Tasmania remains committed to an $11 million yearly investment in an AFL side with premier Peter Gutwein arguing a team is needed to keep footy alive in the heartland state.

The AFL told Tasmania last week it needs another year to establish whether an expansion club is feasible, given the impact of COVID-19 on the league’s finances, committing to a detailed review completed in late 2021 or early 2022.

But a frustrated Gutwein believes the league can commit now, either to a pathway that would see a team introduced around 2025, or to not giving the state a 19th license.

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“This has been going on now for nearly 30 years. In fact, discussions about a Tasmanian team I can recall back in the 1990s,” he told SEN’s Whateley.

“It’s about time this was brought to a head and the correspondence I sent to (Gillon McLachlan) a few weeks ago provided him with two options. One was to provide us with a pathway to a team around 2025 in line with our business case, or simply to say no.

“Once again what we’ve seen is this decision has been kicked down the road and I don’t think it’s good enough to be frank.”

Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein has been pushing for both AFL and A-League teams in his state. Picture: Chris KiddSource: News Corp Australia

The Tasmanian taskforce report into a 19th team was delivered last February and projected gross revenues for the club of $42.5 million, “bettering the average of similar sized clubs of North Melbourne, GWS, Brisbane, Gold Coast and St Kilda”, while adding $19 million onto the AFL’s next TV rights deal.

The report projected membership of 38,400 and average match day attendance of 18,400.

Hawthorn currently plays five games a year in Launceston – four home and away and one in the pre-season, when possible – while North Melbourne plays four a year in Hobart.

However those clubs’ futures on the Apple Isle remain unclear with the state unwilling to negotiate deals past 2021 until they are given clarity about expansion.

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Hawks president Jeff Kennett says his club “needs to know” by early July whether the club will still be playing in the state in 2022, given the need to organise alternative sponsors if the deal falls through.

But Gutwein is eyeing his own deadline and won’t be giving Kennett an answer when he wants it.

“No I’m not (inclined to meet that deadline). I’ve made it perfectly clear that we wouldn’t be able to do that,” he said.

“We can’t frame those contracts up until we have clarity on what the future looks like.

“For the AFL to push this down the road for another 12 months, I don’t think it’s reasonable under the circumstances.”

The AFL said last week it would deal directly with the Hawks and Kangaroos if they were unable to work out a deal with Tasmania for 2022.

Premier Gutwein, who is facing a state election within the next 15 months, argued having the Victorian clubs playing games in the state wasn’t helping their participation numbers – but that a proper Tasmanian AFL team would.

Many clubs have disappeared from local-level Tassie footy while participation rates have fallen. Picture: Zak SimmondsSource: News Corp Australia

“I just think we’re at that point where we need to see a pathway for young Tasmanian talent and importantly for us to grow the base here in Tasmania and it’s a point I’ve made to Gill on a number of occasions,” he said.

“The last 20 years, Hawthorn have been good corporate partners, there’s no two ways about that, and the last decade so have North Melbourne.

“But what we haven’t seen is corresponding growth in the base in Tasmania, in fact we’ve seen a decline, male participation has gone backwards.

“We’ve had the elite game played here, but it hasn’t acted as the magnet as we envisage our own team would do. It’s time, for the sake of the game in Tasmania, that the AFL provides us with a pathway.”

Gutwein added Tasmania remains committed to investing $11 million in the team each year.

“In our budget we can commit to that and we can commit to that on an ongoing basis. There wouldn’t be many corporations that would have that capacity,” he said.

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