Sport

AFL offers leg up to grass roots footy

By Cobram Courier

The AFL has offered support to grassroots football and netball clubs across the state, with a grant, announced by chief executive Gillon McLachlan, to aid country sides.

Along with the Victorian Government, the organisation was providing $18 million across three years into the regional game, as well as the termination of umpire and affiliation fees to help clubs financially.

Apparel costs would be reduced in tandem with the announcement of the grant, while an additional figure in the region of $2 million would be used for a strategic community investment fund in the interest of building the game from the ground up.

“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,” McLachlan said.

While it could be argued such a grant was long overdue, relief provided from the allocated budget would be a huge leg-up for clubs across Victoria.

Murray Football Netball League general manager Dale Norman was elated at the announcement and said the backing from AFL was a massive reassurance for clubs in the region.

‘‘It is great to see something of substance and something tangible from the AFL,” he said.

‘‘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.’’

Picola District Football Netball League operations manager Shane Railton said the funds would provide for clubs lacking financial backing.

‘‘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,’’ he said.

‘‘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.

‘‘Anything that can help clubs is important.”