The recent news of the AFL taking both ownership and management control of Etihad Stadium is welcome news for many in the AFL industry in particular. It has been well reported that the country's most powerful sporting brand could have purchased the stadium in 2025 for less than $30, however this move now will change the landscape of major sports & entertainment for years to come.
Firstly, we have not seen a major venue in this country (Etihad Stadium holds over 55,000 and is well recognised on the world stage) owned outright by a sporting league.
Secondly, with a number of sports & entertainment events in Melbourne requiring more than 30,000 in spectator capacity, such as A-League soccer, Big Bash cricket, and major entertainment acts, it makes the AFL one of the most important stakeholders for promoters, other sporting leagues and also the state and federal governments.
Thirdly, it sits on a goldmine of land and development opportunity for the future. Not only is there significant opportunity to refurb and upgrade the stadium to a state of the art experience for attendees, it may also be in a position to attract State Government investment and completely revamp the Docklands precinct.
This can only be a good thing for all parties.
Key Etihad Stadium tenants - Essendon, Carlton, Western Bulldogs, St Kilda and North Melbourne will have an immediate positive commercial outcome through improved match receipts from home games which has arguably been one of the biggest issues the AFL needed to solve in line with equalisation. Non-AFL tenants including Melbourne Victory and Melbourne Renegades shouldn't see much change given their deals are much better, enabling stronger commercial returns from games.
One of the next key moves in years to come may be looking at existing stadium contracts including catering and ticketing. A more immediate move could be state government funding to improve the venue and surrounding areas, which could make Etihad Stadium the leading venue in the country for both in-stadium and out-of-stadium experiences.
If this all happens, it is undoubtedly great news for live event attendees - a more engaging experience, better technology and facilities, better value and great live event content.
The future is bright for the AFL, Etihad Stadium and sports fans alike - both commercially and for the overall experience we will get when all of this is in place.