AFL ignores 'doomsayers'

AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou has used the official season launch to hit back at critics of the league's expansion plans, calling them “doomsayers”.

He continued the strong theme coming out of the league this week, that the AFL is ploughing ahead with plans to start the 17th team on the Gold Coast in 2011 and the 18th in western Sydney the following year.

There are rumblings around the competition that the AFL should not be expanding, given the economic climate and the financial woes of some clubs.

“The AFL is not about retracting: despite the doomsayers, we are about extending the reach of our game, and we will continue to do so,” Demetriou said last night's gala function.

“People say that in such a time, the AFL should stand still, and concentrate on what it is, rather than what it might be.

“Nothing could be further from the truth - we must continue to look ahead, to innovate, to improve, to make better what might well be good, to fix even if the perception is it ain't broke ... expansion, not re-creation.”

Demetriou said every time the competition had expanded, it had helped the game.

“We are expanding because we believe it will bring long-term benefits to our game and our clubs,“ he said.

“Every time we have expanded the competition from 12 teams to 14 to 16 teams we have grown revenues, memberships, attendances, participation numbers, the talent pool and - most importantly - grown the number of people who love the game.

“Our history shows us there have been times when we have sat on our hands, and missed the boat - no more.”

He added the league had an important role to help the community in the midst of the global economic crisis and, in Victoria, the aftermath of the February bushfire crisis.

“We live in an unprecedented time, a time I hope we never see again,” he said.

“Never have we, as a community, endured a period of such dismay, a time in which many have lost significant parts of their savings, many in our community have lost their jobs, many have had their confidence shaken, but most horrifying of all, so many Victorians have lost their lives in the tragic circumstances we saw with the bushfires.

“It is a time in which the AFL has a new responsibility, one that is beyond what is normal and reasonable.“

“(We must) use the strength of our game to contribute far beyond our weight, to go beyond what we can do, to address what is needed.”

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