West Coast chief executive Trevor Nisbett has hit back at WAFL club presidents who suggested the Eagles were not committed to WA football after the AFL scheduled a game to be played on WA Day next year.
West Coast will play Richmond at Patersons Stadium on the first Monday in June, a public holiday which has traditionally generated bumper crowds at the State league’s Fremantle and Perth derbies.
In recent years, games between East Fremantle and South Fremantle on WA Day have generated crowd figures more than four times the WAFL average.
South Fremantle’s Haydn Raitt, the chairman of the WAFL council of presidents, said the WA Day fixtures provided huge financial benefits to State league clubs, worth around $50,000 net profit each game.
He said South Fremantle, East Fremantle, East Perth and West Perth would miss out on the bulk of that profit if the West Coast played on the same day.
East Fremantle president Con Tripi and West Perth’s Brett Raponi said their clubs felt disrespected by the Eagles and described the scheduling of an AFL fixture on WA Day as a “bullet wound” for the WAFL.
They said the financial windfall from bumper WA Day fixtures was “critical” to their financial survival.
But Nisbett rejected their suggestions that the move to play on WA Day meant West Coast was not committed to WA football.
“We are absolutely committed to WA football as a club and our record of contribution, funding, programs and direct assistance to clubs stands for itself,” Nisbett told the AFL website.
“We are assisting the WA Day Committee and the state by finishing WA Day with a major event as requested. We believe the AFL fixture will be a significant event in the future.”
Nisbett said the night fixture, likely to start at 5.40pm, would not clash with the afternoon WAFL games.
But Raitt, Raponi and Tripi predicted that response earlier in the week and said that argument did not stand up.
WAFL games traditionally start at 2.15pm and finish at about 5pm, giving fans little time to go to both fixtures.
“They’re going to use that as an excuse but it’s a big day for us,” Tripi said.
“The whole day is based around the (pre-game) function and then people staying after the event as well. The crowd staying back after the game is just as important and people hang around until late.
“When they (West Cost) say they’ll play it at night, sure enough it will be five or six o’clock. We finish at that time and people will want to be gone at 3.30pm, meaning they won’t attend (the WAFL games).”
The WAFL clubs said there had previously been a verbal agreement that West Coast and Fremantle would not schedule AFL games on WA Day.
Nisbett said the Eagles were not in competition with the WAFL clubs and were seeking to complement an important day on the WA calendar.
“We have always paid our way and contributed to the welfare and prosperity of the (WAFL) competition and believe that is an opportunity to celebrate the game and what it means to all levels of football in this state,” Nisbett said.
“We believe in the WAFL competition and respect all views of the clubs. We are not in competition with the WAFL clubs.”