The state government's recent ultimatum to the AFL is "quite appropriate", says Tasmanian AFL taskforce chairman Brett Godfrey.
More than a year has passed since the taskforce handed down its business plan - a 267-page document illustrating how a Tasmanian team could viably become the league's 19th team as early as 2025.
A genuine response from AFL headquarters has not been forthcoming, prompting Premier Peter Gutwein to send a letter last week threatening to drop both the Hawthorn and North Melbourne deals should the state not be given a timeline for its own team.
Godfrey said while the arrival of coronavirus in March last year rightly relegated Tasmania's bid to the bottom of the AFL's to-do list, enough time had passed to expect a response.
"We completed our work over 12 months ago and I believe we needed to be quite respectful of the realities that the AFL were finding themselves," Godfrey said.
"The taskforce had to accept that the league had a monumental priority to deal with in 2020, that despite the validity of a Tasmanian AFL club, it did not need our added noise during last year.
"Having said that, I think 2021 is going to be the sequel to 2020 and while we've waited 30 years, I don't think the game in the state can afford to wait much longer for a AFL vision for Tasmanian football.
"We believe that what the Premier has done by issuing his response with regards to North and Hawthorn is simply necessary to bring the issue to a head."
Mr Gutwein's letter comes at a critical time for football in Tasmania.
Hawthorn and North Melbourne are both entering the final year of $20 million, five-year deals to play matches in the state, with both clubs keen to strike new deals moving forward.
Crowd numbers for Tasmanian AFL games have been trending downwards in recent years, with average attendances dropping at UTAS Stadium from a peak of 17,528 (2008) to 12,578 (2018) and at Bellerive Oval from 15,649 (2016) to 9882 (2019).
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Grassroots participation also appears to be stagnating as soccer and basketball experience widespread growth, while a handful of the state's most talented young players have moved interstate this year to pursue AFL careers.
Godfrey said any response from the AFL - negative or affirmative - would allow the state to move forward.
"What Tasmania has clearly and reasonably been asking for a more a generation now is the right to participate," he said.
"Never demanding today or tomorrow, but it simply sought a vision, a line in the sand, an honest statement of its contribution and rightly its inclusion by the guardian of the sport - the AFL.
"Without this vision, we will continue down the same rabbit hole with the same result.
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We have independently evidenced that fans are diminishing in both numbers and interest and young boys in particular aren't picking up the Sherrin like they used to.
"So in a nutshell all we're really saying, and I think what the Premier is being very clear on, is why on earth would we continue to fund the game with the dollars that we have available today if you don't address the root cause and give us the courtesy of a response or a solution?
"We may not like the response - in which case the :Premier has made it pretty clear that if it is a 'no' to a Tassie team, then we've probably got better ways to spend Tasmania's limited dollars.
"I believe what he's saying is that despite the fact that both the Hawks and North are good for the state's economy, strategically and sadly, they have overseen a clear period of demise in the game in the state."
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