Eddie McGuire has engaged in a fiery dispute with former Brownlow Medal winner and GWS Giants board member Jimmy Bartel over the divisive AFL cost of living allowance. Bartel had been discussing ways in which both the Giants and Sydney Swans felt somewhat left out by the AFL, prompting McGuire to suggest the controversial payment had been used by Swans star Buddy Franklin on 'cleaners or housemaids'.
The cost of living allowance was scrapped in 2017, after the Swans controversially recruited Franklin and former star Kurt Tippett on high-priced free agency deals. Franklin's first contract with Sydney was reportedly worth more than $1 million per season over nine years, ending after their grand final defeat in 2022.
Bartel said some more intelligent fixtures for the Swans and Giants, prioritising the afternoon games he said were more popular among fans in Sydney, would be beneficial. He also called for further investment in grassroots footy in NSW, but when Footy Classified co-host Damian Barrett suggested a return of the cost of living allowance (COLA), Bartel was interrupted by McGuire - who had been a staunch opponent of the payment for years.
Despite calling for a 'mature conversation' over the issue, Bartel was frequently interrupted by McGuire, who said it was clear other clubs didn't need it based on the fact the Swans and Giants had both played in grand finals since it was scrapped, as well as referencing Brisbane's resurgence in recent seasons. After Bartel said McGuire had called to 'tear it down', the former Collingwood president said he had been supportive of it initially, but changed when the Swans lured Franklin up north in 2014.
— Footy on Nine (@FootyonNine) May 3, 2023
“No, I turned. I’ll tell you why, it ended up being how many cleaners or housemaids Buddy Franklin had," McGuire said. "I’m happy for the young players who haven’t got the money to pay, but not getting the extra for somebody on over a million dollars. Don’t rort it and you’ll survive.”
The debate has been brought back into the frame with the new Tasmanian team being officially announced on Wednesday. There have been calls for the expansion side to have extra assistance under the salary cap given the extraordinarily tight rental and property market in Hobart.
The COLA gave the Swans and later, briefly, the Giants, an additional 9.8% of room under the cap, which worked out as roughly an extra million dollars to work with. The increased cost of renting and buying property in Sydney was part of the reason why it was first introduced.
Eddie McGuire fires up over AFL cost of living allowance debate
Bartel said the ongoing opposition to the COLA was rooted in one example of it being exploited, and as such ignored the fact that there is a genuine financial hit for players in Sydney. However McGuire wasn't having a bar of it, saying he had kept largely silent while he was Collingwood president but said now that he was free from that role, he'd speak his mind.
“Don’t say (it'll affect Tasmania) because I’ll tell you what (abolishing COLA) led to, it led to the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne having a chance at winning a flag because equalisation came in and the clubs who you say are vocal were the ones who signed off and came up with the idea to keep everyone going," he said.
"I’m not going to cop this rubbish anymore, I’m not the president anymore I’ll tell you straight what happened. You overbaked the cake and in the end you burnt it.”
The newly announced Tasmanian team will enter the AFL competition in 2028. Outgoing CEO Gillion McLachlan, who will be replaced by AFL lieutenant Andrew Dillon later this year, said the league was hoping lessons learned from the establishment of the Gold Coast Suns and the Giants would get the team established sooner.
“I think we’ve learned a lot about list builds and how we do that work to ensure, I think, probably more immediate success rather than longer term success,” he said. “I think that we have tools and free agency and a lot, we learned a lot about actually how you do that while limiting the impact on the rest of the competition.
“Then in the end, like in our heavily regulated, equalised game, there’ll be the right people in the right spots making the right decisions. I think we will, reasonably quickly and with the support of the clubs, get a set of rules to put the squad together. It’ll be good decision making after that.”
Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.