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‘Social Impact’ identified as key factor for proposed Northern Territory AFL club

‘Social Impact’ identified as key factor for proposed Northern Territory AFL club
June 4, 2021

A much-delayed feasibility report into the creation of an AFL team in the Northern Territory has been released, urging AFL House to place less emphasis on commercial considerations to create a club with "social impact" as its "key objective".

The release of the long-awaited report by Australian Football League Northern Territory (AFLNT) unconventionally prioritises the social impact of a new franchise, building on Northern Australia’s high participation rates in the game.

The report, which will be used to lobby AFL headquarters, to create a new side, states “the Northern Territory does not meet the conventional AFL licence measures of being a region of large and growing population and a non-traditional AFL centre.

"Whilst this is clear and undeniable, this project has uncovered a unique opportunity to review this expansion differently.

"The potential of an AFL team based out of the NT to affect social and community change is immense and is worthy of further exploration."

Suggesting that it could be 10 years before a Territory team was in the AFL and urged everyone involved to "dream big", AFLNT Chief Executive Stuart Totham stated “we don't have enough AFL footy here so our kids are not inspired, they need to be inspired.

"If you've got a team here … it's a pathway to a career, it's a pathway to a better life."

Totham also said a team from the Territory would include a women's team and would not be Darwin-centric, advising “this is a team for all Territorians.”

Totham went on to state “this is an important study that helps us understand what the Northern Territory needs to do to be in the best possible position to secure an AFL license, should that opportunity ever arise.

“It is critical that the aspiration towards it and the resultant plans, strategies and actions taken provide real and ongoing benefit, for both the game of Australian rules and most importantly, the people and communities in the Northern Territory.

“There is incredible passion for the game and while we are not counting on an AFL team being based in the Northern Territory, we have a much deeper understanding of the requirements and challenges associated with bringing more AFL football to the Territory.”

Acknowledging financial challenges to a Territory-based AFL team, the study recommends AFLNT establish a steering committee to progress the Territory’s claim as well as a number of strategic actions and a timeline to build the case.

The Northern Territory bid comes three months after an AFL taskforce delivered a report backing a bid for Tasmania to be granted the next AFL team licence.

By contrast with the Tasmanian document which implored the AFL to consider financial factors, the Northern Territory's argument is largely based on the positive social impacts that it hopes would trickle down from a local team.

Totham said the Territory had taken a different approach to Tasmania, adding "Tassie have taken an approach that we (Tasmania) deserve a team, and maybe they do.

"With us … a bit more pragmatic, what do we need to do to get ready, because we know we are not ready, we know we can't have a team at the moment.”

He said a team in the Territory would see more local players in the AFL and stressed the importance of the Northern Territory stakeholders doing everything it could to be ready if the AFL gave it the green light.

The projected annual operating cost is just over $45 million, with an estimated revenue of $30 million.

The report said money from the Federal and Northern Territory Governments would be recouped due to transformative impacts a local professional team could have on social outcomes for Territorians.

Earlier this year Totham said administrative upheaval due to the Coronavirus pandemic had led to significant delays in the release of the report.

Images: AFL matches in Darwin are currently played at TIO Stadium (top, credit: Celina Whan/AFLNT), the recently released concept for an AFL stadium in Darwin (middle) and the Northern Territory has some of the highest Australian rules football participation rates in the country (below, credit: Jack Bullen).

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12th February 2021 - AFLW reaches membership record in fifth season

4th January 2021 - AFL stakeholders advance stadium plans in Cairns and Darwin

14th December 2020 - New Aqua Park open at Darwin Waterfront

24th September 2020 - Queensland Government commits $25 million for 10,000-seat stadium at Rockhampton’s home of rugby league

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1st July 2020 - Northern Territory set for first major post lockdown event with August’s Darwin Supercars

9th April 2020 - Darwin Council commences major upgrade of sport oval lighting

19th May 2019 - New Darwin rugby league stadium gets official opening

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12th March 2013 - Northern Territory welcomes the AFL

20th July 2011 - AFL fails to draw crowds in Darwin

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