Tasmania’s chances of entering the AFL look to be under threat as a taskforce behind planning the state’s first ever AFL side is beginning to lose patience with the league and could soon turn its attention to basketball, per The Herald Sun.
The taskforce are pushing for a stand-alone club from Tasmania, but have been left frustrated by AFL chiefs as both parties struggle to land on the same page.
Chair of the taskforce, Brett Godfrey, has held talks with league boss Gillon McLachlan and has demanded the AFL must show a greater passion for the concept or review their planning.
“If there is no committed pathway to a team then the Government probably needs to review its entire sports tourism strategy and consider if and where the AFL sits within that plan,” Godfrey said.
Godfrey added that Tasmania could be facing “death by irrelevance” if the league does little to change their stance.
The state’s premier Peter Gutwein said the Government were fully committed to having an AFL side from Tasmania.
“This week I wrote to AFL CEO Gill McLachlan to progress the conversation regarding a Tasmanian AFL licence and the work of the Tasmanian AFL taskforce,” Gutwein said.
“The Tasmanian Government is a tremendous supporter of AFL content in the State and welcomes ongoing discussions with the AFL on a transitional pathway to our own licence and a Tasmanian team.”
The aforementioned taskforce is understood to have noted to the Government that their bid has hit a dead end and believes Tasmania’s favourite sport could move away from Aussie Rules within the next decade.
That deal however, is set to expire at the end of next season.
It is understood that Tasmania would prefer to establish its own club rather than land an existing license.
Potential expansion to a 19th AFL club has been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the following financial strain it has held on the league.
Earlier this year Tasmania revealed their return to the NBL with their latest franchise the JackJumpers, with Godfrey backing the immediate success for basketball.
“Basketball, for instance, exhibits rapid grassroots relative growth and on current trends, is likely to exceed AFL in participation, by the end of this decade,” Godfrey said.
“There comes a point in any business, and I would include AFL, that declining market interest requires reinvention and renewal or death by irrelevance.”
Godfrey added that the state’s long wait for an AFL club is now fading.
“Twenty year ago, Tasmania had the highest per capita participation in the country,” Godfrey said.
“It is bottom of the pack today and declining.
“Our review of expansion clubs since the VFL morphed into the AFL, clearly demonstrates that the AFL licence drives both engagement and participation.
“Without trying to sound emotive, a pathway to a team has been sought for 25 years or more.
“If such a big-ticket solution isn’t grasped now, no one should be surprised by the outcome.
“The Taskforce predicted and still predicts, that AFL will lose its mantle as the state’s most popular sport, by the end of this decade.”
The Taskforce is made up of Virgin Australia co-founder Brett Godfrey, former St Kilda captain Nick Riewoldt, former Woolworths boss Grant O’Brien, former Greater Western Sydney finance boss Paul Erikkson, executive chairman of Dynamic Sports and Entertainment Group James Henderson, Tasmanian businessman Errol Stewart and Lauderdale president Julie Kay.