Calling for a review into country football netball clubs struggling to survive

Ms BATH (Eastern Victoria) (21:50:06): My adjournment matter this evening is for the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events in the other place, and it relates to country netball and football clubs. The action I seek from the minister is for him to initiate a comprehensive review into rural and regional football-netball clubs and the role that the AFL plays in supporting or not supporting the viability and sustainability of these clubs. Many of our country football and netball clubs are struggling to survive. Grassroots sporting clubs are the fabric of our small country towns and larger centres. They provide a place for social interaction and cohesion, physical exercise and positive mental health. They are largely run by volunteers; mums and dads and grandparents fill the committee roles. Often they are the same hardworking people that are also on the hall committees, run the school canteens, are part of the local CFA’s and are our guide and scout leaders. Many of our clubs are struggling to field teams due to a lack of numbers and crippling administrative costs. As well as senior teams, clubs are struggling to field juniors. For example, the Sale and District under-16s and Traralgon under-16s have been forced to merge due to lack of numbers. The Mid Gippsland Football League fields only four thirds teams. Other clubs have healthy memberships but are being squeezed out of existence due to changing league structures. One case in point is the Alberton Football Netball League—the other AFL. Indeed it includes my old home town of Fish Creek—that is, the great, mighty Kangaroos. It is on its knees, and it is not due to poor management but erosion of the league from its boundaries. It is landlocked, and the only option is to go and play in Tasmania, which is just not an option. By contrast, the wealthiest sporting club in our nation, AFL Victoria, receives funding from these clubs and leagues in return for supposed governance and framework. The Andrews government, rather than channelling funds into grassroots sporting activities and infrastructure, has recently granted AFL Victoria $225 million to overhaul Docklands Stadium. The broader issue is not just around infrastructure but around the fact that often rich institutions are getting richer while our small and needy country clubs are on their knees. Many club presidents have asked repeatedly for an independent review into what is working and what is not working between the AFL and country football-netball clubs. There is precedent for a government review. In 2004 the Rural and Regional Committee had a comprehensive inquiry into country football, and many of the recommendations, including in the report, had directions and directives to the AFL on coaching and development, governance and administration. This is so important to the health of our rural communities. Sport is the lifeblood of our towns, and it is very important that the minister use his influence and really step up and support these local communities and provide a comprehensive review.