Who needs those prudes from the TAC anyway? Ever since Victoria’s monopoly third party accident insurer started pumping millions into Richmond, one of the great AFL clubs has been stuck in the worst rut of its proud history. There is no other club that can claim only two finals appearances over the past 24 seasons.
The TAC walked away from a 16-year relationship with the Tigers on Friday afternoon as punishment for 19-year-old defender Jay Schulz getting done for speeding and drink driving. Lo and behold, the boys turned it around on Sunday and beat Hawthorn by 14 points to end a 15-match losing streak.
This was the most unsuccessful AFL team since 1982 beating the most successful team over the same period, and for permanently depressed Richmond fans we’ll clutch at anything for a bit of inspiration – even if Hawthorn and Richmond remain the two teams most favoured to take this year’s wooden spoon.
Embattled Richmond president Clinton Casey took issue with media reports about the size of the financial black hole left by the TAC in this statement on Friday. The Tigers had already received $250,000 for this year, and there’s no way the club will be giving that back, so the actual loss might only be about $250,000.
On reflection, it was probably quite a good move for the TAC to dump Richmond because the resulting publicity has very strongly reinforced its road safety message. Even The Age splashed the paper with the saga on Friday, all of which helps Victoria retain its claim to have the safest roads in the world.
This has been enormously profitable for the Victorian government over the years. It has never put a dollar of equity into the TAC, but has extracted almost $4 billion for the state budget since the Richmond sponsorship started. And unlike most monopolies, this one hasn’t resulted in consumers being ripped off because the TAC is a fully funded scheme and has the lowest premiums in Australia. Low claims is the key to this apparent miracle and much of this comes from the huge public education campaigns by the TAC, coupled with the most lucrative and officious speed cameras regime in the world.
Richmond has had a colourful history when it comes to extracting cash from corporates. Back in the days when then CUB boss Pat Stone was a board powerbroker in the mid 1990s, Amcor’s Containers Packaging division decided to give the club about $1.2 million over three years. Strangely, Amcor didn’t seem to want anything in return, so we can only assume they were more than happy with the lucrative packaging contract they enjoyed with CUB. Jim Malone, Richmond’s general manager at the time, told Crikey it was probably the cheapest major sponsorship in the history of global sport.
Richmond’s connection with so-called sin companies goes deeper than CUB because colouful powerbroker Mal Brown stitched up a $1 million deal over four years with Crown Casino founder Lloyd Williams for the signage on the old Punt Rd grandstand roof.
Then you have the $1 million-plus that Alan Bond poured into the club in the 1980s, saving it from imminent bankruptcy. Bondy was briefly president and famously called captain Dale Weightman, Dale Wineman at a major function.
Oh well, we haven’t done much on the field since a streaker helped us lose the 1982 grand final to Carlton, but at least there are some great off-field war stories.