Bath calls for review of rural and regional football netball clubs

The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath has called on the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events to initiate a comprehensive review of rural and regional football-netball clubs.

Ms Bath said many of our country clubs are seriously struggling and are facing an uphill battle in order to survive.

“Gippsland clubs are justifiably concerned about their future and it is imperative we examine the role the AFL plays in supporting or not supporting the viability and sustainability of these clubs,” said Ms Bath.

“Grassroots sporting clubs are the fabric of our small country towns and our larger regional centres.

They are a gathering place providing a place for social interaction and cohesion, physical exercise and positive mental health.

“Our clubs are largely run by volunteers; mum and dads, past players and even grandparents who fill committee roles and manage the ever increasing regulatory, financial and administrative demands placed upon on them.

“In our small towns these are often the same hardworking people that are also on the hall committees, volunteer in the school canteen, are part of the local CFA or are guide and scout leaders.”

Many Gippsland clubs are struggling due to a lack of numbers and the crippling administrative costs forced upon them, affecting both senior and junior levels.

Ms Bath said locally there are many examples of Gippsland clubs and leagues doing it tough.

“The Sale and District under 16’s and Traralgon and District under 16’s have been forced to merge due to lack of teams, the Mid Gippsland Football League is only fielding four thirds team this season and just this week the Newborough fourths have pulled out of the competition for the remainder of the season,” said Ms Bath.

“We also have examples of other clubs with healthy memberships being squeezed due to changing league structures, such as the Alberton Football Netball League.

“It is distressing to see so many good local clubs are at a cross road.  The Minister must act and not sit back and watch an integral part of country Victoria eroded.

Ms Bath said by contrast, the wealthiest sporting club in our nation, the AFL, receives funding from these clubs and leagues in return for supposed governance and framework.

“The Andrews Labor Government, rather than channeling funds into grassroots sporting activities and infrastructure, recently granted AFL Victoria $225 million to overhaul Docklands Stadium,” said Ms Bath.

“The broader issue is not just around infrastructure but around the fact rich institutions are getting richer while many small country clubs are on their knees.

“Club presidents have repeatedly asked for an independent review into what is working and what is not working between the AFL and country football netball clubs.

“Our local football netball clubs are incredibly important to the health of our rural communities and it is important their needs are not ignored.

“Sport is the lifeblood of our Gippsland towns, therefore it is important the Andrews Labor Government step up and support our local communities with a comprehensive review.”