Tasmania is on the verge of having its own team in the AFL, with the federal government reportedly set to announce it will chip in funds for a contentious new stadium.
The league has said the island state’s entry into the competition is contingent on the construction of a $715 million stadium at Hobart’s waterfront.
The project requires $240 million in federal Labor government funding, which Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will announce this weekend, according to multiple media reports.
Mr Albanese on Wednesday said his government had been working with Tasmanian officials on a broader plan for urban renewal at the Macquarie Point site.
“Hobart is an extraordinarily beautiful city, but at the moment Mac Point sits there as a bit of an eyesore – it is completely under-utilised,” he told reporters.
“If we can use that site for recreational activity, for housing, for private-sector investment, for urban redevelopment in order to improve economic activity in Tasmania … by having a centre that can bring jobs and events to Tasmania, then that would be a positive thing.”
The funding would pave the way for Tasmania to become the AFL’s 19th side.
The state Liberal government has already pledged $375 million towards the stadium project, which is opposed by state Labor and federal Liberal and independent Tasmanian MPs.
They have argued the money could be better spent on housing and under-pressure essential services.
In a joint statement on Wednesday, federal MP Andrew Wilkie, Hobart mayor Anna Reynolds and others criticised the “poorly conceived” plan to add housing to the proposed stadium development.
“The rush to select a random grab-bag of proposals is extraordinarily poor planning and bound to lead to bad decisions that our community will regret for many years,” they said.
Tasmania hosts eight AFL games a season under agreements with Hawthorn and North Melbourne to play home fixtures at Launceston’s University of Tasmania Stadium and Hobart’s Blundstone Arena.
The state government will contribute $12 million per year over 12 years, plus $60 million for a high-performance centre, towards a team.
The AFL has committed $360 million over a decade, including $90 million in game development and $33 million for player talent academies.
It will spend $15 million on the stadium.
Tasmania’s bid for a team was originally meant to be voted on by AFL club presidents towards the end of last season.
In March 2022, then-premier Peter Gutwein announced Tasmania would pursue the “aspirational vision” of building a stadium at Hobart’s waterfront.
AAP has contacted the AFL for comment.
(Australian Associated Press)