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Etihad Stadium purchase to boost AFL clubs

The AFL has agreed to purchase Etihad Stadium in a deal reported to be worth about $200 million.
AFL agrees to purchase Etihad Stadium
Photo Source: AAP

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The AFL's purchase of Etihad Stadium has been hailed as a game-changer for the ground's tenant clubs, which have struggled to profit from existing arrangements.

The long-anticipated deal, believed to be worth about $200 million, was reached on Friday after 15 months of negotiations between the AFL and the ground's consortium of owners.

It is expected to result in major upgrades to the 54,000-capacity stadium while providing a significant financial boost for St Kilda, North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs, who will be free to strike more-profitable tenancy deals.

"Etihad Stadium is a fantastic place to play and watch football - but it's no secret the economics of the stadium deal have operated as a significant handbrake on the progress of our club for many years," St Kilda chief Matt Finnis said.

"As a primary tenant club, we now look forward to working closely with the AFL to improve arrangements for the Saints, our players, members and fans via enhancing the facilities and re-engineering the match returns."

North Melbourne chief Carl Dilena said the club was excited about the AFL's plans for the stadium while noting it was too early to estimate the financial impact of the purchase.

Essendon and Carlton, who split their home games between Etihad Stadium and the MCG, are understood to have benefited from more-favourable tenancy agreements but will also be free to renegotiate their deals.

Bombers chief marketing officer Justin Rodski told AAP the takeover of Etihad Stadium would allow the club to look towards moving one of its home games from Docklands to the MCG.

"The AFL can now not only provide a better financial outcome for the clubs but also drive investment in upgrading the entire precinct to ensure Etihad Stadium remains a world-class venue for many years to come," he said.

The stadium was scheduled to be transferred to the AFL in 2025 under a deal with the ownership consortium, but AFL boss Gillon McLachlan had made clear his desire to bring the takeover forward.

"Owning Etihad Stadium enables the AFL to continue to strengthen the financial health of several of our Victorian clubs, develop an asset for our whole industry and commit to being a serious stakeholder in the future of the Docklands precinct," McLachlan said on Friday.

"Our commitment as owners of Etihad Stadium is to work with government to provide a stadium experience for our fans equal to the best in the world, as well as explore how we can help improve the stadium's relationship to Docklands and the city."

The venue will continue to host other sports and concerts and the AFL is expected to formally take over the stadium's ownership and management in early November.

Etihad Airways will continue to hold the stadium's naming rights until 2019 when it will have options to extend the agreement.

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