Winners and losers in AFL equalisation plan

The AFL’s budget is quite different from Joe Hockey’s. This one is all about redistribution and is more akin to what you would see in Scandinavia than Australia. The poor have been looked after, and so have the workers (players).

But the rich - who were positioned to lobby the government - have fared better than the middle-classes. Collingwood and West Coast will only be taxed $200,000 more than Geelong, Carlton, Richmond and Essendon, despite significantly higher turnovers.

Hawthorn, too, is in the top tier for paying taxes, which is a tribute to its astonishing growth as a business –  assisted, as it was, by Tasmania, pokies and a fantastic fixture that straddles the MCG and Launceston.

The Hawks resent taxes more than nearly any other club, in part because they are a bootstraps story. The notion they would be classified as rich as Carlton, Essendon and Adelaide would have been fanciful in 1996 when Don Scott was tearing the velcro Hawk off the ‘‘Melbourne Hawks’’ jumper and the fans stymied a merger.

We know which clubs are paying, and how much. As yet, the recipient clubs - St Kilda, Western Bulldogs, Melbourne, Brisbane Lions, North Melbourne and Port Adelaide - don’t know what they’ll get, though there is an expectation they will be close to $1million a year better off. The AFL also says it will fund their increased player salary cap bill.

As expected, Collingwood, Hawthorn and West Coast will be slugged $500,000 from their AFL distribution, compared to Geelong’s $300,000, Essendon’s $280,000 or so, and Carlton’s $250,000-270,000, with Richmond - impoverished not so long ago - also dragging itself in the well-taxed middle-class.

The middle-classes are miffed, though you couldn’t call them angry, since only Geelong - via its sage chief executive Brian Cook - bothered to question treasurer (and now prime minister) Gillon McLachlan about how the revenue sharing formula had been formulated. ‘‘Let’s talk later,’’ he was told.

The players have been significant winners, on a few fronts. First, the salary cap has been boosted by an  aggregate of $300,000 (more than the budgeted increase) over the next two years. Second, the players will get benefit from a revolutionary ‘‘banking’’ system that allows clubs that spend less than the salary cap limit to use that money and exceed the cap in subsequent years.

The banking for salary cap payments was a genuine surprise – no one saw this innovation coming.

As one of the middle-class clubs noted, the poor teams that are paying below the salary cap can splurge in future years, provided they become solvent.

‘‘They’ll have war chests, those poor clubs, if they can find the money,’’ said a middle-class club CEO. The Saints called the banking ‘‘sensible’’.

The luxury tax on football spending isn’t as contentious as the revenue sharing. Even the rich accept it. Only Collingwood is certain to exceed it and pay the tax. Hawthorn is unlikely and West Coast, while it has the cash, has a huge financial commitment to its planned Taj Mahal facility and its board has reservations.

None of the middle-class clubs are expected to pay beyond the football department cap.

The poor win. The middle grumble about taxes. The rich remain so. The players get a fairer shake. For at least a few years, this will be Andrew Demetriou’s last legacy.

This story Winners and losers in AFL equalisation plan first appeared on Brisbane Times.