As Tasmania awaits a vote on the future of its AFL aspirations, North Melbourne chief executive Ben Amarfio believes the financial issues facing the game following the COVID-19 pandemic may be too big a hurdle.
- Amarfio feels the timing is not right at the moment for Tasmania to be given an AFL team
- He says he “would love to see Tassie have their own team” at some stage in the future
- The Kangaroos are adamant they will never agree to relocating to Tasmania
Speaking on ABC Sport’s Kicking Back podcast, Amarfio said he was eager to see a 19th team in Tasmania but said he would only vote for it if it was financially viable.
“It’s a shame about the timing,” Amarfio said.
“In any other time, in any other period, the vast majority of clubs would be in absolute agreement that Tasmania deserves a team.
“The only thing that’s holding that decision back is the timing.
“I would love to see Tassie have their own team but we need to be financially prudent and do it in a process that makes sense so the industry can afford it.”
The review of Tasmania’s submission for an AFL licence — referred to as the Colin Carter report — said the state was deserving of a team and would likely be positioned in the middle wealth ranks of AFL clubs if approved.
The AFL’s 18 club presidents are expected to vote on the approval of a new team in early 2022, with a 75 per cent approval required.
Both Amarfio and North Melbourne have been vocal about their thoughts on the Colin Carter report and its suggestion of relocating their side to Tasmania.
North Melbourne has a long-term deal with the Tasmanian government to play some of its home matches in Hobart each season.
“We’re not going to ever agree to relocating our club,” Amarfio said.
“The joint venture is a dress-up relocation anyway. It only leaves one option, the 19th licence.”
The Kangaroos are building towards becoming a competitive club on the field again, according to Amarfio, but success remains far away.
Despite the Kangaroos claiming their first wooden spoon since 1972 and posting a second successive bottom-four finish in 2021, Amarfio said the club had a promising season.
But he said he wanted to be honest with supporters about the club’s timeline for finals football.
“We’ve done the difficult thing,” Amarfio said.
“We have set about this plan of rebuilding from the ground up and that’s resulted — in the first half of the year — in some stark results on the field as a young team with a new coach and a new game plan.
“Our supporters really have adopted the strategy … they can see the light at the end of the tunnel … hopefully our members can be patient because it’s going to take a while.”
Amarfio’s belief is supported by the Kangaroos’ membership numbers, which rose to 46,357 after reaching 38,667 in 2020.
This year’s membership figure is also an improvement on the club’s pre-COVID numbers, which sat at 42,419 in 2019.
AFL in ‘incredibly strong position’
Amarfio has spent time working with Cricket Australia and the NBA, and said the AFL was one of the best sport leagues in the world.
But he said it would struggle to grow further without international exposure.
“The AFL is the match or better than any of the experiences I’ve had in sport,” Amarfio said.
“I think the advantage that other sports have that the AFL doesn’t have is the globalisation. The mere fact that they’re international sports means you’re playing in a bigger pot. You have access to more global thinking and resources.
“Despite the ravages of COVID, I think the AFL is in an incredibly strong position. Our athletes are exceptional and among the best on the planet.
“Our fans are enjoying the game in bigger numbers than we’ve ever seen, thanks to online and the various platforms [where] you can enjoy the game.”
You can hear more about your favourite athletes and their views on the sporting landscape on ABC Sport’s Kicking Back podcast on Mondays at 6:00pm AEST or catch up online.