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By 1985 the Sydney Swans were in dire financial difficulty and the Victorian Football League had supported the club to the best of its financial capability. The other clubs were balking and unwilling to pour further monies into Sydney. The experiment was almost over and South Melbourne supporters were preparing for a homecoming. Ongoing funding of the Swans was critical and a white knight was badly needed. In Dr Geoffrey Edelsten the VFL found their white knight. Others considered Edelsten to be a walking wallet; others considered him to be a pigeon; others a patsy. Whatever way it went, Edelsten had the cash and the pizzazz that the VFL and the Swans badly needed.
Contrary to popular belief Edelsten did not buy the Swans. Edelsten purchased a franchise or licence to operate the Swans.
Edelsten leaped in and changed the face of Australian Football. He was approached by the directors of Westeq a publicly listed company to assist them establishing medical centres in Western Australia. They became enamoured with Edelsten’s procurement of the Swans and together with Edelsten’s assistance facilitated an IPO of Powerplay Ltd where Edelsten remained the largest single investor and spent 1 million dollars of his own money.
He remained chairman of the Sydney Swans following the Powerplay listing.
Westeq and Powerplay, with Bob Pritchard responsible for the marketing of the Swans, mismanaged dismally the process. Following Edelsten’s resignation as Chairman of the Sydney Swans, Powerplay went belly up losing more than 20 million dollars and the licence was resumed by the AFL for 1 dollar.
The Swans have been rescued. The VFL coffers have benefited, the VFL is saved, and the AFL is being born. Who needs Edelsten anymore ? But we don’t want to give back any of his money! Any money-recovery action must be headed off.
Millions of dollars are at stake.
Who won, who lost ?
The licence was then purchased by a number of high profile Swans supporters such as the TV personality Mike Willessee who had been criticised for drunk TV appearances. Twelve months after commencement the licence is again rescinded and now Willessee is out (good little money earner for someone).