THE AFL Gippsland Region Commission will launch a major review into football league structures in Gippsland.
The review will incorporate the region’s five senior competitions including the Gippsland League, Alberton Football Netball League, North Gippsland Football Netball League, Mid Gippsland Football League and Ellinbank and District Football League.
A review committee is being formed, featuring representatives from AFL Gippsland and AFL Victoria and up to four independent members from across the region.
The aim of the review is to provide balanced competitions in Gippsland that promote the sustainability of clubs and increase participation.
Population changes and the geographical challenges of the region will also be considered as part of the review.
The review process will begin during the 2015 season and will likely continue into 2016, with changes to be implemented in 2017.
AFL Gippsland Region Commission chair Brian Quigley said while the review was a significant undertaking, it was extremely important for the future of football in the region.
“What has been made clear to us through our extensive consultation with leagues and clubs over the past 12 months, is there are major issues in football in our region that need to be addressed,” he said.
“We know some clubs are doing it tough at the moment and we need to look at the competitive balance of leagues where some areas are growing faster than others and some clubs have greater access to on-field and off-field resources.”
Quigley said the review would not necessarily result in wholesale changes to current league structures, but the football community should be prepared for any changes the process recommends.
“Our first and foremost obligation is to protect clubs and if that means re-structuring leagues, then that is what we will do,” he said.
AFNL Director of Football and Netball Operations Barry Stride said the league isn’t too worried about the review at the moment.
“In all fairness you wouldn’t like to see any side fall out of the competition and we’ve got a situation where the stronger teams are getting stronger and the weaker teams are getting weaker,” he said.
“They’re going to look at the structure to see what suits the league. It’s all hypothetical, all we can say is as a board they’re doing the review and we await their outcomes.
“To us there’s nothing untoward, they’re doing it for all leagues and I think they’re concerned with other leagues as well- they’re looking at the whole picture which is what you want.”
Region general manager AFL Gippsland, Travis Switzer, said the commission doesn’t want to see clubs fall over.
“We want to make sure structures are in place and clubs can be sustainable,” he said.
“At the same time we’re doing a review of the seniors, we’re doing a South Gippsland junior review.
“Our process will be in-depth, there will be surveys and meetings with clubs individually – every club will get the opportunity to have their say.”
Population changes and the geographical challenges of the region will also be considered as part of the extensive review.
According to Switzer, the review is the most important project the commission will ever undertake, hence the 12 to 18 month timeframe.
“At the end of the day, our credibility’s on the line,” he said.
“With this review we’ve also got to think about growth – at the moment Lang Lang is a very small place but in five to 10 years it could be a very big town with significant growth.
“We’ve really got to think of the growth of some of these towns as well which makes it difficult.
“We’ll also be talking to schools, junior footy clubs, netball clubs, stakeholders and leagues to gain their insights.”
A 2008 review of football in South Gippsland by the VCFL raised eyebrows at the time, with changes refuted by some clubs.
Switzer said the commission features local people who know the area and understand the local footy and netball landscape, along with the independent panel.
“It’s important that the commission is based in Gippsland, it’s fairly easy to access, we’re locals, and we understand the issues and listen to them,” he said.
A project plan and terms of reference for the review committee are currently being developed.
Clubs and leagues will be able to access this information following the first review committee meeting to be held this month.