St Kilda CEO Matt Finnis has strongly denied a theory opined by former Saints coach Grant Thomas that appointing a New Zealand-based director is a portent to a permanent international move.
The Saints on Saturday unveiled veteran New Zealand sports administrator and Wellington local Liz Dawson to their board, the first time an AFL club has had a director located overseas.
While suggesting that the relationship between St Kilda and New Zealand was getting stronger, Finnis categorically ruled out relocation.
"New Zealand is a completely immature market compared to say, Tasmania. We're really just that step beyond exhibition games," Finnis said on radio's SEN.
"We are the number-one supported club between Port Melbourne and Portsea, but we haven't even converted those people to be members of our club."
Finnis' comments came after Thomas reiterated his previously stated view that the Saints would eventually play out of the New Zealand capital.
"Looks like my view that Saints will relocate to Wellington NZ just took another step closer. Appointed NZ director who sits on stadium board," Thomas tweeted on Saturday morning.
Thomas first aired his theory last November following St Kilda's first home game in Wellington the previous April.
He contends that the Saints were unwittingly led down a path towards expansion when they agreed to become the leading partner in football's first overseas foray for premiership points.
"It's a certainty, I'm afraid. The imbeciles who made the decision can't see it but it's real and a formality. Twits at Saints got seduced into a revenue stream unknowingly & unaware of AFL global expansion strategy. Fools," Thomas tweeted.
Accused of not adequately supporting the club led to consecutive preliminary finals in 2004 and 2005, Thomas said, defending his view.
"Sitting by idly watching a club I love disintegrate & potentially relocate isn't 'getting behind club'!"
St Kilda agreed to play an annual Anzac Day game at Wellington's Westpac Stadium for six years starting from 2013, with the option to play more games at the venue between 2016 and 2018.
While the 2013 match between the Saints and Sydney drew a healthy crowd if 22,546, only 13,409 attended this year's encounter won by the Brisbane Lions. The AFL partly apportioned the disappointing figure to the fixture's close proximity to the Easter long weekend.
Shortly after the 2013 game, retired AFL chief Andrew Demetriou downplayed the notion that the experiment could lead to overseas expansion. "We don't expect to grow internationally, it's not what we are, we're a bit like the NFL," he said at the time.
The Saints' billed their match against Richmond on Saturday as New Zealand-themed. The promotion involved numerous initiatives including the senior team wearing its Maori-inspired jumper, New Zealand posters being handed to fans pre-game, and a trans-Tasman business forum being held on the boundary line prior to the clash.
Dawson will continue to reside in Wellington, and will sit in on the majority of board meetings via TV-link. She replaces Jack Rush, who was promoted late last year to the bench of Victoria's Supreme Court.