Former Magpies president Eddie McGuire has criticised the AFL as the competition continues to consider the application of a 19th team.
Eddie McGuire has taken aim at the AFL over its expansion plans, saying clubs had been “lied to and misinformed” in the past as the competition considers adding Tasmania as its 19th team.
The former long-term Collingwood boss has been critical of adding a 19th team, last week calling for the AFL to essentially merge the North Melbourne Kangaroos and a Tasmanian side, which would share its schedule between Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium and the proposed $750 million Hobart Stadium.
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The proposal sparked an immediate backlash in Tasmania, as Sport Minister Nic Street and former premier Peter Gutwein hit back at McGuire.
Street lashed McGuire for bringing up the merger plan when the AFL has said it would be committed to a new franchise for the Apple Isle, while Gutwein labelled the ex-Pies president’s call as “bulls**t” because Tasmania wants its own team to support.
Speaking on Channel 9’s Footy Classified, McGuire said he supported Tasmania getting its own franchise. However, he continued to cast doubt on the move, citing the AFL’s track record.
“That’s what they (Gutwein and Street) said, that wasn’t what was being said to me by senior AFL officials and senior club officials,” McGuire said.
“And even more to the point, from football department officials saying, ‘Maybe there’s a bit in this (merger proposal) because we are all terrified about having another 50 players and Tassie not being ready to go with the juniors coming through’.
“I would like to state it one more time. My first preference is for a stand-alone team for Tasmania. But I am not from the Free Beer Party. I do see the problems coming and they’re coming fast.”
Veteran footy journalist Caroline Wilson said the AFL wouldn’t make the same mistakes with expansion as they did with the GWS Giants and Gold Coast Suns.
The Giants struggled for the first four seasons before claiming their first finals spot in their fifth year and making a grand final in year eight.
The Suns have never finished above 12th, and are now in their 12th season.
“There’s a group of AFL heavy-hitters meeting on a very regular basis to talk about how a 19th team will look so if and when it happens the team will be ready,” Wilson told Footy Classified.
“They will not make the same mistakes they made with GWS and the Gold Coast. What won’t happen is it being a bye like GWS and Gold Coast were for so many years.
“They will work out a way where it’ll be palatable for clubs to trade good players, experienced players, for draft picks.”
But McGuire said the AFL does not have a good track record of bringing new clubs into the competition.
“The AFL have botched every single entry into the competition other than Richmond in 1908 and the two Adelaide sides,” McGuire said. “I’ve sat in the meetings and heard them get up with all the slide shows and none of them have actually ever made it.
“What’s happened is, the clubs have given too much power in these situations and they have been lied to continually or misinformed along the way. Ten years it took to wash through GWS and the Gold Coast and we’re still not quite there. I’m a supporter, I voted for it.
“We’d love to have the Tasmanian situation, but what we don’t want to do is end up with a whole lot of really small teams struggling for the next period because the TV rights money won’t be there the next time around.
“No business in the world is expanding with less attractive games. Everyone’s contracting and going to blockbusters. The AFL might have got it right, but they’re the only organisation in the world that’s doing it at the moment.
“What we’re saying is, it might happen and it might be a disaster, so let’s try and get the best possible result. Listen to people who actually genuinely love Tasmanian football, who’ve regretted that it’s been driven to where it is.
“But at the same time, I’m not going to stand here and watch people drive over a cliff and applaud on the way through.”
Originally published as ‘Might be a disaster’: Eddie McGuire sounds warning bells over AFL expansion