EXCLUSIVE by Josh Massoud May 24, 2008 http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,23748431-5001021,00.html THE AFL wants to buy ANZ Stadium at Homebush Bay in an audacious bid to guarantee the success of its aggressive push into rugby league's heartland. The Daily Telegraph can reveal the AFL has revived a previously secret $200 million bid for the Olympic Stadium that was rejected last year. The ANZ-led trust which owns the stadium prevailed in early 2007, but it is understood a renewed offer is now being devised as the AFL prepares to launch its western Sydney franchise in 2011. If successful, the move could spell disaster for cash-strapped Sydney NRL clubs that rely on the stadium's generous $100,000-a-game guarantee to prop up their bottom lines. NRL boss David Gallop this week warned Sydney clubs faced extinction because of the crippling effect of the State Government's poker machine tax on their parent leagues clubs. Five Sydney teams currently play home matches at ANZ Stadium, and the venue now hosts 38 NRL games a season. This week's State of Origin opener was also played there. Should the AFL gain control of the venue, rugby league would be faced with a hostile landlord. AFL boss Andrew Demetriou spent half a day at Olympic Park five weeks ago. In company with NSWAFL supremo Dale Holmes, he met Stadium CEO Ken Edwards after taking a full tour of the 80,000-seater the new western Sydney side will call home. When asked this week if the AFL was preparing to buy the stadium, Demetriou responded with a "no comment". But his defeated takeover bid in early 2007 is evidence of the extremes Melbourne-based warmongers are prepared to go to crush the NRL. AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick pulled together a purchase consortium including Westpac Bank to offer about $200 million for the Stadium when it was de-listed in late 2006. A source close to the negotiations said the AFL wanted to replicate its stadia-ownership strategy in Sydney. It has a sizeable ownership stake in Melbourne's Telstra Dome, ensuring turnover from premiership matches staged at Docklands is not lost to the code. "They have an interest in establishing a team in Western Sydney, so it would make sense to buy ANZ Stadium," the source said. "They effectively control the leasehold over Telstra Dome and it's been their business plan to control stadia around Australia. "They wanted to have a similar interest at ANZ Stadium but missed out first time round." While the consortium's bid was attractive to shareholders, it was ultimately hampered by the fact ANZ owned the stadium's $140 million debt. Westpac chiefs were understandably nervous about owning an asset whose debt was controlled by a competitor. David Gallop said an AFL-controlled venue "would be a concern" for league.