Saints’ NZ rethink
ST KILDA will meet next week to discuss how to approach the future of its annual match in New Zealand.
The Saints have a financial commitment from Wellington City Council, which pledged support to host the past three games with the option of hosting the next three.
Although Wellington is keen to push on with the AFL venture, it is believed to want to scale back its annual $500,000 commitment, possibly by as much as 40 per cent.
St Kilda chief operating officer Ameet Bains said the club would determine its best strategy for New Zealand matches at a meeting next week as part of a general discussion about its wish list for the 2016 fixture.
He said Wellington was conducting the planned midterm review and, while neither party was yet to broach the specifics of future financial support, “discussions have been really positive’’.
“There’s certainly an appetite from our end, and the AFL is keen to support us in that venture,’’ Bains said.
“Wellington has provided very positive feedback for the games to continue.
“In saying that, our sense is there is likely to be a request to reduce those numbers, on the basis of where the game’s at now compared to what the expectations might have been when they started.
“We expect there will be a recalibration of financial commitment, but we’re hopeful and expectant it will still be at a level that makes the game commercially viable for St Kilda and the AFL.’’
Wellington’s main con- sideration is not crowd figures, rather the number of tourists who come for the match.
About 4500 Australians travelled to Wellington for the inaugural match against Sydney, but that number dropped to about 1200 against Brisbane Lions last year, nearly all of them Saints fans. Almost 2400 went for this year’s Anzac Day match against Carlton.
Former Saints board member Nathan Burke suggested last year the club benefited as much financially from one match in Wellington as it did from six matches at Etihad Stadium, and Bains said that figure rang true at the time, although “it might not be quite as dramatic this season, given that our attendances are up for home games’’.
Part of next week’s discussion will involve considering the best opponent and date for the Wellington match.
“Do you keep rotating teams to enshrine the fact St Kilda is the team of choice for the crowd over there, or do you start to build a tradition where you play, for example, Carlton every year?” Bains said.