Ditch AFL bid: clubs

Several TFL clubs are expected to ask the league's hierarchy to shelve plans for an AFL stadium and team at Monday's general meeting in Hobart.

Clubs indicated yesterday that they believed general manager Roger Hampson and chief commissioner Michael Kent were too focused on the AFL bid to the detriment of the local competition.

There is also a strong view that Tasmania will never get a team in the AFL and that building a $30 million stadium in Hobart could not be justified.

That view was reinforced by Tuesday's AFL annual report, which was pessimistic about Tasmania's chances, especially without a ground or long-term financial backing from the State Government.

There is growing feeling that Tasmania would be better served by a Northern and a Southern team in the VFL _ a topic which will be high on the agenda when VFL officials meet the TFL in Hobart next month.

A revamped VFL competition will absorb the AFL reserves in the year 2000 and current VSFL under-18 teams will be linked to respective VFL clubs, leaving the Tassie Mariners and the ACT Rams without a parent club.

The VFL task force is headed by former AFL tribunal boss Neil Busse.

North Launceston and Clarence have made no secret of the fact that they harbour ambitions to play at a higher level.

Linking a Northern and Southern Mariners-type under-18 team to both clubs is also seen as realistic.

North Launceston is clearly behind the current TFL structure but the club believes it would be stupid not to explore the VFL option.

There is also a belief that for a fraction of the cost being considered for the $30 million Elwick stadium both North Hobart and York Park could be upgraded to VFL standard and be the football focus in both regions.

The AFL has openly said that second teams in Sydney and Queensland are priorities and a syndicate is already preparing a bid for the ACT.

The AFL has consistently raised doubts about Tasmania's ability to compete at the top level.

In its annual report released on Tuesday the AFL said: "The commission also has real doubts about the ability of the Tasmanian market _ population 450,000 _ to support financially a team in the AFL competition where the larger clubs are already generating up to $14 million a year in revenue."