Collingwood president Eddie McGuire has responded to a report that Sydney Swans chairman Andrew Pridham is urging the AFL to conduct a wide-ranging review, which may involve assessing if an 18-team competition remains viable.
The code has faced its toughest season yet because of COVID-19 and the ramifications of the global pandemic will continue to be felt into the future as footy tries to recover from the huge financial toll the virus has taken.
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Speaking on Nine’s Footy Classified on Wednesday night, veteran journalist Caroline Wilson reported Pridham told a meeting of club bosses and the AFL Commission of the need to comb through every inch of the code to ensure it can survive and thrive.
Wilson suggested the review would include looking at whether 18 teams was too many, throwing up Gold Coast, GWS, St Kilda and North Melbourne as clubs that may find themselves in the firing line.
Footy Classified host Sam McClure described the revelation as a “bombshell”.
“There are clubs that honestly believe that 18 teams is too many in the current financial circumstances,” Wilson said.
“This is not a review he (Pridham) thinks should be done by the Commission, in fact I think Andrew Pridham said to the Commission and their chairman Richard Goyder that they too should be reviewed.
“I think he wants to review the Players’ Association, all the clubs in the AFL, the fixturing, the competition structure, the second-tier competitions, media deals, player managers and what should go on there.
“This isn’t a two-year thing, this is a 20-year plan.
“Some clubs got a little paranoid because although he didn’t say this, clearly 18 teams is something that there is some support for a review of.
“I’m told that after the meeting there was a bit of support for the Sydney chairman.”
McGuire attended the meeting and said much of what Wilson reported was on the mark, but downplayed concerns clubs could be chopped from the league.
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“I don’t think there’s any attack on the 18 clubs, I think everyone wants to get the 18 clubs through,” McGuire said.
“The tone of what’s going on … today was another day where we sat down and tried to work through the machinations of what could happen next year, both good and bad.
“There were a number of scenarios that were placed in front of us.
“Everybody is very focused on the figures, focused on what needs to happen and Andrew Pridham’s position was maybe it’s time to have a good look at everything.
“Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong, but after 27 years, which was the term that was used, maybe it’s time to have a look at what’s going on.
“I don’t think anybody pushed back on it so much. We need to allay any fears (about losing clubs).”
Wilson said while McGuire wants to ensure all 18 teams remain the competition, she’s “not sure everybody does”.
Pridham explained his position on radio this morning, telling SEN Breakfast his proposal should be seen as an opportunity rather than something negative.
He did not mention anything about a reduction in the number of teams.
“I and others a have long supported need to consistently review our game to make sure it keeps improving,” Pridham said.
“This should be seen as an opportunity not a threat. We have a crisis — let’s see how we can best reset to thrive.
“It’s been 27 years since the last review. All businesses and organisations do this at regular intervals every five years or so — we are significantly overdue — it’s time to look at all aspects of what we do and how we do it to see if we can improve.
“It’s just basic good governance and makes sense. We should see it in a positive light.
“We have been through a tough season and done well so let’s seize the opportunity to get even better.
“Nobody knows the future but we need to look in the mirror to see that we are best placed to thrive over the next 20-plus years.”