Oakley says days of AFL mergers are over - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Oakley says days of AFL mergers are over

By Roger Vaughan 22/05/2009 04:43:28 PM Comments (0)

New Australian football Hall of Fame inductee Ross Oakley is adamant that the days of AFL mergers are long-gone.

Oakley was the target of widespread criticism from fans when he was AFL chief executive from 1986-96, particularly because his administration tried several times to merge clubs.

There were the "Up Your's Oakley" bumper stickers and armed guards outside his family home.

His successor as AFL chief executive, Wayne Jackson, earlier this month floated the idea of Melbourne and North Melbourne merging - but Oakley says that will just not happen.

"When Wayne came to the league, it was a chance for the commission to take a slightly different stance - we'd had the mergers, and okay, it's not going to work, let's change our position," Oakley said.

"Wayne changed that position and took the stance 'we don't need mergers, all the clubs are going to survive'.

"Then you see him come out and say how we (could) have a merger, I thought 'whoah, that's a 180-degree turn'.

"But the fact is, it won't happen - club has got to go broke, it's got to turn up its heels."

Instead, Oakley backs the league's expansion campaign under current CEO Andrew Demetriou and is interested in the idea of splitting the AFL into divisions.

"It's probably better to avoid all that (merger) aggravation, avoid the loss of those supporters by just expanding it," he said.

"Eventually they might split it and have two divisions."

Oakley also rejected the push in Tasmania to form an expansion team there, saying it did not make business sense.

In a quirk of history, Oakley was inducted on Thursday night in the same intake as Hawthorn great and current AFL commissioner Chris Langford.

The Hawks defender famously raised his jumper above his head after the round 22 win over Melbourne in 1996 - a symbolic act of defiance against the planned merger between the two clubs.

The merger did not go ahead, thanks to fierce opposition from fans.

Oakley's wife Christine, whom he described as his rock in his acceptance speech, contracted chronic fatigue during his time as AFL chief executive.

But he has no regrets about his time in charge of the league.

"Regularly, I get `oh, I wish you were back there Ross'," he said.

"That's the natural progression - when you're there, they hate your guts, when you're not there, they love you.

"I know, really, they don't want me back there, but it's just the reaction people have to someone who's moved on."

Meanwhile, Oakley has backed the decision to further delay the induction of former North Melbourne star Wayne Carey into the Hall of Fame.

Oakley helped set up the Hall of Fame and he wants a person's character to remain part of the selection criteria.

He has no doubt Carey will soon become a member.

"People in the Hall of Fame should be looked up to, it's very difficult to look up to people who are of bad character," he said.

"But the rules recognise that people can change."

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