Travel bugbear for Dockers, Eagles
Fremantle and West Coast have cried foul over Victorian-based clubs using AFL-subsidised charter flights to travel to Perth for matches – part of an experiment to test the viability of the concept.
Geelong chartered a plane for their game against the Eagles last Saturday. St Kilda will do likewise to play Fremantle on Sunday and had AFL assistance for a charter on their trip to play the Eagles earlier this season.
It is believed both WA clubs raised the issue with the league at a recent presidents meeting.
Fremantle coach Mark Harvey put an edge to Sunday’s clash with the Saints when he raised it again at his press conference yesterday, querying why WA clubs were not the focus of any such experiment.
Harvey said: “It seems to be happening a bit more for the Melbourne clubs – to charter flights here to WA.
“I would have thought the AFL should be looking at something like that, particularly for the WA clubs.”
His comments drew an equally pointed retort from St Kilda coach Ross Lyon.
“Is he ever happy, Harvs? We just look after our own footy club and control what we can control,” Lyon said.
“It’s something that we’re looking into. I’m not sure whether it’s been finalised yet.
“Certainly there’s been some difficulties with flights back on return, so we’re pretty keen to get our players home and in their own beds as quickly as we can.”
Geelong chief executive Brian Cook said the AFL allowed normal travel subsidies for commercial flights and accommodation costs to offset the cost of a charter. He estimated the additional cost to the club at $30,000.
Massage tables and ice treatment areas were set up on the plane to aid player recovery.
Harvey said such arrangements were a clear advantage.
“I am not saying it is unfair. I am saying if they are looking at it for a couple of clubs, let’s look at it for the two longest travelling clubs,” he said.
His comments were echoed by West Coast.
“We are very disappointed that we have been trying to push the charter issue for 10 years and they have decided to experiment out of the east coast rather than out of Perth,” a spokesman said.
“We would still be keen to be involved in future opportunities to charter flights.”
Fremantle chief executive Steve Rosich said the Dockers had investigated chartering a plane for their trip back from Brisbane this season when they faced a six-day break before playing Collingwood.
He believed the Magpies had used a charter to get to Perth for the game.
“In recent discussions we had raised disappointment that this trial has been used for Melbourne-based teams and not Perth-based teams,” Rosich said. “We understand that West Coast are equally disappointed.
“The AFL has advised that the reason for the test out of Melbourne is that the plane concerned is based in Melbourne, so it was more practical to test it in that environment.
“We will continue to liaise with the AFL regarding the possibility of us using a charter flight. We will always look for ways to assist with the challenge of travel. This is one possibility.
“It hasn’t been economically feasible in the past but we hope it becomes feasible in the future.”
An AFL spokesman said St Kilda had been given assistance for one flight.
“The AFL provides a travel subsidy for all clubs who fly to a match, and you work around the travel schedules of our partner Qantas,” he said.
“We obviously try to work with them as much as possible for flight schedules to work with a club’s post-match requirements. For St Kilda’s first flight to Perth earlier this year, we provided them with a $5000 subsidy because there was not a flight that could work for them.
“Separately, St Kilda for their second flight to Perth this year, and Geelong for their flight last week, have chosen to do their own thing and book a charter. Both clubs have paid for that in the entirety.”