Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett believes his ongoing stoush with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has cost the AFL club state funding for their new $100 million headquarters.
The Hawks this week welcomed $15 million in federal government funding for the project, which will begin next year.
The club will contribute “in excess” of $30 million for the headquarters, which will include administration, elite training and community facilities.
But Kennett believes his criticism of the Andrews government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has proved extremely costly.
The outspoken Hawks president told News Corp the Victorian government was “playing politics” at the expense of the Dingley community in Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs.
Four rival AFL clubs have received funding commitments from the Andrews government over the past week, but former Victorian Premier Kennett has no regrets.
“There are some things in life that are more important than money,” Kennett said.
“There are principles of good governance and principles of good government.
“There were 800 lives lost through administrative foul-ups and I have no qualms at all about saying someone has to highlight the failings of the government and the inner cabinet.”
Kennett said Hawthorn had been told they were “at the top of the list for getting approval”, but he wasn’t surprised when they received nothing.
“It would be true to say I am disappointed … but the (state) government has decided for reasons of its own that they don’t want to give us the money,” he said.
“I accept this is because of my continued questioning of the government over their handling of the coronavirus (pandemic).
“I understand politics and at times politics can be very vindictive and personal, so I am not complaining. We expect it and we get on with the job.
“They are playing politics against me, but in real terms they are playing politics against the community of the southeast.”
Victorian Sports Minister Martin Pakula refuted Kennett’s claims on Thursday.
“Jeff says a lot of things. It’s not correct. In fact, I caught up with the Hawthorn CEO (Justin Reeves) just last week,” Mr Pakula told SEN..
“The fact is you’ve got a number of those projects that we funded – St Kilda, Carlton a couple of years ago, Essendon, Richmond – all had Commonwealth funding that we were going in with.
“Now I see today that there’s some suggesting that the Commonwealth might announce funding for Hawthorn. That certainly wasn’t the case by the time the budget had come down.
“The other point about the Dingley facility is, it’s a greenfield facility. All of these others are existing facilities, which the clubs are in now.
“The Dingley facility is in my electorate. I’m really keen to see progress there, particularly from the community point of view, and it’ll be considered in the future budget.
“But I wouldn’t take all of (Kennett’s) claims on face value, quite frankly.”
Hawthorn chief executive Justin Reeves holds hope the Victorian government will still chip in and said the club is still working with all levels of government on the project.
“As we stand here today, we don’t have a firm commitment from the state government, but that relationship is really strong,” Reeves said.
“We feel like they’ll be a participant in this project at some stage and hopefully before too long.”
The Hawks’ Kennedy Community Centre – named after club legend John Kennedy Snr, who died in June – will include a base for the club’s administration, as well as its men’s and women’s football programs.
The women’s oval and accompanying pavilion will be key planks in the Hawks’ bid for an AFLW licence.
“It’s been something that we’ve been passionate about for some time and we’ve been working closely with the AFL to make sure that Hawthorn has an AFLW team sooner rather than later,” Reeves said.
“It’s really important for the whole Hawthorn family.
“We expect that we’ll be in the AFLW before long and that we’ll have the best facilities for an AFLW program.”