Former Collingwood president Eddie McGuire has warned Tasmania the federal government could pull its funding if protests around the new stadium continue.
Earlier this month, Tasmania secured a licence to host the 19th club in the AFL with the team slated to enter the competition in 2028.
The league had long maintained that Tasmania’s entry into the competition was contingent on the construction of a $715million stadium at Hobart’s waterfront.
The project required $240million in federal government funding, which Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced at the beginning of May paving the way for work on the 23,000-seater venue to begin.
Opponents of the development, however, have argued the choice of site is poor and the money would be better spent on housing.
Eddie McGuire has slammed Tasmanians for protesting against a new AFL stadium
Tasmania won the licence to host the AFL’s 19th club, which will play in a brand new facility
McGuire, however, insisted the venue was absolutely pivotal to Tasmania’s hopes of establishing a successful AFL club.
‘Here’s your choice: If you want to have an AFL team, the AFL is going to 2050 not 1950,’ he said on the Eddie and Jimmy podcast, which he co-hosts with retired Geelong premiership star Jimmy Bartel.
‘You need the stadium, you need it for the TV and for everything else that needs to go down there.’
Over the past two decades, Hawthorn, North Melbourne and St Kilda have all played home games in the Apple Isle – the Saints’ agreement ended in 2006.
McGuire said Tasmania faced a simple choice of continuing hosting Hawthorn and North on an occasional basis or seize ‘the chance of a lifetime’ by building a new stadium to host the AFL’s 19th club.
‘Now, if you don’t want to have a stadium, then the next choice is to do this and keep having Hawthorn and North Melbourne turn up and play at those games.
‘No problem whatsoever. But if you want to have an AFL team, the whole idea is not to just turn up on Saturday or Sunday afternoon. You want to play Friday night football.
‘This is the chance of a lifetime. The federal government will have no qualms pulling the $300million off the table.
The 23,000-seater stadium will cost around $715million and will be completed by 2028
The new venue will be built at Macquarie Point, on Hobart’s waterfront
‘In fact, I’ll put my hand up right now and say: “Can I have that to rebuild the Southern Stand at the MCG?” I’ll find a home for that [the funding from the government] in two seconds.’
Australia’s only state Liberal government was thrust into minority status last week after two MPs quit, citing concerns over state debt and government transparency around the planned build on the edge of the Hobart CBD.
On Saturday, Tasmanian premier Jeremy Rockliff was told to stick plans for the stadium ‘up your bum’ by fiery senator Jacqui Lambie as thousands voiced opposition to the project.
Tasmania’s Labor opposition meanwhile took issue with the AFL making the stadium a condition of Tasmania getting a team licence to join the league.
‘We all know a Tassie team is richly deserved and should’ve been granted with no stadium attached,’ Opposition Leader Rebecca White said in a statement.
‘But what should’ve been a unifying moment for Tasmania has been ruined by Jeremy Rockliff’s reckless decision to write a blank cheque for a stadium we don’t need.’
Meanwhile, Bartel suggested the proposed new stadium in Hobart was not big enough for AFL footy.
Thousands of Tasmanian voiced their opposition to the project on Saturday in Hobart
Senator Jacqui Lambie told Tasmanian premier Jeremy Rockliff to stick his plans for the new stadium ‘up his bum’ as his government lost the majority
With a 23,000-seat capacity, the venue will be the smallest of those in permanent use, aside from the Suns’ Metricon Stadium on the Gold Coast, which can host up to 22,500 spectators.
Blundstone Arena and the University of Tasmania Stadium in Hobart are both smaller, but only host a few games a season and the same applies to venues in Darwin, Cairns, Ballarat and Canberra.
‘I see the stadium […] and I felt like it was too small,’ Bartel said.
‘I felt the stadium should have been the jewel in the crown that could have been something much bigger for the whole entire state of Tasmania.’