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McGuire's Tassie plan the latest case of footy's powerbrokers failing to 'read the room'

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Failure to "read the room" has been a popular point of discussion in politics since the recent Federal election. Perhaps it's just as relevant in AFL football at the moment, too.

Why? Because there's been more than the odd instance lately of some big "players" in the football world either refusing to hear or wilfully ignoring what others are saying. Particularly when it comes to big picture items like potential new clubs and new venues.

Does it matter? Well, yes it does. Because if these are the people who are helping shape the game's priorities and agenda, there's rightful concern among the fan base that we're going to have the wrong decisions made for the wrong reasons.

Let's call Exhibit A former Collingwood president Eddie McGuire's latest proposal about North Melbourne and Tasmania, "revealed" breathlessly on "Footy Classified" on Wednesday evening.

McGuire wants the Kangaroos to play 11 games in Melbourne and the other 11 in Tasmania with Alastair Clarkson as coach. While they would still be called the Kangaroos, the links to Tasmania would be strong, via a player academy, and football festivals run by the club in the Apple Isle.

McGuire's plan talked about draft concessions, football department soft cap spending exemptions, a leg up for commercially attractive fixtures, and free access to TV streaming platforms for fans.

It was a veritable showbag of treats. With one big problem. That the Tasmanian government, not to mention its football public, have repeatedly and in the strongest possible terms made it clear they are not interested in a transplanted team.

However McGuire dresses it up, and whatever the team is called, that's what this proposal remains. A team not based in the state, which still has a home base on the mainland. It wouldn't be Tasmania's team. And North Melbourne supporters would be absolutely justified in believing it was no longer really theirs, either.

Indeed, far from the seamless blending of two support bases McGuire clearly sees, the far greater likelihood is two disaffected groups suspicious of the rationale behind the concept being foisted upon them.

What part of "we want our own team" does Eddie not get? As for North Melbourne, well, the Roos have spent more than 25 years now since the proposed merger with Fitzroy was scuttled by nervous rival club directors in 1996 fending off various attempts (sometimes even from within) to send them to Canberra, Gold Coast and more recently, Tasmania.

While the club's performance of late has been pretty abject, its financial position and facilities are far better than they have been for much of its history. The Roos are never going to be a "big" club (whatever that means these days), but given the safeguards of an equalised competition, do they have to be?

Exhibit B in the tone deaf stakes, meanwhile, also concerns a Tasmanian team, this time AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan's comment that a new stadium would have to be part of the deal.

"I think Tasmanians would expect that," McLachlan said. Umm, sorry Gil, I'm pretty sure they don't, for a number of obvious reasons.

First and foremost is that Blundstone Arena in Hobart and UTAS Stadium in Launceston, the two grounds currently used by North Melbourne and Hawthorn, are perfectly adequate for the exercise of a start-up AFL club in the midst of modest population centres.

Second is the prohibitive cost ($750 million is a very conservative estimate) at a time the state's economy is struggling and the angst over shortages of housing, hospital beds and healthcare workers is loud.

You'd think that an organisation grappling with its lowest crowds for more than 25 years, the financial savaging COVID has inflicted on the competition, and the changed priorities of a post-pandemic world when it comes not only to expenditure but lifestyle, would tread a little more warily.

Indeed, McLachlan's comments were so obviously tone deaf as to make many wonder whether they weren't a deliberate overstep to soften the blow of a Tasmanian team being officially canned as a concept by the AFL Commission come August.

That would be cynicism of the highest order. As would the idea that McGuire's latest thought bubble is in fact just a red herring to "fire up the masses", bog the Tasmanian team concept down in needless debate and distraction, allowing it to be pushed again into the "too hard" basket, but keeping alive the football discussion, and accompanying media clicks.

But so appalling is the failure to read the room in these cases it's hard to believe both McGuire and McLachlan could get it that spectacularly wrong.

And if they really have? Well, they're lucky that unlike those in Canberra last month, we don't now get the chance to vote them out of the positions they occupy.

*You can read more of Rohan Connolly's work at FOOTYOLOGY