ST KILDA's bid to keep Ross Lyon as senior coach at the end of 2011 was ultimately foiled by a cashed-up Fremantle's ability to offer him substantially more money, Saints director Andrew Thompson says.
Lyon led St Kilda to three Grand Finals (including the 2010 draw and replay) in five seasons at the club, but controversially left at the end of 2011 to replace contracted Fremantle senior coach Mark Harvey.
Thompson told Fox Footy's On The Couch St Kilda had offered Lyon a new four-year contract, but said the Saints had been unable to compete financially with a wealthy club like Fremantle.
"This probably comes down to the inequality of the teams within the AFL. You've got powerful teams interstate who can pay coaches substantially more than what some of the clubs in Victoria can pay," Thompson said on Monday night.
"There was no doubt money was an aspect of it.
"He loved the players, the players liked him, so I don't think there was ever going to be a stage where he really wanted to go until it got to that point where he got a big offer at the last stage.
"We thought we had a deal with him in that last week."
Thompson conceded the Saints had "changed the goalposts" during their contract negotiations with Lyon during the 2011 season, but said that Lyon had too, pointing out that the coach had changed his manager during that year.
However, former Saints football manager Greg Hutchison told On The Couch he thought St Kilda could have kept Lyon as coach.
Hutchison initially said questions about whether the Saints could have avoided Lyon's departure to Fremantle should be directed to then-Saints CEO Michael Nettlefold.
But when pressed Hutchison, who was Saints football manager from 2008-2013, said that although he was "not close" to the contract negotiations between Lyon and Nettlefold he believed St Kilda should not have lost the coach.
"My view was that I thought it could have been avoided," Hutchison said.
"It should have been avoided, he's an outstanding coach.
"In hindsight, if he was still there now would the Saints be in this position (last on the ladder after round 15)? I'm pretty sure they wouldn't be."
Thompson said the decision to replace Lyon with Scott Watters had been a mistake.
Watters led the Saints to ninth with a 12-10 record in his first season in charge, but was sacked at the end of last season after a 16th-place finish.
"I suppose any time a coach gets moved on it's a mistake, particularly after two years," Thompson said.
"But you judge people on how they perform in interviews (and) we were just short of making the finals in his first year.
"But things unwound a little bit in his second year of coaching and the decision was made to move him on."