Gold Coast chief executive Mark Evans has hit back at suggestions his club should be sacrificed as the AFL attempts to secure its financial future during the coronavirus crisis.
The Suns have required tens of millions of dollars of AFL assistance since joining the competition, leading critics to suggest the Queensland club is a financial drain the league could do without in tough times.
Former Fremantle and St Kilda coach Ross Lyon - who has recently entered the media as an expert commentator - claimed scrapping the Suns to create a 17-team AFL could save the competition.
But Evans said Gold Coast was one of four clubs in Queensland and NSW that would be vital to the AFL's financial fightback.
"No one in this world would suggest reducing the amount of TV content for right now," Evans told reporters on Thursday.
"But into the future, no one in this world who has an eye for economics would talk about reducing the market where there are 13 million people.
"Why would you walk away from that?"
Evans said the AFL's investment in the Suns and community football in Queensland was paying huge dividends through participation numbers in Queensland.
He has been buoyed by recent comments by AFL chairman Richard Goyder and chief executive Gillon McLachlan, as well as Collingwood president Eddie McGuire, that indicated the league is committed to ensuring all 18 clubs survive the financial crisis.
"For them to say that publicly has been very pleasing for us," Evans said.
Many leading industry figures, including current senior coaches, have expressed concern about whether the "smaller" clubs can survive.
Debt-ridden St Kilda is arguably the most vulnerable in the game's heartland.
On Wednesday night, Lyon told Footy Classified he thought the AFL should consider abandoning the Suns project or putting the club into hibernation until the league is back on its feet.
"The blockbuster teams - the big clubs - draw it in and really fund the game," Lyon said.
"If we look at the expansion teams, and I admire what has been done with Gold Coast and GWS.
"But I think it might be - if we just drill into Gold Coast - are they, for what we've pumped in, are we getting return on investment there?
"And are foundation clubs maybe missing out and under real pressure now?"