The battle for control of the shattered Brisbane Lions took another step on Tuesday, with the Fresh Start team, led by breakaway directors Paul Williams and Mick Power and supported by former coach Leigh Matthews, launching its campaign to run the club's off-field operations.
The group, which will challenge chairman Angus Johnson at an extraordinary general meeting set for November 13, is promising to re-engage with the club's disaffected and dwindling supporter base.
With the three men were a number of figures with deep roots at the club dating back to the Brisbane Bears and Fitzroy, including triple premiership player Alastair Lynch, former director and chairman Tony Kelly, and former Fitzroy best and fairest winner Ross Thornton.
Williams said it was “incredibly disappointing” to see the club reach such a low point in its history, and conceded the Lions' brand had been tarnished by the messy power struggle, triggered by the sacking of former coach and club favourite Michael Voss more than two months ago.
“It's a critical time for the club. We need to turn things around very quickly,” Williams said.
But all agreed the bloodletting was necessary, and that an EGM, which has been resisted by the AFL, was now unavoidable.
“I think once the EGM is called, the genie is out of the bottle and can't be put back in,” Williams said. “There are certain resolutions on there [that] now have to be heard.
“The AFL have been consistent through the whole time saying they absolutely do not want to see this end in an EGM, and we'll continue to work with them if we can, but it becomes almost legally impossible once the notice comes out.”
Matthews said the club would be better in the long term. “Change is difficult,” he said. “Whatever group you work in change is not easy, because usually some individuals will lose out, [so] therefore they don't react well.
“It's the end point of the change where you get the benefits; the process to get to the change can sometimes be really difficult. That's life . . . But this club will be a much better football club, and a much more cohesive, united football club after November 13, if not before then.”
He said there was reason to be optimistic about the club's immediate on-field prospects, despite the imminent loss of a number of young players to other clubs.
“The club in July and August looked more competitive than they had been for a number of years,” he said.
Williams said the club needed to work hard to reconnect with its supporters. “Obviously on-field success will help . . . We went through an unprecedented period of success where we were the hottest show in town, and that's dropped off in more recent times.”
AFL spokesman Patrick Keane said the league was continuing to work with all sides to try to broker a resolution to the club crisis, but would make no further comment.