Footscray 'Fightback' has lessons for AFL

Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon believes the AFL has learned from the past as it grapples with establishing a new team in Tasmania.


Thirty years on from the 'Fightback' campaign that saved Footscray, Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon doubts the AFL will attempt to relocate a team to Tasmania.

The Bulldogs on Wednesday paid tribute to the 1989 legal battle and fundraising efforts which staved off a merger with Fitzroy.

In the space of a few weeks the club secured a Supreme Court injunction, thousands rallied at Whitten Oval and advocates rattled tins on the streets of the western suburbs, raising more than $1.6 million to help ensure the Buldogs' survival.

Fitzroy went on to merge with the Brisbane Bears in 1996, while North Melbourne survived a proposed relocation to the Gold Coast in the 2000s.

The push to establish an AFL team in Tasmania has gathered momentum with North and Gold Coast spoken of as potential relocation candidates.

But reflecting on the Fightback campaign, Gordon said he doubted the AFL would attempt to again uproot an existing club.

"I don't feel that there's an existential threat to any Victorian clubs, and I don't think there is really for any AFL clubs," Gordon told AAP.

"I think there's a more enlightened mindset now ... both the AFL and importantly the Victorian government recognise what precious assets they've got in the Victorian clubs. They generate huge amounts of wealth, jobs, tourism and sponsorship opportunities.

"When you talk about a new club coming in, it really needs to find $20 to $25 million in non-AFL sourced revenue every year to survive.

"I think frankly, Tasmania could do that on its ear."

The Bulldogs will celebrate the Fightback campaign with commemorative guernseys featuring their old Footscray logo when they host Melbourne in round 17.

In recent years the once cash-strapped Bulldogs have posted profits and paid down debts on the back of a drought-breaking 2016 premiership.

Gordon, whose second stint as president will end in 2021 after a total of 17 years at the helm, said the club owed plenty to those who kept it afloat in 1989.

"I reflect on the fact that we survived and have grown and prospered through some really difficult decades to a period where our value is recognised but we're also self-reliant," he said.

"I think a lot of people in the west can take a lot of pride in that. It was a fight worth fighting and it was a fight I think it's fair to say has been won."


AAP