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Tasmania AFL Saga: Comments From Tasmania Premier, AFL CEO, Hawthorn President

T
he AFL has refused to give Tasmania premier, Peter Gutwein, a set timeline for when the state will see a standalone Tasmanian-based team.

In a letter directed to Gutwein, AFL CEO, Gillon McLachlan, said the AFL was forced to postpone a review of the Tasmanian taskforce’s request for a standalone team due to COVID-19, and the AFL would have to appoint an independent consultant to complete the review, as early as late 2021 or 2022.

In response to the letter from the AFL, Gutwein said the response from the league was “simply not good enough” and the AFL has had the submission since before the pandemic began.

“After receiving our business case 12 months ago, it beggars belief the AFL has not been able to consider it fully over the last year,” Gutwein said.

“Now, to add insult to injury, want to take up to another year before providing clarity on the future of a Tasmanian team.

“As a footballing heartland state we have paid our dues and deserve much better.

“We have supported the AFL and before them the VFL, providing some of the best talent to play the game and it’s now time for the AFL to treat Tasmania fairly.

“As there is significant interest in this matter in Tasmania, I am releasing the response from the AFL and I will be seeking a meeting with Mr McLachlan at the earliest opportunity to continue to press our case,” he said.

Due to the uncertainty around acquiring a standalone Tasmania-based AFL club, the Tasmanian government has put negotiations with North Melbourne and Hawthorn, that see them play four ‘home’ games in Tasmania each AFL season, on hold.

In response, the AFL said in a statement: “Equally, the AFL respects and understands the impact that this might have on the Tasmanian Governments ability to progress the arrangements with the Hawthorn and North Melbourne Football Clubs, and if that remains an issue, the AFL would propose to deal directly with the two clubs and the implications for them in 2022, as well as for Tasmanian football.”

North Melbourne and Hawthorn’s respective deals with Tasmania are due to expire at the end of the 2021 AFL season.

Hawthorn president, Jeff Kennett, recently suggested his club would not rule out relocating to Tasmania, after the expiration of the club’s five-year deal worth around $20 million.

“I’d consider anything,” Kennett told FIVE AA.

“We are the Tassie Hawks.

“That’s how we brand ourselves, we’ve got Tasmania proudly on our breast…

“We know the community well.

“We do our community camps there; I was going down there next Friday for four or five days with my wife as they were unveiling a statue for Peter Hudson.

“We are very embedded in Tassie; I wouldn’t rule it out.

“It would be difficult, but I wouldn’t rule it out in the interest of the three joint parties.

“The AFL, the clubs, and then of course Tasmania.

“Whether North are prepared to do that, I can’t answer,” he said.

North Melbourne CEO, Ben Amarfio, said the club wouldn’t consider relocating to Tasmania.

“Our footy club has been in North Melbourne for over 150 years,” Amarfio said.

“We are invested in staying at Arden Street and looking forward to being an active participant with the Victorian government and the City of Melbourne in the exciting development going on in this precinct.

“We have to be realistic and prudent.

“In the past 24 hours alone, we have had two more AFL club announce significant financial losses and debt.

“Any expansion of the AFL competition must be assessed with the wellbeing of the competition in mind and against the backdrop of the ravaging effects of the COVID response,” he said.