Federal govt baulks at AFL stadium deal

The federal government has questioned the need for a new sports stadium in Hobart, casting further doubt over a 19th AFL licence being awarded to Tasmania.

The AFL has agreed terms with the Tasmanian state government that would lead to an expansion club being established in the island state.

But stadium funding has been a major sticking point, with the league adamant a new venue must be part of the deal.

The Tasmanian Liberal government has promised to foot half the bill for a $750 million project that would see a 23,000-seat venue built at Macquarie Point.

The AFL has committed $15 million, however, the federal Labor government has not yet come to the party.

On Saturday, federal sports minister Anika Wells offered qualified support to Tasmania’s bid.

Ms Wells queried the AFL’s stadium demand in Hobart, where the league already plays regular matches at the 19,500-capacity Blundstone Arena.

“We want one (an expansion team) and Tassie wants one – and they deserve one,” Ms Wells said during a guest spot on SEN’s Test cricket coverage.

“We just don’t think it needs to be conditional on a stadium to get there.

“No one else had to do that.

“Three-hundred and seventy-five million bucks for a stadium is a lot to ask.”

Earlier this week, bullish AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said the league is “the closest we’ve been in decades” to establishing a Tasmanian team.

But McLachlan conceded some existing clubs still need to be convinced it is the right move for the competition, and also noted the significant stadium hurdle to be overcome.

“The big piece is the stadium,” McLachlan said on Thursday.

“The Tasmanian government have made an extraordinary funding commitment to that, we’ve committed $15 million to the stadium and we’re looking at other funding partners.

“There’s one substantive one there, so there’s a series of meetings and discussions that are either happening or planned.”

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