The continued development of Bellerive Oval should be an economic imperative for Tasmania; that we can recover the cost of investment much more quickly through the hosting of a second AFL team only adds urgency to the argument.

Bellerive Oval is regarded by many to be the picturesque jewel in the cricket touring calendar. The famous ‘Bowl a Maiden Over’ billboard has probably done more for tourism to the state than any other single campaign. Nevertheless, the facility is underutilised both in terms of spectator capacity and frequency of use.

At present, the ground sells out at least once a year, but is forced to close short of its record crowd of 16,719 for patron safety. That it lies all but barren for the remainder would suggest to even armchair economists that it is failing to realise its profit potential. Spending public funds on the construction of a new stand, however, does not guarantee to resolve either of these issues.

What then should taxpayers expect for their $21 million investment?

In the short term, the construction phase itself will be a significant economic stimulus. Modelling by Dr Bruce Felmingham and his team at IMC-Link suggests that 165 full-time equivalent jobs would be created across all sectors of the economy by the project, and Gross State Product (GSP) would be enlarged by $9.1 million. A high profile endeavour such as this would also improve the skills and knowledge of our local industry.

Even without the addition of AFL games, Bellerive Oval would then become a more attractive venue for touring sports events. Other sports that depend on side-on media and spectator coverage, such as Soccer, Rugby Union and Rugby League may now see a market for their games in Tasmania, especially given the low cost-recovery threshold that the facility offers. The counter argument also holds true – if Bellerive does not keep pace with its mainland competitors, these opportunities are lost, and our present supply of international cricket is placed at risk.

The fact that AFL teams are all but committed to moving to Bellerive upon upgrade only strengthens the case for development. The off-shore tourism impact of four Hawthorn games annually adds over $15 million to the state’s economy and 300 full-time jobs. The best scenario would see a different team at Bellerive playing four visiting teams not otherwise available in the state that year. In that instance there would be no substitution (or cannibalisation) of the present tourism benefits, effectively doubling the return to the State.

But what of the Tasmanians who already have a job, in a sector unaffected by these impacts, and who never wish to see a live game of AFL, Cricket or even tiddly-winks? On the one hand, it is well established that improving the quality of a person’s leisure improves the quality of their work. This explains why the corporate spaces at Bellerive and Aurora Stadium are routinely sold out. Therefore, increasing leisure opportunities, and the comfort of Bellerive patrons, will have a positive impact on the general productivity of our workforce and community wellbeing.

Secondly, although it is not definitively proven that high profile sports events drive mainstream athletic participation, consider this: since 2007, when Hawthorn started playing regular AFL fixtures in Tasmania, independent data suggests that adult participation alone in AFL has increased by 25%. Tasmania now has Australia’s highest rate of adult participation in the sport. The welfare benefits that these additional participants provide to the rest of us include, among other things, reduced long-term demand on our health system, improved social and knowledge capital, and improvements to quality of life. More fully utilising Bellerive Oval as a multi-sports facility can only help realise this untapped potential.

Aurora Stadium, like any firm, is interested in preserving its monopoly on AFL in the Tasmanian market. It is also true that the Launceston region will lose some of the benefits of intra-state tourism that this monopoly affords. However, the net benefits to the state of introducing economic competition in the local stadia market are significant, and should not be derailed by a vocal minority of vested interests. Competition delivers innovation, and innovation delivers improved consumer value. After all, who wouldn’t want to see an international 20-20 fixture in the North?

Cricket Tasmania has made some poor operational decisions over recent years, particularly in regard to customer amenity – the fun police at Bellerive are notoriously of the brown shirt and jackboot variety. Yet the strategic vision of the Board is to be commended as they continue to improve the Oval project by project, in step with commercial reality. Although no future development should be regarded as inevitable, it is in the public interest that our iconic sporting venue is allowed to flourish.

It would be nice, too, if we could have one stand to honour Ricky Ponting and another for David Boon.

Paul Muller
has a Masters degree in International Sports Management, and is completing his PhD at UTas. His report on the Value of Sport and Physical Recreation to Tasmania is in early 2011.

Meanwhile …

North Melbourne plan ‘too risky’

The Tasmanian government is set to approve a new deal with the Hawthorn Football Club that will see the Hawks play on in Launceston.

The decision has disappointed North Melbourne. Chairman James Brayshaw says the deal leaves Hobart without AFL.

“We thought it was pretty compelling but we also thought it was what the Tasmanian government wanted,” he told the ABC.

“It appears that our initial conversations to now, that there has been a bit of movement and that is fine, people change their minds for what ever reason I am not sure why.”

“We are trying to bring a product here that your people are screaming out for,” Mr Brayshaw said.

Premier David Bartlett considered the proposal too risky and the state government’s expected to re-sign with Hawthorn on Monday.

Full story HERE

And,

Tasmania’s AFL hopes threatened by Government

Senior football officials in Tasmania fear the state will never get its own AFL team if the Bartlett government rejects a seven-game deal with the North Melbourne football club.

AFL Tasmania chiefs have attacked the Government’s handling of negotiations.

Full story HERE

And,

He says the AFL is ‘filthy’ with the decision and that Tasmanians have been ‘dudded’ by the State Government.

Mr Wade goes on to say “the end result is typical Tasmanian parochial politics gone mad, and has nothing to do with what’s in the best interests of the sport”.

And he says he doubts “Hawthorn can deliver a fifth game”.

The new deal still has to be approved by the game’s national body.

Read more HERE