The AFL Commission is poised to continue its bid to overhaul the licences of West Coast and Fremantle as more details emerge of a failed multi-million-dollar bid by a South African sporting giant to buy a big chunk of the Eagles and another iconic WA sporting brand.
The WA Football Commission will again be urged, at an AFL Commission meeting in Perth late next month, to relinquish the licences and bring the ownership of the Eagles and Dockers in line with all other clubs other than Adelaide and Port Adelaide.
WAFC chief executive Gary Walton said last night that the State's controlling football body would formalise a position early next month for the AFL Commission meeting.
The AFL has guaranteed the WAFC would not be left worse off financially under any new deal.
It is believed the AFL are close to finalising similar deals for the Crows and Power before their move from AAMI Stadium to Adelaide Oval in 2014.
The WAFC and West Coast were almost seduced a decade ago by a proposal from South African sports, entertainment and marketing company SAIL. _The Weekend West _understands the offer was worth in the vicinity of a staggering $25 million for 49 per cent of the Eagles.
The company also made moves to lure basketball's Perth Wildcats, the most successful club in NBL history, into the bid which could ultimately have included Fremantle and Perth Glory to create a WA sporting super club.
West Coast chief executive Trevor Nisbett was part of a mid-season delegation - which included former WAFC chief executive Wayne Bradshaw and then Eagles business operations executive Steve Rosich, now the Dockers chief executive - which went to South Africa to hear details of the bid in one of several meetings.
Attempts to contact SAIL this week were unsuccessful. Founded in 1998, the investment company is South Africa's biggest sports and rugby brand owner with a stakes in the country's Super Rugby teams Sharks, Bulls and Stormers.
The company's website lists, among its many clients, South African federations for rugby, cricket, tennis and soccer.
Nisbett said the company's initial approach came in 2001.
He believed SAIL wanted to gain an AFL foothold and saw the Eagles as a money-making venture.
West Coast have since become one of Australia's richest sporting clubs.
WA football has paid a total of $8 million to complete the ownership packages for the Eagles and Dockers licences.
Nisbett said SAIL never offered to buy a controlling share of West Coast.
That had made the prospect enticing because the magnitude of the bid would have helped assure the club's financial future.
"They looked at us because of our balance sheet and they thought they could help us build on it," Nisbett said. "It would add a lot of value to the business through their other entities.
"We spoke to them at length and they were very open and forthcoming. They were a very impressive group and were very serious about putting good money up and buying some equity in the club.
"Provided the club still had the controlling interest, I don't think we had any major concerns.
"But in the end, it just didn't sit right with everyone and there was a strong belief from our board that the club was for our members and our supporters.
"It was not for a private company, albeit they could have secured our future with the bid that they were going to put up. But that's not to say it won't happen again."
The WAFC and West Coast ultimately rejected the bid in 2003."They looked at us because of our balance sheet and they thought they could help us build on it." "West Coast chief executive *Trevor Nisbett *
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