The AFL is facing an investigation by the Western Australian auditor-general over potential breaches of the state’s Anzac Day Act.
WA Veterans Minister Joe Francis has accused the AFL of profiting from Anzac Day football matches involving the Fremantle Dockers.
Mr Francis is concerned that the league is not meeting its obligation to provide financial support to war veterans and their families.
“Anzac Day was not designed so the AFL could create an event out of it,” Mr Francis told The West Australian.
The WA government is worried that the AFL has been short-changing the Anzac Day Trust on its share of the proceeds from Fremantle matches in recent years.
Under special legislation known as the Anzac Day Act, the AFL is required to distribute 60 per cent of any match profits from sporting events staged on April 25.
Despite big attendances at commemorative games involving Fremantle in recent years, the AFL has been remitting average payments of only $15,000.
The Anzac Day Trust directs the cash to charities that assist war veterans and their dependents.
The AFL is under pressure to explain why the payments are so low after the WA Auditor-General Colin Murphy found that there was no way of gauging whether the league had met its statutory obligations because it had not provided sufficient information.
University of Western Australia historian and former marketing consultant Jo Hawkins wants the AFL to give a breakdown of the profits that it retains from commemorative Anzac matches.
“Trying to trade on the Anzac commemoration is very risky,” she said.
“If Australians are uncomfortable about how brands try to appropriate Anzac there’s usually a controversy.”
Pies use Anzac Day to flog tickets
A storm might also be brewing over the Collingwood Football Club’s marketing tactics after the AFL declared the traditional Anzac Day clash with Essendon a “sellout” to the general public earlier this month.
While members of the public have not been able to buy tickets to the highlight fixture since March 20, the club is continuing to guarantee entry for anyone prepared to stump up $200 for a so-called “Anzac Day Package”.
The offer gives purchasers access to the commemorative encounter and two other home matches later in the season against two lower rung clubs, Melbourne and Greater Western Sydney.
An inspection of the Ticketek event bookings website shows that reserve seating for the Melbourne and GWS matches is available at $35 each.
This means Collingwood is charging football fans up to $130 to attend the Anzac Day match.
While the club has added a bumper sticker and a couple of magazines to plump the offer, it appears that it is leveraging the Anzac commemoration game to maximise attendances for home fixtures against clubs that have been struggling to draw crowds.