In a wide-ranging interview, Colless launched a broadside on the management of clubs in both Victoria and Queensland ahead of what he believes will be the removal of the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) provided by the League.
The 9.8 per cent COLA the Swans and GWS receive is being reviewed by the AFL Commission, with chairman Mike Fitzpatrick recently stating a decision on its future will be made in the coming months.
Colless understands, however, the decision has been made "informally" for it to be scrapped.
"Unfortunately what I'm hearing is Cost of Living is not going to get up and I think it's an act of economic vandalism," Colless, who ended his two decades at the helm of the Swans in December, told AFL.com.au.
"It's a decision made by people who are driven by partisan clubs and don't have the ticker … it's a decision that an independent board should've made, regardless of advice they were going to get, which was basically from Melbourne and Perth football professionals."
The Swans are copping heavy criticism for their ability to sign Kurt Tippett and Lance Franklin, moves that were ratified after extensive AFL investigations.
But it's all a bit rich to Colless, who has a major issue with the criticisms levelled at the Swans considering, in his opinion, the poor practices and decisions made by some other clubs.
He also says it's a key reason why he decided to end his successful tenure at the Swans.
"To cop what we've copped – that what we're doing (by signing Tippett and Franklin) is bad for the game – and yet during the 90s we were losing our first-round draft picks for next to nothing," Colless said of the time when the likes of Anthony Rocca, Shannon Grant and Darren Gaspar left to return to Melbourne.
"No one said a thing because that was Sydney back then and you just went and raided them.
"There is a thing called karma that comes around and maybe this was the football gods putting a bit of balance into things.
"I can understand (criticism of COLA) if you don't know the rules, but the truth is this has been a very partisan exercise and I find it quite dispiriting.
"And yet other clubs, clubs that have squandered opportunities, that are now incurring millions of dollars of losses, are being propped up.
"Melbourne gets two-and-a-half million dollars a year, and has been getting it for quite some years, because it's incompetent.
"Look at St Kilda. Look at Brisbane.
"St Kilda three years ago was probably the hottest team in the competition.
"They screwed their coach (Ross Lyon), but painted the picture that it was actually the other way around.
"They wanted his contract their way – it was three years, but they could get rid of him after six months.
"So Ross said 'I'd like a bit of that as well' and no sooner had he put pen to paper, than Fremantle swooped.
"The Brisbane team (that won flags between 2001-03) was the best team, perhaps ever. They were invincible.
"And they appoint a coach with no experience (Michael Voss), reviews are undertaken by people with no experience, there's no directors with any background, they trade all their youth for mature-age players, and then they lose a whole heap of players that don't want to stay there any longer.
"But there doesn't seem to be a raising of eyebrows to any of those things.
"So that's why I thought it was better I got out."
During those same periods, the Swans won two flags, missed the finals just once and have generally been financially stable.
"I think a little bit of credit for good list management and good overall management wouldn’t go astray," Colless added.
"But that's the least of our worries. I think you just get on with it and there's no point moaning and groaning."
There is a clear perception outside of NSW, stated by a number of key figures in the game, that the Swans were able to add Tippett and Franklin directly as a result of COLA.
In October last year, Eddie McGuire labelled the cost of living "a straight-forward rort" in an interview with Fox Footy's AFL360 program.
But Colless was keen to point out the Swans haven't been the only club adding mature recruits to a successful side.
"Let me this put to you," Colless said, "Hawthorn won a flag in 2008.
"You look at the players they've added to their list over the last five or six years.
"(David) Hale, Brian Lake, Shaun Burgoyne, Jack Gunston, (Brent) Guerra – every year they add a mature player to enhance their list who isn't going to come cheaply.
"I'm not for one minute suggesting they're doing anything untoward, but I think it's a case (with the Swans) of 'give a dog a bad name'.
"(The Swans) get lumbered with a reputation of getting handouts. Eddie (McGuire) has been unmerciful and there's been a lot of stuff, which I think has been really bad for the game, where people publicly almost slander you.
"People would say 'you've brought it on yourself'. I'd say the rules are the rules."
Colless had much more to say, warning the AFL about the threat posed by a cashed-up NRL and stating his belief the Giants have already abandoned western Sydney and won't be self-sustainable any time soon.
He was also relatively glowing in his assessment of Andrew Demetriou, even defending him over the infamous 'ugly ducklings' tag that emerged in 2005.
Richard Colless Q&A
Now that he's stood down, what are your thoughts on Andrew Demetriou's time at the helm?
"I've always been pretty supportive of Andrew, when it was often not the fashionable thing to do. I felt that he had a very strong awareness of the importance of growing and consolidating the game in this part of the world (Sydney). It's hard to argue, did he have the hardest job or the easiest job of the last three CEOs? By that I mean so much was in place. But to keep the order of growth going, to keep stakeholders' expectations going, was pretty challenging and I thought he did that pretty well. The development of new stadia with very little AFL money, increasing media rights, so on and so forth, so I'd give him a tick."
What is Demetriou’s legacy in terms of the Sydney market?
"I think he's developed a very good relationship with the club (the Swans) and vice-versa. We've been very supportive of him … and I would think, other than a few issues that come and go, that the relationship has been a very good one. He's been publicly very supportive of us on a number of occasions and me personally and been a very good promoter in this market place of the Swans' achievements. In turn I think we've added considerable value to the AFL. I think it's been a very well-balanced relationship."
What about Demetriou's infamous suggestion in 2005 that the Swans would never win a flag playing their style of football?
"I think it caused particular angst for Paul (Roos), because as the coach Paul took it as a personal slight on the way he went about doing things. But like a lot of comments that have been enshrined over the centuries as facts, he didn't actually ever say we were playing ugly football. I think he made a far more innocuous comment, something like 'there's a team north of the Murray playing a style of football that if they keep playing, won't have a great year'. I don't think that's the role of CEOs, but equally it probably wasn't the worst comment that's ever been made. I think he's taken it in his stride and moved on and so have we. It's hardly worth going to war over."
What should the AFL be looking for in a new chief executive?
"I think when a new CEO comes in, you want someone who's going to be true to the values and the culture, but you don't want a mirror image (of Demetriou). My view of the AFL as a whole is I think it needs strengthening within, and this includes the Commission, of people who really understand what running an AFL club and running it successfully is all about. There's a lot of highly intelligent, dynamic people there, but none have ever run an AFL club and that's the core business I would've thought of the AFL Commission."
Do they need a football background?
"I think it's critical. I'm not suggesting you have to work up from the shop floor, you might have high-level qualifications and experience, but I don't think you can just bring in the smartest American going around. You need someone who understands the industry.
"At club level I just think there's too much open slanging of clubs, and clubs standing in judgement of other clubs. Bloody David Koch talking about Jake King, whether he's right or wrong is irrelevant; it's nothing to do with him. You need someone who can rub shoulders with the basic football supporter and I don't think you can do that if you haven't got a background in the game."
Asked about COLA, Colless made a parallel with the power and standing of the NRL, which has pledged to pour $200million of its $1.2billion broadcast deal back into the game.
"People that live in Sydney know how badly rugby league was administered over the years and yet it always survives and moves on. It can be involved in absolute social atrocities and clubs lose money and yet it just keeps going. They've now, finally, done a media rights deal where they've got so much money relative to what they had, they can pay their players more, but they can also start thinking about investing in the future. Whereas before they've talked the talk about rival codes, I think both the Swans and GWS now are going to understand the real might of rugby league.
"This is quite a big issue for me because I don't think the AFL gets its head around it. What's basically happened is league has pinched all the AFL's good ideas on governance, on football business models. (Former AFL commissioner) Graeme Samuel, one of the great architects of building the modern AFL, is now a commissioner of the Australian Rugby League. It's not something that people need worry about in Perth or Adelaide, but this is their heartland and things have been held together by a bit of sticky tape, but that's all changed now. They've got an independent commission, they've got considerable vision as we've seen with the Nines tournament, but the one thing they've never had is serious money. They've now got that.
"In terms of COLA I think people really miss the point. We've had a bit of success, but it's bloody hard. I've yet to encounter anyone in the football system that says to me it doesn't cost more to live in Sydney than elsewhere. Ask Eddie what he was paying in rent."
So if COLA is scrapped, what will be the impact on the Swans?
"I think over the period of time it's tantamount to economic vandalism. It completely misreads this market and in my experience, the vast majority of VFL people still get confused between rugby and league and they call it rugby and you say 'what game are you actually talking about'. Before, the NRL prospered basically because it had been around so long and because it's a suburban game. Now it has money.
"I think what we're seeing is GWS moving from Blacktown – go and Google the former mayor's comments. (Former mayor Alan Pendleton recently claimed the Giants have betrayed Blacktown). He said 'we were dudded, we invested all this money, now they've got this you-beaut venue in the centre of Sydney, a long way from the outer west'. I just question that people get it. This is what we predicted would happen.
"I think between rugby league's newfound wealth and vision, and soccer's emerging legitimacy, the capacity to run a self-sustaining AFL team in the outer west is pretty negligible. I'm out of office (at the Swans), but I say to you – doesn't this brand new facility at Olympic Park indicate that the experiment with the outer west is sort of over?"