Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett’s drastic AFL relegation plan slammed

Hawthorn Hawks president Jeff Kennett has been bluntly condemned after proposing a “ridiculous” plan to relegate clubs which do not directly improve the AFL’s financial position.

In an open letter sent to Hawthorn members on Friday afternoon, Kennett argued clubs which don’t meet specific financial targets should be relegated to the VFL. The 72-year-old called for the AFL to prioritise their commercial position in the aftermath of the COVID-19 epidemic.

His comments come after the AFL signed a revised television rights deals with their major broadcast partners, where the average annual cost considerably reduced.

“I hope that in the not too distant future we can agree on a set of KPIs for all clubs, which in part will ensure an improvement for all clubs and the AFL’s financial position,” Kennett wrote.

“The timeline for these KPIs should be three years with an evaluation taking place in the third year of performance. If clubs and their Boards do not meet the KPIs set, they should be relegated to the VFL.

“No longer can non-performance be supported. This is not directed at any club and is only prospective. Emotion alone is not sufficient a reason for non-performance.

“The AFL must take a more commercial view to the conduct of our code.”

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Kennett’s comments came hours before Hawthorn were thrashed by the Geelong Cats at GMHBA Stadium. The Hawks could only manage one goal in the second half of Friday’s match, comfortably losing the one-sided affair by 61 points.

Football reporter Damian Barrett slammed Kennett’s “condescending” remarks on Sunday, labelling the open letter “unnecessary, poorly timed and typically without empathy,” particularly when considering the financial hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic over the past few months.

“Kennett has enough issues of his own at Hawthorn without feeling the need to tell other clubs what they should be doing,” Barrett wrote on AFL.com.au.

“His club’s relocation to a Dingley training base has been paused, and the Hawks’ list is clearly lacking obvious young star talent and reasonably packed with older and questionable talent from other clubs.

“Kennett is right in calling for new financial benchmarks for the 18 clubs, but relegation as a penalty is a ridiculous, club-killing idea.

“Kennett should worry more about the now – specifically Thursday night when the Hawks play Richmond – than the financial workings of his rivals.”

AFL 360 presenter Gerard Whateley also panned Kennett’s remarks on Friday, believing his idea would only result in the death of multiple clubs. Whateley explained there will always be a financial disparity between clubs, which is normal in contemporary sport.

“If you run it to its end, it would see the demise of a couple of clubs in the AFL competition,” Whateley told AFL Nation.

“There’s no other way this plays out, regardless of claiming that we’re all in this together, if you run this to its conclusion, clubs don’t survive.

“There’s absolutely some merit in some of what is said, but there are inherent disadvantages that cannot be overcome within the construct of the competition.

“There are tiers that you simply won’t rise … the battling clubs will always be the battling clubs in the model as it is now, and if you say to them, ‘If you can’t improve your dependency in three years, you’re out,’ a couple of them won’t make it. They just won’t.

“Everybody should be looking to lessen the dependency, but if you put the absolute on it and you put a time frame in place, the only outcome is the death of clubs.”

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