Outgoing Hawthorn chief operating officer Tim Silvers has told InDaily he’ll run the ruler over the club’s activities, including a previously-flagged review of its recently-implemented non-football activities such as eSports and baseball.
Silvers was announced this week as Adelaide’s permanent replacement for Andrew Fagan, with his long tenure at the Hawks – who in that time rebuilt from cellar-dwellers to powerhouse both on and off the field – a significant selling point.
Hawthorn have also undertaken a major move to a new base at Dingley – which the Crows hope to mimic with their own West Lakes-to-city relocation in coming years.
Silvers said while he’d only “been here five minutes”, the club was already “at the pointy end” of identifying its priority site, with Thebarton Oval among two prospective bases.
“The pressure’s on making the decision – there needs to be a decision on the site in the next few months, so there’s a lot of work to do,” Silvers said.
He said securing the land would be the first major hurdle, “working with relevant stakeholders to potentially cut a deal”.
“At Hawthorn we went through 18 sites,” he said.
“Another obvious major challenge is the commercial part – how do you raise the funds through this? Is there any potential sale of assets that the Crows have?”
The Crows’ only significant saleable asset is its West lakes headquarters, which has a written-down value of around $15 million – but the club doesn’t own the land.
It does however have a lease on the property – currently owned by the SANFL, but set to transfer to developer Commercial & General at an unspecified future date – until 2048.
The Crows also have a $15 million federal grant and will likely be chasing state funds as well.
It’s understood the building project could be downgraded or staggered depending on the finance available.
But with such a significant outlay, the club will be hoping to establish revenue streams in line with the new venture.
“Where I’ve come from, I’ve had a strong focus on what we call ‘non-football revenues’,” Silvers said.
“There are many commercial elements of the club [including] hotels and a sports consultation business.”
The Hawks have been big winners from pokies revenue, at one point owning 165 machines across two venues, the WestWaters Hotel at Caroline Springs and the Waverley at Vegas Gardens.
“I’m not saying we’d necessarily do hotels here,” Silvers said.
Asked whether a hotel purchase could be on the cards, Crows chair John Olsen said it had “been discussed” as an “add-on”, but was “unlikely over the first stage”.
Asked to identify other potential revenue streams, Silvers listed “sports consulting” and “shared service programs”.
“What Hawthorn would provide was shared services for a number of different sporting clubs – including back of house, finance, IT and project management.”
He said hotels, function centres, sports medicine hubs and allied health offerings also “seem to be quite reasonable commercial businesses”.
“They’re not necessarily in the planning [but] I’m coming in with a different lens,” he said.
“I’d review some of the plans and see if we can bring in a commercial element.”
Olsen has previously indicated a stronger football-focus for the club, which under Fagan had branched out into commercial opportunities in eSports and bought the Adelaide Bite baseball team, later rebranded the Giants.
Both those projects are now “under review”.
Silvers said after “24 hours in the seat… I haven’t had a good chance to review them” but added: “Post the COVID environment all elements of the club and business will be reviewed.”
“We’ll be doing a feasibility on all this to ensure we’re a football club first and foremost,” he said, adding the review would question how such investments are “supporting the program”.
“From my end I might try to look at other items we can bring to the club [but] I’ll reserve my judgment for a while there,” he said.
“They do bring in revenue [but] I’d need to do a detailed analysis on that.
“The work needs to be done and a judgement needs to be made.”
He denied the Crows had maxed-out their potential revenues from memberships, saying: “No, if you ever think you’ve maxed out, you’re standing still – you’ve got to find ways to grow membership.”
He said the club enjoyed “amazing support” in SA, but “have they converted all those into members? No, not even close.”
He said the focus would be on “diversifying your membership”.
“What else can we deliver that satisfies members? Let’s be innovative and look at other ways to give a member an experience so they’re satisfied to be part of a club.”
The club also wants to strengthen its connection with members through a facility at its new base, which Silvers insists is a priority: “A members’ hub, if you like – some sort of destination for members to engage with the footy club again.”
“They lost that with the move from Footy Park, so having their own base they can call home seems like a key .”
He said the current West Lakes facility was “not bad, but it’s behind the times, in terms of what other clubs have”.
“If you can provide the best facilities for your players, that gives them the best opportunity to compete against the best,” he said.
Other priorities for the move include improving the current “retro-fitted facilities that don’t quite work” for the women’s team, which would also have their own home ground.
Leaving a 10-team state in Victoria, Silvers says “I see it as an opportunity coming to a town where there isn’t as much competition [and] coming to a team where it’s potentially the biggest brand in the state”.
“The Crows had a tough year last year, we’re all aware of that,” he said.
“We want to get more brands, more companies, more members and supporters on board as we strive to move up towards the top of the ladder.”
The club had a boon today with confirmation former Malcolm Blight Medallist Rory Laird has signed a five-year contract extension to remain with the Crows until 2026.
The 27-year-old was due to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, having last year completed a successful move into the team’s engine room after a career playing off half-back.
It’s understood the Crows expect to announce a raft of key signings in coming days.
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