OPIN­ION Ball dropped on footy

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - NEWS -

AS THE cur­tain comes down to­day on what has been a stun­ningly suc­cess­ful Com­mon­wealth Games on the Gold Coast, it is im­por­tant to ac­knowl­edge the fan­tas­tic com­mit­ment of the Palaszczuk Gov­ern­ment to our tourism and sport­ing land­scape.

It was the La­bor gov­ern­ment un­der Anna Bligh that de­cided to bid for the Games, and it has been a La­bor gov­ern­ment that has brought the Games in on bud­get and on time. For that it should get a big thumbs up. So too for its piv­otal role in the Jeff Horn-Manny Pac­quiao fight.

But as The Sun­day Mail re­veals to­day, the Palaszczuk Gov­ern­ment has dropped the ball on its com­mit­ment to our footy codes.

Sta­di­ums Queens­land is goug­ing our footy fran­chises into oblivion. While the eyes of the world are on the Gold Coast, the re­al­ity is, pro­fes­sional sport in this state is be­ing crip­pled by sta­dium deals and gov­ern­ment levies that dwarf those im­posed on clubs by pro-sport gov­ern­ments in NSW, Vic­to­ria, South Aus­tralia and West­ern Aus­tralia. Out­spo­ken Suns chair­man Tony Cochrane de­scribes the price goug­ing as “a dis­grace’’.

He be­lieves Sta­di­ums Queens­land should be dis­banded and put into the port­fo­lio that is re­spon­si­ble for at- tract­ing ma­jor events. The prob­lems in Queens­land have emerged as Vic­to­ria mag­ni­fies its com­mit­ment to up­grad­ing sta­di­ums and en­sur­ing clubs do not pay through the nose for ac­cess. The new Vic­to­rian deal en­sures the AFL grand fi­nal will be played at the MCG un­til 2057.

Vic­to­rian Premier Daniel An­drews said his Gov­ern­ment could not have risked los­ing the grand fi­nal to other states.

“We know ex­actly the value of these sorts of events, and we’re not pre­pared to take the risk that they go some­where else,” he said.

What a re­fresh­ing vi­sion Mr An­drews has demon­strated in en­sur­ing ma­jor sport re­mains front and cen­tre in his home state. Yet here in Queens- land we have ma­jor sport­ing fran­chises strug­gling to sur­vive un­der the weight of surg­ing charges and levies that ef­fec­tively mean mak­ing ends meet is al­most im­pos­si­ble.

Even the Bron­cos and Cow­boys – our most suc­cess­ful footy teams – strug­gle to sur­vive un­der the cur­rent eco­nomic struc­ture be­ing im­posed by Sta­di­ums Queens­land.

The NRL, AFL and Cricket Aus­tralia all have strained re­la­tion­ships with Sta­di­ums Queens­land. It’s un­der­stood the NRL, AFL and Su­per Rugby are com­bin­ing to present the Gov­ern­ment with op­tions to over­come the prob­lem. The NRL has con­firmed its Queens­land-based clubs had the most ex­pen­sive rental and op­er­at­ing costs in the com­pe­ti­tion.

The NRL is work­ing with Sta­di­ums Queens­land to bring venue hire agree­ments in line with the rest of the Aus­tralian mar­ket. The Ti­tans have re­fused to sign a con­tract with Sta­di­ums Queens­land since 2016 be­cause they could not achieve a fair deal. In­stead, they rent Cbus Su­per Sta­dium on a game-by-game ba­sis for a stag­ger­ing fee of about $110,000 per game.

The sit­u­a­tion is so dire for the Suns, they are be­ing courted by the Tas­ma­nian Gov­ern­ment, which would place in jeop­ardy the fran­chise’s fu­ture on the Gold Coast.

It costs the AFL about $4 mil­lion a year to op­er­ate Met­ri­con Sta­dium, and while the like­li­hood of the league pulling out is min­i­mal while the peo­ple be­hind the ex­pan­sion, such as chief ex­ec­u­tive Gil­lon McLach­lan, re­main in charge, there are le­git­i­mate fears that as power changes hands, the league will grow tired of pump­ing cash into an or­gan­i­sa­tion that is hand­cuffed to an un­sus­tain­able com­mer­cial ar­range­ment.

In ad­di­tion to rent costs, each south­east Queens­land foot­ball club must pay a polic­ing and trans­port levy on ticket sales that runs into mil­lions of dol­lars. The big­gest AFL and NRL clubs in the coun­try don’t pay a public trans­port levy, and the stan­dard con­tri­bu­tion to the cost of polic­ing and in­fra­struc­ture is about $1.20 per ticket. The Suns pay al­most $8 a ticket.

These ad­di­tional op­er­a­tional costs are ex­tra­or­di­nary in a state that has such a love af­fair with sport. It seems in­con­ceiv­able that a La­bor gov­ern­ment that so pas­sion­ately cel­e­brates our sport­ing vic­to­ries could al­low a gov­ern­ment au­thor­ity such as Sta­di­ums Queens­land to ride roughshod over the fu­ture of these clubs.

Sport binds us as a state. It pro­vides fam­ily-friendly en­ter­tain­ment and, as State of Ori­gin shows, it makes us proud to be Queens­lan­ders. But some­thing must be done to rein in the greedy, op­por­tunis­tic cash grab of Sta­di­ums Queens­land.

If Premier Palaszczuk and Tourism Min­is­ter Kate Jones want to turn Queens­land into the events cap­i­tal of Aus­tralia, they must be­gin by read­ing the riot act to those who con­trol our sta­di­ums.

It is fruit­less talk­ing up Queens­land as the events cap­i­tal if pro­mot­ers and sports clubs are be­ing sent broke be­cause of the costs as­so­ci­ated with com­ing here.

Heads need to roll over this. This is a scan­dal that we can ill af­ford right now.

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