Dreaded topic of AFL club mergers raised - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Dreaded topic of AFL club mergers raised

06/05/2009 04:53:22 PM Comments (0)

Former AFL chief executive Wayne Jackson has put the dreaded subject of club mergers back on the agenda, claiming that Melbourne should join forces with North Melbourne.

Jackson's argument that the number of Victorian-based teams needs to decrease by two came as the league released its annual review of club finances.

Predictably, the league used the review to hammer the MCG and Etihad Stadium over their deals with clubs.

The numbers were also grim in many areas for North Melbourne and Melbourne, which Jackson specified as two clubs which the AFL should force into a merger.

Jackson, the league's boss from 1996-2003, was asked on Tuesday night what his first priority would be if he was to return to the job.

"Without knowing what the real challenges are, because we're a long way away, I would be trying really, really, really hard to get two teams out of Melbourne ... maybe a merger up," he told Adelaide radio station 5AA.

"Just hypothesising it, when you think about Melbourne and the Kangaroos, you could have red, white and blue, be called the Melbourne Kangaroos, playing out of the MCG.

"You'd have, if managed well, the best football brand name you could ever wish in a couple of years' time - that would be a magnificent result.

"I just truly believe that football is now ready for the AFL to force the hand of several clubs and to bring about a merger and-or a relocation."

Jackson knows the strong emotions that a merger idea would stir, but said the league could cope.

"That will be expensive and cause an enormous amount of angst among a relatively small amount of people, but I really do think it's in the best long-term interests of the game," he said.

The immediate reaction from North chief executive Eugene Arocca underscored the anger that a merger would cause.

"The greatest contribution that Wayne Jackson has made to football is the current stadium deals, which have sucked an estimated $100 million out of Melbourne clubs," he said.

North rejected an AFL offer two years ago to relocate to the Gold Coast, while a proposed merger between the Demons and Hawthorn in 1996 did not go ahead.

Melbourne chief executive Cameron Schwab said the Demons are determined to overcome their current financial woes.

"The one thing we're not going to do is be distracted by this sort of discussion and very simplistic responses," he told Melbourne radio station SEN.

"The one thing which definitely isn't on the agenda is any notion of amalgamation or merging.

"The shudders went up the spines of about 200,000 Melbourne fans, the minute they heard it."

Current AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou immediately distanced the league from any talk of reducing the number of Victorian clubs.

He said the league's next television rights deal would suffer if the number of Victorian teams was lower.

Jackson's comments could not have been more topical, given that the league briefed the media on Wednesday about club finances.

Along with unexpected good news about the health of club memberships, there was a strong focus throughout the league's 22-page presentation on the effects of the MCG and Etihad Stadium deals.

The league reported that even allowing for Port Adelaide's financial plight, there was a $2.7 million gap in net stadium returns between Victorian and non-Victorian clubs last year.

Demetriou also said the situation was becoming worse.

"(We) have data that shows the trend here in the early part of the season is not looking flash at all," he said.

"They (the figures) will be bleaker."

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