A much-needed shot in the arm for country football-netball clubs has been announced.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan officially laid out the boost for grassroots clubs yesterday, which in partnership with the Victorian Government will have an additional $18 million invested into country football across the next three years.
At the heart of the announcement was the abolishment of affiliation fees and umpire registration fees, as well as a significant reduction in the cost of apparel for clubs.
Also included in the new initiative was almost $1 million to help streamline and support the work of volunteers and $1.5 million towards establishing a Strategic Community Investment Fund with the aim of allowing immediacy and flexibility when responding to local league and club needs.
What it means for the 54 clubs affiliated with AFL Goulburn Murray in this region is a combined saving of more than $210 000 on affiliation fees and the promise of increased support in the operation of their organisations on a day-to-day and long-term level.
"It will benefit every single club," AFL GM region general manager Jamie Macri said.
"The affiliation fee will be gone and it will only be the insurance (remaining).
"It's a huge investment by the AFL and we're really excited to support community football and netball.
"It goes on participation per club per individual, so it (the saving) will be more for some clubs.
"All clubs in the AFL Victoria system will benefit from this, so it will be all of our competitions which is good."
Macri highlighted the importance of the support aspects of the announcement as a key factor.
"It's what we want to do, we want to get back in there and support community football and community football-netball clubs and support our volunteers too, so there's a big investment on top of that with the club help stuff, it's going to be vital in helping our volunteers," he said.
"We really want to support clubs and I think we've definitely shown that in this case that we want to get in there and help and take some burden off clubs and volunteers.
McLachlan stressed the impact country football-netball clubs have on the community around them in his announcement.
"Local football clubs are often the heart of local communities, especially here in Victoria," he said.
"Community football is the cornerstone of our game and underpins all aspects of our national sport.
"We understand the challenges faced in Victorian country football communities, especially with a change in demographics and community expectations, so it’s vital we continue to invest our support into volunteers, coaches, players, facilities and umpires who are the lifeblood of regional communities.
"This funding, when coupled with the support already in place through the work of AFL Victoria, provides a platform for long-term growth in community football and an opportunity to reboot the community that fuels the game at the grassroots level."
WHAT THE LEAGUES HAD TO SAY
Goulburn Valley League chairman David Roff
"This is excellent news," Roff said.
"While some detail is yet to come out, it seems clubs will save about 80 per cent of current affiliation fees which currently sit at $45 per player — so for 70 players equates to about $2500 saved with insurance still a necessity to be paid.
"The GVL and clubs are very happy with the service provided by the Regional Administration Centre and extra resourcing will assist in further improving operations.
"We are particularly pleased with initiatives designed to assist volunteers running their clubs.
"Another plus seems to be the Strategic Community Investment Fund, which if it results in clubs being able to access funding for improvements to facilities, will complement something the league has already done and which we have previously advocated for."
Murray Football Netball League general manager Dale Norman
"It's a huge win for community clubs," Norman said.
"It's great to see something of substance and something tangible from the AFL.
"There's nothing worse than sending off a fee every year and not getting anything back for it, so this will go a long way to restoring the faith in AFL Victoria from country clubs.
"Volunteers are overburdened and anything to make it easier for clubs to attract and retain volunteers is great, because at the moment we're legislating them out of the game. You need to do a course to work the barbecue, or in the canteen, or on the gate or volunteer almost anywhere in your club and it's tiring them out."
Kyabram District League president Fraser Kerrins
"This a great initiative of the AFL to show support for grassroots football-netball clubs," Kerrins said.
"The small financial incentive of not having to pay affiliation fees to AFL Victoria on top of local league affiliation fees is a good step forward.
"Investments in improving time required by volunteers to manage local football-netball clubs can only help to improve volunteer burnout and ensure volunteers want to remain involved with clubs for longer than they possibly do now.
"As everyone is aware the time and effort required to manage and operate a football club is significant."
Picola District Football Netball League operations manager Shane Railton
"Any saving is a good thing, it (more transparency with fees) was obviously part of the cause of the Bungaree meeting which we were involved in," Railton said.
"Anything that can help clubs is important.
"It's pretty hard to gauge what the exact details are, but if it's around helping clubs understand rules and regulations I think it might be a case of back to the future when clubs used to be able to ring up the old VCFL offices to check anything, which would be a good thing."