Freo s finances to be hit in name of equalisation
Freo's finances to be hit in name of equalisation. Pic: Simon Santi/WA News

Fremantle chief executive officer Steve Rosich concedes his club is now a likely target for AFL equalisation measures after confirmation the Dockers' purple boom triggered by their 2013 grand final appearance has continued into 2014.

Contrary to "bearish" assessments of football in Melbourne, membership, viewership and crowd numbers say the purple haze remains a craze.

The Dockers signed their 48,000th 2014 member on Thursday, a figure almost 4000 higher than the 2013 membership, which was a record.

The current home attendance average of more than 37,000 puts the Dockers on track to test their 2007 season attendance record of about 412,000.

Rosich confirmed the sting in the tail of this is likely to come when the AFL announces measures to financially equalise its competition.

It is now likely both WA clubs will be targeted.

"With equalisation on the horizon it is likely that we will be penalised financially to some degree from that so we must continue to generate a reasonable return to fund operations and invest some back to the AFL," Rosich said.

"There are likely to be two key mechanisms employed by the AFL and one of them is likely to be a financial performance measure, and early indications are that will be triggered for us and we will be a net contributor of funds back to the AFL for equalisation.

"The devil will be in the detail and hopefully the detail is not the devil. Irrespective, our mantra will be to try to continue to perform as well as we can both on and off the football field because there is a connection between the two."

The Dockers have started work on assessing how attendances will be affected when their home games move to the new Perth Stadium at Burswood in 2018. They are optimistic their games will attract crowds of more than 40,000.

"In terms of how far over - that is what we are doing quite a bit of work on at the moment," Rosich said.

He believed the club's total membership for 2014 would settle just short of 50,000 but a new digital membership category which could boost overseas interest, and big increases in interstate membership, suggested 50,000 was achievable next year.

Rosich said the club had led the league for net merchandising returns last season and was on track to be among AFL leaders in that department again.

"On the bigger match days at home it is not unusual for us to generate $100,000 gross sales in merchandise, which is significant and is reflected in the purple that people proudly wear at our home games," he said.

Asked if Fremantle's strong results made a myth out of criticism directed by some at the club's defensive playing style to help explain the sluggish public response to football in Melbourne this season, Rosich said: "There are often subjective comments and not necessarily correct ones.

"Last week's game against Geelong was one of the most entertaining games played this season. There were goals and high marks - potentially a goal-of-the-year contender from Hayden Ballantyne.

"There were many exciting passages of play and a number of tense moments. Viewership, attendance and membership numbers indicate that our brand is growing and our appeal is growing and we are going to work hard to make sure that continues.

"The weight of media and the weight of debate happens in Melbourne so perhaps that is more Melbourne-centric."

The West Australian

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