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Editions

AFL buys Etihad Stadium nine years early

25 Oct 2016

AFL buys Etihad Stadium nine years early Image

The Australian Football League (AFL) last month exercised its right to buy Etihad Stadium nine years earlier than when it would have automatically inherited the property.

The announcement on October 7 ended months of speculation about the future of the Docklands stadium.

In a statement, the league said it had been negotiating the sale with Melbourne Stadiums Limited for the past 15 months.

The statement contained no hint that the AFL intends anything but business as usual for the stadium.  It appears the sale was motivated to help the financial situation of many of the tenanted clubs.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said: “Owning Etihad Stadium enables the AFL to continue to strengthen the financial health of several of our Victorian clubs, develop an asset for our whole industry and commit to being a serious stakeholder in the future of the Docklands precinct,” Mr McLachlan said. 

It has been recently revealed that the league has been speaking privately with the State Government about redeveloping the stadium – in particular, how it interfaces with Harbour Esplanade and Victoria Harbour.

A master plan for Harbour Esplanade is in place, with any developments being subject to publicly visible planning application to the City of Melbourne.

Mr McLachlan said: “Stadiums are a vital piece of community and public infrastructure that bring city precincts alive. The AFL will continue to operate Etihad Stadium as a multi-purpose entertainment venue hosting AFL matches, other sports, concerts and a broad range of entertainment options.”

“Our commitment as owners of Etihad Stadium is to work with government to provide a stadium experience for our fans equal to the best in the world, as well as explore how we can help improve the stadium’s relationship to Docklands and the city.”

Mr McLachlan said there would be no immediate changes to Etihad Stadium management, with Michael Green to continue in the CEO role. A new governance structure will shortly be finalised by the AFL.

Etihad Airways will continue as the naming rights partner to the stadium under its current agreement to 2019, with options to further extend that partnership.

Mr McLachlan said there were compelling reasons for the AFL Commission to sign off on the purchase of Etihad Stadium, once the agreement was acceptable for both parties.

The statement also said:

The AFL was already strongly invested in the stadium’s performance with the venue hosting 46 home and away matches during the 2016 AFL premiership season, representing more than 20 per cent of total AFL match-day attendances across the competition;

The purchase of the stadium would allow the AFL to improve home-tenant club arrangements with the competition now having the ability to manage all stadium assets and inventory at the ground;

The AFL now has the capacity to develop a long-term vision for the stadium and the precinct, to ensure the match-day experience for fans remains among the best in the competition; and

The stadium’s wider multi-purpose focus represents a new and significant asset to the AFL competition.

The AFL says it is now well placed to work with the Victorian Government on its stadia strategy and its objectives for Docklands.

“It was the clear view of the commission that the benefits of undertaking an early purchase of Etihad Stadium far exceeded any perceived advantage in waiting until 2025 when the rights fell to us automatically,” Mr McLachlan said.

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