Hats off to David’s AFL skill

IN THE six years David Hatt has been general manager of the Fremantle Dockers, the club has recorded a trading surplus of between $1.2 million and $2 million a year.

In fact, the Dockers recorded the fourth highest revenue of any AFL club for the 2000 season.

Not bad, when in 2001 an Australian Football League club will need to turn over about $17 million to stay afloat.

When the Dockers first took the field in the 1995 season, the salary cap was $1.5 million. Thanks to the AFL Players Association, this year’s salary cap is $5.5 million.

“We have a very complicated collective bargaining agreement. It looks after the players and guarantees them a share of the cake. Football costs have risen accordingly,” Mr Hatt said.

Besides player payments, clubs have to employ support staff such as doctors, nutrionists and physio therapists.

The Dockers also have full-time recruitment and welfare people to look after young players when they arrive.

“In a lot of instances we’re getting boys who are doing the equivalent of their TEE in Victoria who have never left home before. It’s very difficult for them to cope,” Mr Hatt said.

“We’re giving players life and employment skills.”

The Dockers also gave more than $2 million this year to its owners, the WA Football Commission, to help improve the WA football system.

Mr Hatt said other AFL clubs had been pursuing non-core businesses such as travel agencies to bring in revenue.

“We’re not ready for that yet. Our priority is to be better on the football field.”

Mr Hatt said the club’s finish above the West Coast Eagles on the AFL ladder certainly helped.

The Dockers’ main revenue comes from corporate support such as signage, corporate boxes and sponsorship so on-field success is important. Membership also plays a big role.

Mr Hatt said the club faced a 50 per cent price rise this year due to the GST and its three extra fixtures at Subiaco Oval.

For the past five years the Dockers have played eight games at Subiaco and three at the WACA Ground throughout a season. Now the WACA is no longer an AFL venue.

The club has about 220 corporate hospitality facilities ranging from top-class boxes to open private boxes more attuned to small business people.

Mr Hatt said it was not good business practice for a club general manager to become involved with the day-to-day running of a football team.

“It’s almost certainly a recipe for disaster,” he said.

Mr Hatt became involved with the Dockers during his time as CEO of the Department of Town Planning and Urban Development.

His pre-Dockers career spanned public sector roles in planning and sport and recreation.

Mr Hatt was approached by the WA Football Commission to conduct population shift surveys and the feasibility of a second AFL team.

Besides his involvement with the Dockers, Mr Hatt is a keen hockey and tennis player.

In 1993, the former WA hockey representative managed the Australian Hockey Team on its undefeated tour of Europe and again in its 1994 test series against India.

He was a commissioner of the Australian Sports Commission from 1988-96.

Mr Hatt’s other passion is sports research. He is chairman of the AFL’s Research and Development Board.

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