Crows eye state govt funding for ‘world class’ Thebarton HQ

Crows chairman John Olsen says that building the Adelaide Football Club’s new home at Thebarton Oval will likely cost up to $100m – $15m more than first anticipated – but there have been “really good discussions” with the state government about funding help.

Mar 02, 2023, updated Mar 03, 2023
Crows chairman John Olsen says his club will be "borrowing to our maximum" to fund its new Thebarton base. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily, Image supplied Adelaide Football Club/City Collective. Composite image: Tom Aldahn/InDaily

Crows chairman John Olsen says his club will be "borrowing to our maximum" to fund its new Thebarton base. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily, Image supplied Adelaide Football Club/City Collective. Composite image: Tom Aldahn/InDaily

Speaking to club members at the Adelaide Football Club’s annual general meeting last night, Olsen announced a $2.63m statutory profit for the financial year ending October 31, 2022 – the club’s second successive profit after a $1.24m gain in 2020-21.

He also announced that former Heart Foundation SA/NT chief executive Imelda Lynch had won the club’s four-way board election with 36.6 per cent of the members’ vote.

The club’s profit comes off the back of a 14 per cent increase in revenue – from $48.1m to $55m – with Olsen attributing the result to growth in membership, ticketing, sponsorship and hospitality areas.

The result means the club is now debt-free “two years ahead of schedule” after paying off a $6m line of credit it secured from Bendigo Bank during the pandemic.

But Olsen warned the club would soon be borrowing “to our maximum” to fund the Crows’ move from West Lakes to a new “world class” headquarters at Thebarton Oval.

“We’re mindful of the time this project is taking, particularly with costs escalating on a monthly basis,” Olsen told members.

“The project that we originally announced was $85 million – well, it’s going to be north of $85 million, it’s heading towards something like perhaps $100 million by the time we get there.

“I want to stress that it’s important that we are in this strong financial position because we will be borrowing to our maximum to enable us to build a new headquarters.”

Chairman John Olsen speaking to Crows members at the 2023 AGM. Photo: livestream

The federal government is contributing $15m to the project, while Olsen said the club is seeking $10m from the AFL. The club is due to meet with the AFL next Friday.

Olsen also said there continued to be “constructive” negotiations with the state government about potential funding.

“We’ve had discussions with the South Australian Government, they’ve been ongoing for a considerable period of time,” he said.

“They’ve been really good discussions I’d have to say, and you couldn’t fault the discussions to date, but it’s when the rubber hits the road and when the actual amount (is decided) – and we’re working our way through that with the government.”

The Thebarton Oval project is in its second stage of community consultation. It has encountered significant backlash from residents in the City of West Torrens due to concerns about public access to the precinct and the terms of the Crows’ proposed 42-year lease of the 9.1 hectare area.

The project’s masterplan, which features two ovals, a standalone AFLW facility, an “interactive museum”, café and a new council community hub, is subject to input from a Masterplan Advisory Group comprising residents, councillors, council officials and club representatives.

An artist’s rendition of the Crows’ proposed Thebarton HQ at night. Image: supplied/Adelaide Football Club and City Collective

Olsen said the club hopes to have the project completed by 2026.

He also said the club believes it has the capacity to service a debt “towards $20 million” for the project.

“Don’t hold me to it because we have an escalation in costs – costs are going up about 10 per cent a year,” he said.

“We’re going through a process of community consultation, and the longer that takes, of course, the greater the impact.”

Crows members back Lynch for board position

Former Heart Foundation SA/NT chief executive Imelda Lynch was elected as the fourth woman on the Adelaide Football Club’s board.

Lynch won 36.6 per cent of the vote from members, ahead of former Commissioner for Aboriginal Engagement Dr Roger Thomas (29.4 per cent), Aboriginal engagement consultant Shouwn Oosting (23 per cent) and former Flinders Private Hospital general manager Angela McCabe (11 per cent).

Imelda Lynch. Photo: LinkedIn

Lynch, who retired from the Heart Foundation in 2021, is now chair of the Glenelg Golf Club and a board member with the Australian Medical Research Advisory Board, ACH Group, Bellberry Limited and the Macular Disease Foundation of Australia.

She replaces member-elected Crows director Rod Jameson, who chose not to stand for re-election.

Club-appointed director Warren Randall, a board member since 2020, had his term on the board extended for three years at last night’s general meeting.

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The club also formalised introducing term limits for directors, a move Olsen said was unanimously endorsed by the board.

The change means member-elected directors will be limited to eight years on the board, equivalent to four two-year terms.

Board-appointed directors will be restricted to 12 years, equivalent to four three-year terms.

Crows legend Mark Ricciuto (appointed 2014) and SAPOL assistant commissioner Linda Fellows (appointed 2015) are first in line to depart the board under the new limits.

Crows plan for premiership, 100,000 members by 2027

Crows CEO Tim Silvers outlining the club’s new strategic plan. Photo: livestream

Adelaide Football Club CEO Tim Silvers also unveiled a new strategic plan for the club at last night’s general meeting.

Called “Earn the Pride”, the five-year plan targets:

  • An AFL premiership by 2027.
  • “Sustained success” for the women’s team and a fourth AFLW flag.
  • A membership tally of 100,000 (up from 63,099 currently).
  • Full relocation of the club to Thebarton Oval by 2026.

The plan for a premiership comes as the club endures the longest AFL finals drought in its history. The men’s team finished 14th last season and missed September action for a fifth season in a row.

This year marks 25 years since the club’s last flag in 1998.

“Our players and coaches and staff have a clear vision of what they must do and they will be measured against it,” Silvers told members.

“The AFL is tough. It’s an even comp underpinned by equalisation measures.

“That said, it’s been far too long since we held up the cup.”

Silvers said the club’s membership tally was at a “near record level” of 63,099, up five per cent from the previous year.

But he said the club needed to convert more of its existing fans to members to reach the 100,000 target by 2027.

“Our metrics show that we have in excess of 900,000 supporters,” he said.

“We now need to convert more of them into members by creating new offerings and value propositions that reflect our modern day lifestyles,” he said.

“We’re targeting the next generation of Crows fans and members.”

He also said the club’s move to Thebarton “can’t come quick enough” as the project would “future proof our asset base”.

The Crows’ 2023 AFL season kicks off against the GWS Giants on Sunday, March 19.

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