PAUL Barnard has called on key stakeholders to increase their support for the Bendigo Gold as the club struggles to survive in the VFL.
Barnard, who spent two years as general manager of the Bendigo Bombers and is currently the general manager of VFL rival the Box Hills Hawks, said the Bendigo Gold’s long-term sustainability was a “must” for football in the region.
“Having a team in Bendigo is paramount to give young players the opportunity to play football at an elite level,’’ Barnard said.
“It’s crucial the VFL, the Gold, the council and all the key stakeholders work together to ensure the Gold survive. I can’t stress that enough.
“Football in Bendigo, including the country leagues up there, will be worse off without a VFL presence.
“We had a VFL general manager’s meeting a few weeks ago and the overwhelming response from all clubs was that we want Bendigo in the VFL.”
r the Gold was the number one problem he had in his time with the Bendigo Bombers.
He called on the City of Greater Bendigo to lift its support.
“Council has to make a decision on whether they want an elite program in their municipality,’’ he said.
“Once they work that out, the rest will flow.
“It’s critical they support it. In my time they were hedging their bets.
“Box Hill has wonderful support from the Whitehorse City Council.
“Before my time at Box Hill, the council, the Box Hill Hawks administration and board and beneficiaries contributed to a $2million project that gave us state-of-the-art facilities.
“We’re really fortunate in that perspective. It makes life easier for us... we run events and functions 12 months of the year and make some revenue.”
While the Gold’s struggles won’t be completely solved by gaining a separate income stream, Barnard said access to a social facility would be the foundation to build the rest of the club on.
“All VFL teams have their challenges from a fiscal point of view,’’ Barnard said.
“The key issue for the Gold is that it has to have the support of local council, local government and businesses.
“The club needs the facilities around it to ensure it can run a professional football program.
“If the club can’t gain access to high-level facilities to run the football program that’s where the problems start and end.
“It is critical that council and local government support the club with the appropriate facilities.
“Most VFL clubs have significant facilities both in season and pre-season. That’s integral to the long-term survival of the team in the region.”
The Gold’s season finished in humiliating fashion last Friday night - a 201-point loss to VFL power Geelong.
Barnard said the losing margin shouldn’t be the major focus.
“Every team has been on the end of a walloping,’’ Barnard said.
“No club likes to see other clubs beaten by that many goals and points.
“That can be rectified with the right support. From where I sit Aussie Jones is doing a fantastic job with restricted facilities and finances.
“It’s still critical that local young players living and working in central Victoria are given the opportunity to play VFL footy in the region.
“If that option is not there then the players are lost to the region and more than likely they never come back.”