Canberra’s standing up to the AFL cash grab
Today I am a pleased lil’ constituent. ACT Minister for Sport Andrew Barr is standing firm as negotiations with the Australian Football League, for the right to host AFL games at Manuka Oval, become crotchety.
Until recently the negotiations had been unfolding akin to a Beckett script – the AFL thrust into the superior ‘Godot’ role while the Minister slipped obediently into a plausible translation of the masters of mundane, Vladimir and Estragon.
The AFL’s asking price, a hefty $800,000 for the right to host two top flight fixtures, is a $436,000 increase on the current two-year deal which expires this year. The AFL is justifying the cash grab by suggesting that two pre-season and two competition games held in 2008 generated $1.13 million into the ACT economy.
It’s worth noting that for a combined sum of $115,000, the ACT Government successfully negotiated for the Socceroos, Wallabies and Opals to play internationals in Canberra this calendar year.
The Canberra Times has kept a close eye on the negotiations with recent editorial and opinion pieces urging Barr to remain steadfast, as the AFL (in its prerogative business interests) blatantly shuns the capital to ‘pursue the lucrative markets of western Sydney and the Gold Coast’.
Barr has been guarded in his remarks, refusing to burn bridges between the ACT Government and the AFL. The Government has been burned before – in 2006, the North Melbourne Kangaroos ended its association with the capital and high tailed it to Carrara Stadium up on the Gold Coast.
Aware of the potential Groundhog Day implications Barr spoke candidly this past week, stating that any new deal would be tied to the inclusion of a top Victorian team (he suggested St Kilda or Geelong).
Further to this, Barr suggested that comments made by the AFL Chief Executive Andrew Demetriou have confirmed that the negotiations have ‘seemingly stopped being about growing the game and became all about a financial transaction’. This was a strident move and lets Demetriou know that the ACT won’t cop another shellacking.
It has also solidified in this constituent’s mind Barr’s credibility as a future leader of the ACT Labor Party. Elected to the ACT legislative Assembly in 2006, and given key portfolios in Planning, Education and Training as well as Children and Young People and Tourism, Sport and Recreation.
Barr was immediately handed the deafening assignment of closing 23 of the Territory’s schools - an unenviable task which left voters with a nasty scar and which will haunt Barr for the rest of his political career.
As Demetriou spits out condescending lines such as ‘I don’t think (St Kilda or Geelong) are the clubs we’ve got our eyes on to be honest’, Barr and the ACT Government should shun the AFL and consider using the funding to boost its local AFL competition, which coincidentally boasts the Sydney Swans reserves.
It could use ACT AFL stars to promote its healthy living initiatives - through educational visits and training programs. This would send a strong message that the ACT will continue to seriously development the sport in the region despite attempts by the AFL to play the bully.
Vladimir: Good. A diversion comes along and what do we do? Come, let’s get to work!
With a genuine interest in the sport portfolio, the Canberra Darters (netball ) number one ticket holder is also often seen cheering on the Canberra Capitals women’s basketball team or chewing on the cauliflower ear of former rah-rah great Stephen Larkham at Brumbies matches.
If Barr stands firm and refuses to be taken advantage of by the AFL, he might just shed the Beckett tag and get a better deal for his constituents in the process.
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