The AFL recently released its annual report for 2017, which includes a breakdown of AFL money given to all 18 clubs. The 2017 Annual Report is particularly interesting (trust us here) because 2017 was the first year of a new and larger broadcasting deal, where the AFL has fully applied its “enhanced funding model” giving different support to each club based on structurally-determined needs.
This new funding model enables every club to be on a relatively even playing field from a competitive standpoint, both on field and off. The goals of the funding model is to enable every club to pay 100% of the Total Player Payments cap, and to spend a relatively similar amount off field on football related matters. The latter of these measures is known as the football department soft cap, and it is the AFL’s attempt to curb the gap in off field spending between some clubs, which The Australian reported in 2015 (on 2014 data) as being as wide as $4.4 million.
What we see below, then, is basically what the AFL thinks every club needs in order to have a level financial playing field.
The Core Funding Model
The chart above shows the core club funding colour-coded by what seem like the identifiable “tiers” of financial support. This funding is to enable all clubs to pay players and spend a competitive amount off-field.
At the bottom are the rich clubs like Hawthorn and West Coast who get the base amount to cover player payments. Other clubs then receive different levels of extra funding based on how limited their supporter base, stadium deals, commercial arrangements and other financial means. Relative heavyweights like Fremantle, Essendon, Geelong and Adelaide fill out the upper class, while at the other end are the expansion teams followed by Brisbane, the small-market Victorian teams, and Port Adelaide.
Note that the oft-reported figure of $25m distributed to Gold Coast isn’t necessarily that much more than the funding received by some older clubs. A lot of reporting about club finances lacks the pivotal context which is the funding other clubs receive. Just by being in the AFL, every club received at least $12m in core (plus other funding), and most clubs received millions more than that.
The rest of the funding is greyed out and, as we can see, it varies considerably between clubs. This other funding isn’t really a component of financial equalisation.
The lowest-level recipients of these other sources of funding are mostly the northern and western clubs because clubs outside Victoria don’t have many AFL Members and they don’t play at stadia where the AFL collects and then distributes the advertising money.
Prize money boosted Richmond by $1.1m, Adelaide by $600k. The travel subsidy is obviously highest for the Perth clubs and lowest for the Victorian clubs.
We’re not sure how much money clubs receive for running their AFLW teams in general, but the Melbourne Football Club Annual Report says the AFL gave them $273k for AFLW player payments. That report lists Melbourne’s AFLW expense as about $700k, consisting of $300k in player payments and $400k in “team costs”.