Spotlight on South deal

AFL Tasmania struck a deal with the South Launceston Football Club board to pay its out-of-pocket players $9000 and label it a ``donation''.

Previously secret evidence was revealed yesterday during a parliamentary inquiry into AFL Tasmania's use of taxpayer funds. During what was at times a heated hearing, committee members questioned AFL Tasmania bosses about damning sworn evidence from South Launceston president Rod Patterson in a closed hearing. 

In an email from AFL Tasmania chief executive officer Scott Wade to the South Launceston board, Mr Wade refers to a meeting at which it was agreed AFL Tasmania would make a $9000 payment in cash that ``will in essence become a donation to the players for services to their contributions to the SLFC''. 

Mr Wade said that was not the same thing as paying out players' contracts. 

He had also told the committee that at a later meeting it was commented that should the arrangement ever be discussed outside of the meeting, it would be denied. 

Mr Wade yesterday said he did not recall that comment ever being made. 

Mr Patterson's evidence made in November, confirmed that the reigning premier, which has now been replaced in the Tasmanian State League by the newly launched Western Storm, was on track to breach the league's salary cap by $40,000. 

The issue was discussed at a meeting between the club's board and AFL Tasmania administrators, but the club ran out of money and was unable to pay its players.

AFL Tasmania chairman Dominic Baker said the league would never have allowed South to go over the cap. 

He said the $9000 was  paid to the Prospect Hawks Football Club in the form of a development grant to be used to sign on  former South Launceston Football Club players. 

The sport's governing body receives $500,000 a year from the state government, but it was revealed yesterday that $100,000 has been withheld due to concerns about AFL Tasmania's delays in meeting its obligations under the funding agreement.

 Mr Baker said it was in discussions with the department over obtaining the full amount.

 Earlier, Mr Wade slammed the conduct of the inquiry and described allegations made by people ``with an axe to grind'' as ``unbalanced, inaccurate, misleading and unfair''.  

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