There will be a focus on growing the women’s game.

THE headline change coming out of the 98-page Gippsland 2025 Strategic Plan (G25) report, commissioned by AFL Victoria, is a new 15-club football netball competition involving Mid Gippsland and Alberton league clubs, starting in 2021.

The comp would feature an eight-team finals’ structure to provide more teams with a finals’ experience and is “aimed at long-term league sustainability”.

But leagues in the ‘Western Corridor’ won’t come off Scott-free. The G25 review recommends a move to divisional football there before 2025.

Despite there being 46 recommendations, many of them proposing administrative changes, there’s little if anything relating to the future and growth of netball.

Umpires get a mention but netball and its relationship with footy hardly rates.

Another sticking point for clubs could be the plan to “centralise procurement”, that is buying supplies including tape, food and beverage contracts and equipment outside the leagues’ local areas.

With sponsorships and key support at stake, this might not go down well.

Recommendation 46 (RA5.2) encourages clubs “to improve negotiating power with suppliers, the Regional Administration Centres should develop a centralised procurement offering for clubs (opt-in model) with a focus on leveraging buying power across the region”, for tape, food and beverage contracts, equipment and other inputs.

“Group buying should provide a reduction in the cost per unit for the clubs, helping clubs address the increasing cost and revenue pressures.”

AFL Victoria has adopted this recommendation.

“The AFL industry is fortunate to have the support of excellent suppliers and service providers who all offer highly competitive pricing. AFL Victoria and AFL Gippsland will seek to utilise those partnerships to pass savings on to community stakeholders.”

In a statement released on Thursday, August 13 by AFL Victoria, the authority says it will consider recommendations from the independent report into Gippsland Football “as part of its commitment to community football and its objective to strengthen the game in regional areas”.

A focus on growing women’s football in the region and an alignment of junior/youth age bracket structure are among the other recommendations considered.

Dalyston FNC President Andy Thomas is cautiously optimistic about the G25 plan but believes the divisional plan involving West Gippsland and Ellinbank clubs “will take some time to evolve”.

He is also critical of the report for its lack of focus on netball and support for junior development in football.

Mr Thomas represents the Dalyston club which plays in the West Gippsland competition.

The report, prompted by AFL Victoria to focus on preserving football in Gippsland, contains 46 recommendations for AFL Victoria.

Of those recommendations, all 46 have been identified by AFL Victoria as either worthy of implementation or already contained within an existing analysis that can be further examined in order to incorporate suggestions put forward by the report’s independent authors, ColganBauer.

“AFL Victoria is committed to a vibrant and sustainable network of inclusive clubs and leagues across Victoria. For more than a century, Gippsland has been one of Australian Football’s strongest advocates and greatest supporters. Over many years, the region has bred, nurtured and developed some of the game’s champion coaches, players and officials,” said AFL Victoria.

“Like many regional areas, Gippsland football faces immense challenges in maintaining its presence, its participation rate, its facilities, its leagues and its community engagement with local clubs. As a strong advocate of football’s important role in community life, AFL Victoria welcomes the report and its findings.

“The health and safety of the community, together with club and league sustainability has been the priority of all clubs and leagues in the Gippsland region,” AFL Victoria Head of Community Football Steve O’Donohue said today.

“We are committed to making football better and stronger for all participants in Gippsland and we thank everyone who has provided feedback through the consultation process of this report to ColganBauer.”

O’Donohue said the priority for AFL Victoria is to preserve community football in the Gippsland region.

“Part of this process is to get a clear understanding of what structural changes should be implemented, where investment should go, and the measures required to ensure the local football community is supported in achieving those objectives.”

“This report is an important step to continue to move football forward in Gippsland. We’ll continue to work with, and listen to players, coaches, leagues, administrators and volunteers, to ensure we all shape the future of football in the region.”

Recommendations

* Recommendation 1 (P1): Alberton and Mid Gippsland merge into 15-team competition for 2021 season. Eight-team finals structure “to ensure more teams play finals”.

* Recommendation 2 (P1.2): Shift to divisional football in the Western corridor, with the West Gippsland competition and Ellinbank League maintaining their heritage. To be implemented at the point of best fit before 2025.

* Recommendation 3 (P1.3): Apply a reduction in salary caps to all Gippsland senior competitions.

* Recommendation 4 (P1.4): AFL Victoria to conduct a review of the player points program currently being used in Gippsland and identify improvements/revisions to incentivise junior retention and development by senior clubs.

* Recommendation 5 (P2.1): Transition all central Gippsland leagues (junior and senior) to an U14s / U17s competition model from 2021.

* Recommendation 6 (G1): AFL Victoria to conduct a research study to understand factors that lead to players who leave the football system at junior and youth age groups in country regions.

* Recommendation 7 (G2): AFL Victoria to launch an ‘acquisition and retention program’ – aimed at increasing junior and youth participant retention in the region.

* Recommendation 8 (G3): To best promote and grow women’s football across the region, AFL Gippsland with AFL Victoria to develop a women’s football strategy specifically for Gippsland.

* Recommendation 9 (G4): Greater alignment between Football Development Managers (FDM) in the region and the overall AFL Victoria model.

* Recommendation 10 (G5): An annual plan to be developed by FDMs for programs that will run during the year.

* Recommendation 11 (G6): Club Improvement Program (CIP) requires greater investment by AFL Victoria.

* Recommendation 12 (G7): Devise more targeted school programs and roll-out these programs across the region; the project aims to transition more kids into community football.

* Recommendation 13 (G8): Provide clarity for leagues and clubs by clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of league administrators and FDMs.

* Recommendation 14 (G9): The RAC should create and hire a Club Development / Sustainability role to provide specialist support to Gippsland clubs regarding their challenges around sustainability.

* Recommendation 15 (RA1.1): To address the region’s feedback regarding multiple reviews without action/ feedback, AFL Victoria set out a clear timeline for implementation of the G25 Strategy.

* Recommendation 16 (RA1.2): Develop a working group made up of a mix of AFL Victoria, AFL Gippsland, leagues and clubs to be responsible for the review and implementation of the recommendations.

* Recommendation 17 (RA1.3): Move to structured communications and forums with a clearly defined calendar for meetings in the region.

* Recommendation 18 (RA1.4): Redefine the role of the AFL Gippsland Commission to act as an advisory board setting the strategic direction for football in the region.

* Recommendation 19 (RA1.5): Develop a responsibilities matrix for community football in Gippsland defining the roles and responsibilities for all processes.

* Recommendation 20 (RA1.6): AFL Victoria to support Gippsland to implement this strategic plan. The recommendations included in this report will require additional time and resources. To deliver this plan, AFL Victoria will need to provide support to ensure operations can continue during implementation.

* Recommendation 21 (RA1.7): To ensure increased accountability from AFL Victoria regarding football in Gippsland, KPIs should be included in their performance measures relating to supporting AFL Gippsland in meeting their compliance obligations.

* Recommendation 22 (RA1.8): AFL Victoria representatives to periodically attend formal league meetings and participate in a regional working group. Invest in developing more significant ties with the region.

* Recommendation 23 (RA1.9): Ensure that the appeals board members are communicated to the region, with the rationale for findings widely shared. AFL Victoria nominates the appeals board from a shortlist. The sharing of the rationale for the board members and their reasoning behind decisions will provide visibility to the region. Ensures decisions include a representative with an understanding of local issues.

* Recommendation 24 (RA2.1): Implement a continuous improvement model to refine the business processes and identify points of failure.

* Recommendation 25 (RA2.2): To help the Regional Administration Centres (RAC) stabilise as quickly as possible to provide a cost-effective service offering to the region, AFL Victoria should give support in the form of additional resources and training.

* Recommendation 26 (RA2.3): Undertake a baseline of all activities completed by RAC staff to understand what services to stop and what provides value.

* Recommendation 27 (RA2.4): Develop a service catalogue for RAC services with a clearly defined pricing matrix based on a clearly defined cost driver. To provide service flexibility and incentivise leagues/associations to come onboard to the RAC, implement a tiered service model, e.g. low, moderate, high service).

* Recommendation 28 (RA2.5): The RAC to report through AFL Victoria (not the Commission). This change would result in the reporting line for the RAC moving from the AFL Gippsland Commission to report to the AFL Victoria country football team.

* Recommendation 29 (RA2.6): To separate administrative and development activities, an area manager responsible for FDMs should provide oversight over the FDM’s in Gippsland and have more alignment with AFL Victoria.

* Recommendation 30 (RA2.7): Improve service quality and delivery by making RAC roles more specialised. Where the scale does not exist in Gippsland look to pool resources across regions.

* Recommendation 31 (RA3.1): For all delivered services by the RAC, there should be a clear understanding of the cost to provide that service.

* Recommendation 32 (RA3.2): Separating administrative and game development funding sources, any activity that is not deemed “league administration” should not be funded by the RAC and an alternative model.

* Recommendation 33 (RA3.3): Analyse and update financial cost controls where appropriate to reduce spend (i.e. purchasing policies, delegations of authority).

* Recommendation 34 (RA3.4): AFL Gippsland should have a greater focus on business performance, given their prior history, including implementing a strict annual planning and budgeting process to enter the new financial year.

* Recommendation 35 (RA3.5): Establish a meeting calendar, capture critical meetings, including the AGM. Communications and forums should have a clearly defined schedule in the region – including AGMs.

* Recommendation 36 (RA3.6): The five Gippsland umpire associations should continue to work closely together and identify opportunities for increased central management (i.e. HR, Finance functions, etc.). Central management should help to improve efficiency and reduce industry cost of umpiring.

* Recommendation 37 (RA4.1): Develop a community volunteer marketing campaign to encourage more people to be involved in their local sporting organisation.

* Recommendation 38 (RA4.2): Given the large workload expected from committee roles, a review of the club secretary role should be conducted with the view to reduce the role’s workload.

* Recommendation 39 (RA4.3): The process to manage salary caps by Clubs / Leagues should be reviewed and streamlined, this includes the audit process. Community members identified that the process to track and manage the salary cap is not efficient and time-consuming.

* Recommendation 40 (RA4.4): The process of managing player points by Clubs / Leagues should be reviewed and streamlined.

* Recommendation 41 (RA4.5): Reduction in the by-laws of the leagues will streamline administration.

* Recommendation 42 (RA4.6): Given the increasing pressure of attracting volunteers and the complexity of the roles, providing training and support will help to support volunteer retention and workload reduction.

* Recommendation 43 (RA4.7): To best prepare committee members for their role in the season ahead, a formal session should be conducted before the start of the season to outline responsibilities.

* Recommendation 44 (RA4.8): Review the roles required by leagues and clubs to develop an example best in class operating model for clubs and leagues.

* Recommendation 45 (RA5.1): There should be a continued focus on salary cap reduction by clubs, with input into AFL Victoria for a more regional review of salary caps.

* Recommendation 46 (RA5.2): To improve negotiating power with suppliers, the RAC should develop a centralised procurement offering for clubs (opt-in model) with a focus on leveraging buying power across the region, e.g. tape, food and beverage contracts, equipment.