Clubs set to go it alone?

Three current WGFNC club presidents are listed as directors for West Gippsland Football Netball Competition Incorporated. 198697 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By sports editor Russell Bennett

A number of West Gippsland’s footy and netball clubs aren’t bluffing when it comes to exploring their own collective path forwards from 2021 onwards.

And they may yet choose to go it alone – out from under the Morwell-based Gippsland Regional Administration Centre.

The Gazette understands that, on 15 June through Consumer Affairs Victoria, the business name ‘West Gippsland Football Netball Competition Incorporated’ was registered on their behalf, with three current WGFNC club presidents nominated as executive officers.

That raises the fascinating prospect that the West Gippsland entity wasn’t already registered since its first season in 2017.

To this point, it’s unclear as to how or why.

But, it’s an intriguing development that shows a number of the WGFNC’s clubs really are taking their destinies into their own hands.

Nar Nar Goon’s Mick Keane is one of three club presidents connected to the newly-registered name as executive officers, and a constitution has already been legally prepared and lodged to Consumer Affairs.

The affiliation agreements of some local leagues and competitions are due to expire at the end of October this year, and the new development raises the question of which body legally controls the WGFNC.

The deadline for club transfer applications is on 31 October, and the Gazette understands that the WGFNC clubs have been issued three options moving forward: continue with the status quo for 2021 and beyond; continue in the current structure but have some administration fees offset by a player levy; or incorporate as part of a new entity.

That entity could then seek affiliation with AFL Gippsland.

The clubs and WGFNC are currently regarded as affiliates under the AFL Vic Country Handbook, but the waters seem muddied by the fact that the WGFNC – itself – is newly registered with three current club presidents as directors.

The AFL Gippsland commission was effectively ousted in May 2019, and the AFL’s general counsel and its general manager of AFL game development Andrew Dillon is on the interim commission.

In the AFL Gippsland 2019 Annual Report, the directors of Gippsland Australian Football Commission Limited (AFL Gippsland) were listed as Steven Reaper, Jennifer Loughnan, and Dillon.

The Gazette understands Reaper is no longer in that role, while Rob Auld and Sam Graham were appointed as directors earlier this year and AFL Victoria’s current head of South Eastern Victoria, Richard Black, is the secretary.

In speaking with the Gazette, Keane was scathing on AFL Gippsland’s handling of the competition.

“This is an organisation that’s trying to tell us we’re better off staying with them – where there’s no real administration, guidance, and no understanding of the clubs’ positions,” he said.

“They’re trying to keep us with them without any real structure.”

Keane said it’s imperative the clubs control their own futures now, before – he feels – it’s too late.

“If we apply in 12 months’ time to get out, they can knock it back, and then it’ll go to appeal to AFL Victoria and that’ll get knocked back too, and then you can’t apply again for two years.

“We could still be dealing with this three years from now.”

AFL House was forwarded a series of questions on this story but did not comment prior to deadline.

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