Media Release: AFL – Stadium Operations Limited (SOL)
Chief Justice Marilyn Warren handed down judgment today on an application by the AFL for a court order requiring SOL to make various agreements available for review by the AFL's lawyers.
Chief Justice Warren found that the AFL is entitled to see some of the agreements to determine whether they were entered into by Melbourne Stadiums Limited (MSL) with the authority of SOL. The agreements will remain confidential – the parties are to agree appropriate confidentiality restrictions.
The dispute arises from a 'User Agreement' entered into by the AFL and SOL in September 1997 to underpin the commercial viability of the construction of Etihad Stadium. The agreement was typical for a 'BOOT' scheme – to Build, Own, Operate and then Transfer the stadium.
The AFL will own Etihad Stadium outright in 2025. Until then, it is held by investors, including superannuation funds, seeking a commercial return reflecting the costs and risks associated with the development, construction and operation of the stadium.
The AFL says that it is considering several claims that it might bring under the User Agreement. It has not yet issued proceedings in relation to any of these claims. If it does, they will be defended by SOL.
Today's order does not affect any of these claims or SOL's defences to them. It does not suggest in any way that Etihad Stadium has to be renamed or that the AFL has any entitlements under the naming rights agreement between MSL and Etihad Airways.
SOL's Chief Executive Officer, Ian Collins, said:
'Our position is simple. We have a deal with the AFL which was negotiated on arms length terms more than 12 years ago and runs until 2025. Both parties are bound to comply with the deal- the AFL User Agreement – and, for our part, we will continue to do so. We respect the AFL's position as our largest customer and the ultimate owner of the stadium. If the AFL wants to negotiate a variation of the deal we are happy to listen, but any new deal obviously needs to offer mutual benefits.'
Mr Collins is currently overseas and is unavailable for further comment at this time.
25th June, 2009 - For immediate release