Clubs opt to stay put, at least for now

The long-term direction of football and netball within Gippsland has many fascinated. 198697 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By sports editor Russell Bennett

The clubs of the West Gippsland Football Netball Competition have continued to narrow down their options for next year onwards, opting against moving under the AFL Outer East umbrella.

The Gazette understands that the 12 clubs voted on Monday night on whether they’d pursue governance under AFL Outer East, and the result came back 7-5 against – indicating just how strongly it had been considered as a legitimate option.

Early last month, the intriguing reality was explored that the clubs could potentially look at going it alone – out from under the Morwell-based Gippsland Regional Administration Centre.

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 still unclear as to how, or why.

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

The affiliation agreements of some local leagues and competitions are due to expire at the end of this month.

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 new entity could then seek affiliation with AFL Gippsland.

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.

On Monday night’s developments, Nar Nar Goon president Mick Keane – one of the three club presidents nominated as an executive officer of ‘West Gippsland Football Netball Competition Incorporated’ – said: “It’s disappointing – I think we’d be pretty blind to believe that giving AFL Gippsland another 12 months to get its act together is going to change anything.”

Keane said he believed any future push for the clubs to explore their own self-governance – even within the Gippsland region – would be tied up in red tape and constant barriers.

“They don’t want to give us that (opportunity) until 2022 at this stage,” he said.

“And I think it’ll be very, very difficult this time next year to try and achieve it.

“I suspect the clubs could be more worried about it in 12 months’ time than they are now.

“The vote last night doesn’t end it. If AFL Gippsland doesn’t perform, we reserve our right to look elsewhere.”

Last month, Keane told the Gazette: “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. They’re trying to keep us with them without any real structure.”

In response to the latest developments, in his role as Head of AFL Gippsland, Black told the Gazette: “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 this year.
“We are committed to making football better and stronger for all leagues, clubs and participants in Gippsland, and we will continue to work with, and listen to players, coaches, administrators and volunteers, to ensure we all shape the future of football in the region.”

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