By Sam Watson

LAST week, the Gippsland League and AFL Gippsland announced the league will return to a self-governance model for season 2022 and beyond.

The current service agreement between AFL Gippsland and the Gippsland League expires on October 31, and in the last 18 months, AFL Gippsland and the member clubs have been discussing what a self-governance model would look like.

In May, the member clubs, with the support of AFL Gippsland, chose to adopt a self-governance model which will see the reimplementation of a board of management for the league.

AFL Gippsland first began administering the Gippsland League’s business operations in 2015, after they recorded significant deficits in 2013 and 2014.

In 2017, Gippsland League clubs voted unanimously to move away from an independent board to a governance and administration model under AFL Gippsland.

This decision saw AFL Gippsland take full responsibility for the league’s operations and financial decision making.

In a statement released on their website last week, the Gippsland League said AFL Gippsland has developed the competition into one of the strongest in country football.

They also said the league has grown into a financial position where they have been able to heavily invest back into the member clubs, umpire associations and on-field product.

AFL Gippsland Regional Manager Nic Fogarty said he strongly feels senior leagues should be governing and administering themselves.

“They don’t need the AFL or AFL Gippsland to be (administering the league), so I think it’s really exciting because it allows them to control their future and their pathway a lot more,” Fogarty said.

And Fogarty dismissed any ideas that AFL Gippsland would’ve preferred to keep control.

“I think there’s a myth that seniors clubs think we want to control everything they do, it’s quite the opposite,” Fogarty said.

“We’re excited about leagues and clubs wanting to control their future.”

“They actually wanted us to take over their governance back in 2017, and we’ve been really lucky that we’ve been able to build them up into a really strong financial position.”

“So, I’m confident now that they can go out on their own and continue to grow that.”

Fogarty said there are senior leagues that do need the expertise and professionalism of AFL Gippsland to keep their finances under control and grow their game, but not the Gippsland League.

“That’s not something that I had a concern about with the Gippsland League, they’re in a really good position.”

And he said a regular supporter or player won’t notice the difference between the shift in administration.

“Most people wouldn’t know whether the AFL ran it, or the league ran it independently, there’ll be no change.”

“The clubs might introduce new initiatives and do things to improve the league or improve the marketing of the league, but that’ll be up to their board to decide.”

The process to establish the new board is well underway, with applications and expressions of interest now open.

The Gippsland League has appointed a steering committee to help implement the new board.

Gippsland League manager Daniel Heathcote, who played a large role in the transition of governance to AFL Gippsland, will head the steering committee.

On July 29, the committee will review the applications and on August 2 they will hold an information session for all candidates selected to be considered for the board.

Two days later, they will hold a meeting with member clubs to present the recommended board candidates and at the end of August, the potential board will be implemented as an operational sub-committee under AFL Gippsland governance to begin the transition process.

And then in November the league will hold their annual general meeting to ratify the new independent board.