The debate on control of WA's two AFL clubs is set to hit flashpoint after West Coast and Fremantle confirmed they would press for direct licences with the league during talks this weekend.
The clubs will use the AFL Commission visit to Perth to spark talks with the WA Football Commission on removing it from their licence structures to bring them into line with Eastern States counterparts.
Similar moves have started in South Australia with significant changes at both Adelaide and Port Adelaide expected before the end of the year.
The move has the support of the AFL, which wants the same licence arrangements for all clubs.
West Coast and Fremantle say it will remove a level of bureaucracy between them and the AFL, the body they deal with most.
West Coast chairman Alan Cransberg and Fremantle counterpart Steve Harris confirmed their stance yesterday. Cransberg contacted WAFC chairman Frank Cooper on Wednesday to update him. Cooper promised an open mind in discussions, but said the WAFC needed to be convinced.
Cransberg said any shift in the licensing arrangements could only occur if secure funding arrangements were put in place which would enable the WAFC to maintain financial support of football.
"At the end of the day, the WA Football Commission has to agree," Cransberg said.
"We are keen to work with the WAFC and the AFL to deliver a model that secures the financial and organisational models for the football commission.
"We are very keen to have a direct licence with the AFL. Every other club does and the South Australian clubs are heading that way.
"Most of our dealings are done direct with the AFL and from an efficiency and bureaucracy point of view, we think it is better to have a direct licence arrangement with the AFL."
Harris said the changes were not about giving the AFL greater control of the WA football industry.
"It is about the clubs holding the licences themselves," Harris said.
"It is not going to be done in a way that is going to negatively impact West Coast and Fremantle's funding commitment to the WA Football Commission."
Both clubs said that a new financial model would be needed for WA football when games moved to the new stadium at Burswood in 2018.
The current system generates about $15 million for the local football system. About $10 million of that comes directly from West Coast and Fremantle, and about $7 million is rent on the WAFC- controlled Patersons Stadium.
It is understood one proposal would involve a system of grants, with funding starting at $15 million and indexed to inflation.
One possible lure would be increased AFL funding.
The AFL contributes about $1.8 million per year, but also claims transfer fees for drafted players as a contribution over and above that figure.
Cransberg said speculation on a financial model was premature.
Cooper said the commission saw no "driving imperative" to change the current system.
"The WAFC firmly believes that the integrated football structure in Western Australia has worked well for this State for two decades and has contributed greatly to the growth of all levels of footy, including community, club and the pathway via the WAFL to the AFL," he said.
"The strength of the structure put in place over more than 20 years has made the game financially sound in Western Australia and means that major changes are not an issue to be discussed lightly.
"Ownership and management of WA footy by a locally-based organisation has to date proven to be a strong and sensible arrangement for all concerned.
"Nonetheless, the commission has an open mind to discussing the subject and will examine any alternatives that will provide an improved community, competition and financial outcome for the whole of football in Western Australia."
Cransberg said West Australians should retain control of their AFL clubs and both he and Harris believed the WAFC did a good job on football development.
"There is a difference between the licence arrangement and the ownership," Cransberg said.
"I want to make sure that any governance structure that we set up in the future maintains the control of the club in the State."I think there is a sensible landing here that will be as good for WA as is currently or better."
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