The Advertiser – Freeze Grants to Clubs Plea07 August 2020
AFL clubs the Adelaide Crows and Port Power should be denied any taxpayer cash until their boards are democratically elected by members, a South Australian senator says.
Liberal Senator, and former Adelaide City Councillor Alex Antic has told The Advertiser he will write to the Federal and State sports ministers to argue for the taxpayer funding freeze.
“I believe that public funds should not be allocated to either club until such time as their constitutions are amended to allow their boards to be democratically elected,” Senator Antic said.
“Those funds would be better directed towards local and community football clubs which elect their boards democratically and respect the will of the grassroots fans.”
“SA’s AFL clubs should be elected by their members, “not appointed over a lunch at the Adelaide Club.”
“A fully democratic process is essential and will ensure that both clubs govern with the consent of their members,” he said.
Senator Antic said both clubs had been promised or received significant injections of taxpayer cash in recent years.
Adelaide was promised $15 million from the Federal government to fund a new training centre in 2019 and $275,000 from the State government for its AFLW team in 2018, he said.
He said Port was allocated $4 million from the Federal government in 2017 for a state-of-the-art centre to foster Aboriginal leadership and $350,000 in 2019 from the State Government for the naming rights to their match in China.
Under the terms of the Crows’ constitution – revised six years ago – the AFL took effective control of the Adelaide board and became the club’s ultimate authority.
The league appoints seven of the nine Crows directors and has sole voting rights of all matters at annual general meetings other than the election of the two remaining board members.
At Port Adelaide two board appointments are voted in by members and eight appointed.
This means the majority of both clubs’ directors are not directly accountable to their members.
By contrast, the board of their Adelaide Oval co-tenant, the South Australian Cricket Association, has 10 of 11 directors elected by the members.
Both clubs have been contacted to see if they would like to respond to Senator Antic’s comments.
Senator Antic said the board arrangements at interstate clubs are a mixed bag.
“But are overall, they are more democratic and more successful, at least in recent times.
“The Geelong Football Club has 8 board members, 7 of whom are elected by the members of the club.
“The Western Bulldogs, Essendon and Hawthorn Football Clubs also have a majority of elected directors on their boards.
Despite being AFL controlled, both of South Australia’s AFL clubs rely on Federal and State government grants.”
He also thought it might help on field performances.
“Over the last decade, the Adelaide Football Club has been plagued with scandals including a salary cap breach, the continual loss of senior players to rival clubs and the highly contentious team off season camp which split the playing group down the middle.
“The club members (also known as the people who fill the stadium, buy the merchandise, and pay the bills) have a right to be upset.
“The problem is, there is just not much they can do much about it other than complain.”
Last month top commercial lawyer Greg Griffin raised concerns about the Crows board in context of the AFL’s investigation into the infamous Adelaide Crows pre-season camp.
The AFL integrity unit cleared the Crows of any wrongdoing in the “cult-like” team-building camp and concluded that there had been “no breach of industry rules”.
Mr Griffin said the AFL had made a “serious error” in claiming its probe into the Gold Coast camp was independent.
“If you control the board, you control the club,” Griffin said.
“And it makes a nonsense of the suggestion that the AFL can conduct an independent inquiry into the operations of the club”
“The AFL is inherently unlikely to come out and publish a report that concludes that the club’s conduct has exposed it and hence the AFL to a legal liability.
“It was never going to happen. The process was completely deficient in terms of corporate governance.”
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