THREE former Fremantle mayors have blasted the Dockers for trying to squeeze money out of the council after giving years of financial and political support to the club.
The Dockers are moving to a new $109 million HQ in Cockburn next year, but are allegedly asking for around $4m to surrender their civic lease for Fremantle Oval, primarily for the clubhouse building.
Peter Tagliaferri, Fremantle mayor from 2001-2009, said over the years the city had given the dockers a slew of financial breaks, including a $2m interest free loan and a 50-year peppercorn lease.
“This is a serious case of double-dipping and a major slap in the face for the city,” he says.
“We basically subsidised the club when it was starting out and helped get it on its feet
“Now the club are deserting the city decades before their lease expires, and to add insult to injury, are asking for compensation.
“This is just another example of how football is becoming corporatised and all about money; not community spirit.”
In the mid-1990s the football commission was keen on locating the Dockers at Subiaco Oval, but former mayor Richard Utting says the city sprang into action and fought the club’s corner.
“I remember when the commission forbade any protest by clubs, so the city organised a protest at the Esplanade on the Dockers behalf,” he says.
“Around 12,000 people turned up and it was pivotal in allowing the club to be based in Freo.
“So we’re not just talking financial support here from the city, we really fought the Dockers corner in the early days, but now it’s all forgotten about and money talks.”
Jenny Archibald, Fremantle mayor in 1994 when the Dockers were founded, also agreed it was unreasonable for the club to be seeking compensation after everything the city had done for them.
The Dockers declined to say how much their clubhouse cost to build and how much they had contributed.
“The Fremantle Football Club and the City of Fremantle are having ongoing discussions about the future of Fremantle Oval,” says Dockers CEO Steve Rosich.
“Given those discussions are ongoing it is not appropriate to comment further at this time,” Mr Rosich said.
Chris Lewis, one of the founders of Keep Freo in Freo, says that many of the materials for the clubhouse and building expertise were originally donated by supporters and benefactors.
He has written a Thinking Allowed on the tussle between Fremantle council and the Dockers on page 5.
by STEPHEN POLLOCK