YEARS of balancing on a financial tight-rope have finally caught up with Bendigo’s VFL team.
The Bendigo Gold has announced they will be no longer part of the VFL beyond this season after making the decision not to renew their VFL licence.
Gold players and staff were told of the decision before training at the QEO on Wednesday night.
Bendigo’s VFL teams through the guises of the Bendigo Diggers, Bombers and Gold have long battled financial challenges since its inception into the competition in 1998.
With the continued struggles on and off the field and the demands on club expenditure to compete in the VFL expanding yearly, the Gold board has taken the tough decision to call it quits at the end of the season.
“In the 17 years we’ve had a VFL team in Bendigo, I don’t believe at any time have we been a financial club,” Gold executive chairman Tim Dickson said.
“We’ve eroded a lot of debt and are probably as financial as we have been this year, but the thing is there is no margin for error.
“Six weeks ago, for example, we had one of our major sponsors go into administration and that was the realisation that we’re running the club with no fat or margin for error.
“With the amount of effort and energy it has taken to run it, we’d be happy to continue the licence if we could see some light.
“Some things have opened up for us, but one thing that has never changed has been that lack of a revenue source you get from having your own home facilities.”
Dickson said during the club’s planning for its licence renewal at the end of the year and discussing minimum standard requirements with AFL Victoria, such as staffing levels, salary cap spending and full-time ground access, it continually became evident that the Gold were no longer sustainable in Australia’s second-best competition.
“We’ve been going through the planning with what’s involved with the licence renewal at the end of the year, but the one thing we’ve come to as a board is we can’t see VFL football is sustainable longer-term in the town,” Dickson said.
“One of the reasons is the VFL is becoming much more competitive. An average club ran on three quarters of a million dollars a few years ago. That’s probably up near around one million dollars now, so it’s moving forward fairly quickly.
“To ensure a successful and viable VFL model you need the complete buy-in from all key stakeholders, those being the community, sponsors, AFL Victoria, the City of Greater Bendigo and the surrounding leagues.
“We would be the envy of most VFL teams considering our membership numbers and community buy-in, the quality of great sponsors and we receive good support from AFL Victoria. Unfortunately, these three are just not enough.”
AFL Victoria general manager Grant Williams said it was disappointing the VFL would no longer have a presence in Bendigo beyond this year, but praised the work of Dickson, coach Aussie Jones and all at the Gold for their commitment.
“Tim, Aussie Jones and all involved within the club have done a terrific job in recent years in endeavouring to maintain a stand-alone side in Bendigo, but have found it difficult to remain competitive,” Williams said.
“The decision for Bendigo to not sign a new licence agreement hasn’t been easy for the board to make, but they believe it’s best for all involved that they make this decision now rather than the end of the season.”
Dickson added the timing of the announcement with eight games still to be played this season was to give players and staff a chance to being preparing for 2015.
Since parting with Essendon at the end of the 2012 season, Bendigo has lost all 28 games as a stand-alone club.
The Gold’s last game will be against Collingwood at the QEO on Friday, August 22.