Sport AFL Saints agree to continue AFL’s China experiment

Saints agree to continue AFL’s China experiment

Saints CEO Matt Finnis
Saints CEO Matt Finnis is excited about playing in China. Photo Getty Images
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The AFL’s China experiment will continue with St Kilda announcing that it will play Port Adelaide in Shanghai in 2019.

The Saints have agreed to a three-year deal that involves the AFL, Port Adelaide and the Victorian state government. Port has played two previous games in Shanghai against the Gold Coast Suns.

St Kilda have sold the rights to its home games to Port Adelaide with the first encounter penciled in for Sunday June 2 next year.

Saints members will still have access to 11 games at their home ground at Marvel Stadium in a deal with another tenant club.In a press statement, St Kilda CEO claims the offshore match was an important opportunity for the club.

“When you combine the partnerships we have negotiated with Port Adelaide and the Victorian Government, the benefits of playing in China were overwhelming,”

“This is an opportunity that will significantly strengthen the club on so many levels.” Finnis said.

St.Kilda and Sydney Swans in Wellington in 2013
The Saints and Swans in Wellington, 2013

The Saints CEO claimed the agreement would see the club work to grow trade ties with Chinese businesses as well as investment into the Victorian economy.

This is not the first time St Kilda has played international fixtures in an attempt to find new revenue streams.

The deal is believed to be worth around three million dollars over the term of the agreement which Finnis said will help the club increase investment in its football department. St.Kilda recently agreed to a revamped stadium deal which it believes will provide a significant boost to future revenues.

The Saints played three games in Wellington, New Zealand, between 2013-2015. The club had been searching for a suitable venue in Auckland to continue Kiwi campaign but those plans have now been shelved.

“We are proud to have been the first club to take a regular season match abroad, but the reality is that if New Zealand is to work, then a suitable venue in Auckland is required,” Finnis said.

“Despite ongoing dialogue over the past two years, it’s apparent that a home for AFL matches in Auckland is still some years away, but we will continue to support their plans in conjunction with the League.”

The Saints have been wrestling with a ballooning debt in recent years that has been compounded by disappointing results on field and the cost of the relocation back to its old home base at Moorabbin.

In March of this year AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said that the club’s debt, which had tipped over $10 million, was a concern.

“St Kilda have dealt with a whole series of challenges, but it’s incumbent on them now to get their P and L (profit and loss) working,” McLachlan said at the time.

Finnis insists the commitment to playing in China will bring considerable returns for the club.

“The backing of our players and coaches, the ability to invest immediately into our football program and the potential for short, medium and long-term commercial growth makes playing in China a very attractive proposition.”