Herald Sun

Saints’ NZ re­think

- WAR­WICK GREEN war­wick.green@news.com.au

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.

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