Sport Minister Terry Waldron has urged football leaders to proceed with "great caution" in any talks over the future of the licence structures of the two WA-based AFL teams.
The West Australian revealed yesterday that West Coast and Fremantle would use the visit to Perth of the AFL Commission over the weekend to trigger fresh talks on removing the WA Football Commission from their licence structure, enabling them to deal directly with the AFL on all matters.
An AFL spokesman yesterday indicated that the league's chief executive, Andrew Demetriou, would wait until he had met WA football leaders before commenting on the issue.
Demetriou is expected to hold a media conference on Monday.
The AFL has previously stated its preference for all clubs to hold the same licence structure. It is moving the same way in South Australia, where Adelaide and Port Adelaide's licence arrangements are set to come under scrutiny before the end of the year.
West Coast chairman Alan Cransberg said a change in the licence structure would remove a "layer of bureaucracy" for the clubs, allowing them to be run more simply and efficiently.
Fremantle counterpart Steve Harris has confirmed his club is "aligned" with the Eagles on the issue and both clubs have promised that at least maintaining or increasing income streams to the WAFC from the AFL clubs was a must in any proposal to be negotiated.
Waldron, a former WAFC employee, said the issue was a football matter but he had first-hand experience of the critical role the WAFC played in football development in the State.
"This is a matter for football, although I am very much aware of the great development programs that the WA Football Commission has in place," he said.
"I know they will have talks and I have read the comments made by the Eagles and the Dockers.
"But if they are to proceed I think they need to proceed with great caution. The development programs and the funding of those development programs in WA is crucial to football and we must make sure that is guarded.
"If it can be improved, that is fantastic. It is a decision for football but in my talks with football, and I have also made that clear to the AFL, that if any such situation was to take place that the career path and development programs and the funding, that must be maintained.
"And it is not just about money. That is one thing and an increase in funding from the AFL would be fantastic, but we must also safeguard the processes and the way it has operated in Western Australia.
"Having been involved in that myself, from the very bottom right through to higher levels, I know how crucial it is."
"The funding of those development programs in WA is crucial to football and we must make sure that is guarded."" Sport Minister *Terry Waldron *