the AFL and the fund managers who own Etihad came "desperately close to settling the sale." While the negotiations have "cooled monentarily, the stadium remains a premier target for the AFL." On "face value, the early settlement of the media rights package -- not due to run out" until the end of '16 -- is seen as the "most direct and beneficial way of shrinking the gap between the competition's rich and poor clubs." Property and "management experts put the current value" of Etihad Stadium -- built at a cost of A$460M ($403M) -- at around A$250M "and it is on the market." However, one source said that there "still remained" at least a A$10M difference "between the asking price and what the AFL was prepared to pay" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 2/4).