OPINION Ball dropped on footy
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.