Premier Will Hodgman says his government values the deals in place with AFL clubs Hawthorn and North Melbourne, but that shouldn’t extinguish any desire for the state to have its own side in the national competition.
Mr Hodgman was responding to comments made by Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett in a letter to members posted on the club’s website on Wednesday saying the state would be worse off if it had its own side instead of the Hawks playing in Launceston.
"Independent research released earlier this year stated Hawthorn's presence in Tasmania brings in $30 million a year in economic activity and that's before you consider the promotion of Tasmania we deliver,’’ he wrote.
"I fear a Tasmanian team, regardless of how it performs, will negatively affect the hospitality and tourism industry in Tasmania.
“One thing I am sure of, given our considerable efforts over many years, and my continued promotion of Tasmania, is if Hawthorn is not wanted in Tasmania, just tell us and we will go back to the mainland.
“The best Tasmanians can do is embrace the model released by the AFL last month, and use it as an opportunity to build the case for their own AFL team someday.”
Mr Hodgman responded by acknowledging the fact the deals Hawthorn and North Melbourne, which expire at the end of 2021, had delivered “strong social and economic benefits”.
“(But) of course many Tasmanians want a team of our own in the national competition, and I am sure Jeff Kennett, as a former state premier, would respect that,’’ he said.
“We are committed to working with the Tasmanian football community to strengthen local leagues, increase participation and develop a realistic pathway to a Tasmanian AFL team.
“What we need is for the AFL to outline that pathway and to make a case that they can’t knock back.”
Hawthorn will host Brisbane at UTAS Stadium on Saturday from 1.45pm in its last game in Launceston for 2018.