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AFL keen to work with Libs, Labor on Etihad revamp

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 31: Travis Auld, Chief Financial Officer and General Manager Clubs and Broadcasting of the AFL addresses the media during the 2018 Toyota AFL Premiership Season Fixture Release at the MCG on October 31, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media)

THE AFL is eager to develop the precinct around Etihad Stadium in partnership with either a Labor or Liberal Victorian Government, declaring the Docklands area was an asset for the entire state, not just the League. 

Opposition leader Matthew Guy has pledged to scrap a $300 million plan to rebuild Etihad Stadium and revamp the surrounding Docklands precinct if his Liberal government is elected in November.

Mr Guy has said he would direct all taxpayer dollars committed by the Daniel Andrews led Government to "suburban and country sport", giving voters a clear choice at this year's state election.

AFL chief financial officer Travis Auld said he was yet to see the specifics of those plans, but the League would be open to discussing them with the Victorian opposition. 

"This is an important asset for this state," Auld said on Sunday. 

"It's an asset that has the opportunity to be one of the leading sports and entertainment precincts in this country and we think that's important for the people of Victoria.

"It generates a significant economic benefit and we'd like to push ahead with that opportunity as soon as we could.

"But to have a conversation with the opposition now about their interest in our game is one that we would welcome."

The AFL recently bought Etihad Stadium for about $200 million and has plans to develop the surrounding precinct, including a new retail, hotel and ballroom complex overlooking Victoria Harbour.

Asked if the AFL should fund the development on its own, Auld said: "it's something we want to deal with in partnership".

"We have, as a competition, made a significant investment in acquiring the venue.

"But we haven't acquired it just for sport or just for our code. This is an asset for this town and this state.

"This is an opportunity to open the city up to the water, it's an opportunity to bring addition events to this town, it's an opportunity to grow our footprint as one of the leading sports and entertainment precincts in this country.

"We think we can turn this precinct into a 365-day-a-year entertainment offering and you can see at the moment it's not that."

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Mr Guy said he wanted to redirect the hundreds of millions of dollars earmarked for the redevelopment to community sporting grounds.

He said if the money had not yet been allocated or accepted by the AFL, he would scrap the deal if he became premier in November.

"The priority should be community sports, not big sporting facilities in central Melbourne," he said.

"I think we've seen much of that over the last 20 years, that's great, now the absolute priority should be suburban and country sport."

Auld said the AFL would welcome the opportunity to share its plans for both the Docklands precinct and community football with the opposition.

"We invest a significant amount of money now into grassroots football right around this country, not just this state," he said.

"There are some challenges, there's always challenges at grassroots level, (but) many of those also present opportunities.

"So any conversation we can have that helps grow this game is one that we will welcome."