Clubs given a year to prepare for change

NEW WAY FORWARD: A player points system is among the options being discussed for a trial next year.

NEW WAY FORWARD: A player points system is among the options being discussed for a trial next year.

SENIOR football clubs in the region will have a year to prepare for the introduction of a potential points salary cap system in 2016.

AFL Central Victoria will next year introduce a trial system in 2015 as a forerunner to it becoming official in 2016 throughout the Bendigo, Heathcote District, Loddon Valley and North Central leagues.

Next year's planned trial follows an AFL Victoria working party that has been looking at the issue of increasing player payments at local level across the state.

AFL Central Victoria regional manager Paul Hamilton is on the working party and says a recent survey shows overwhelmingly, the biggest concern clubs have is escalating player payments.

"All the feedback we have got from clubs is player payments is the prevailing topic in terms of there needing to be some control," Hamilton said on Friday.

"As a working party, there's a number of things being looked at, and some have been discussed widely, such as a points system, of which there is a whole different range of structures.

"We're also talking about salary caps, which haven't been particularly effective in the past, so if we were to go down that track there would have to be a different model and form of governance.

"Or it could be a combination of a points system and salary cap... there's a whole range of topics, but what it may look like is still very much in the air."

Hamilton said any final decision on the introduction of such measures as a player points system in central Victoria wouldn't be made without extensive consultation with the leagues and clubs.

"I'm a major believer in that it's all about building something together," Hamilton said.

"It's not about a group of people sitting down at AFL Headquarters, it's about working together and understanding the problems."

The merits of a local football player points system have long been debated, including a proposal being presented to Heathcote District Football League clubs in 2007.

Under a points system, each player on a club's list is given a rating based on their playing history, with home-grown talent ranked at a minimum, while ex-AFL players or players recruited from a rival club in the same league are at the higher end.

The system doesn't allow clubs to exceed the maximum number of points allocated to their team each week.

Player points are reduced each year they stay with their club to foster loyalty.

Hamilton indicated that if a points system was the option selected as a way of working to reduce club spending, it was unlikely to be a case of one size fits all across the four central Victorian leagues.

There are examples of points systems that are based on population, whereby clubs with lower populations are granted more points, or more points being allocated to teams that finish lower on the ladder.

"We've identified there's volunteer stress in terms of raising funds because the stakes are getting higher, so we want to work to alleviate that stress," Hamilton said.

"With whatever system we come up, there will be a focus on player loyalty, player retention at clubs and encouraging junior development. But the other area we need to look at is the demographics and geographics of each of the clubs.

"If you're a club in a remote area with a low population, you're never going to be able to bring through and develop all your players, so I'm very conscious of making sure that whatever system we have takes that into account.

"It's impossible to have one system fits all, so circumstances have to be taken into account and that's why across Victoria the individual commissions will have a fair bit to do with what happens in their region because it's all about local knowledge of the clubs.

"You don't want an unintended consequence of wiping out a club because of the system, so we're very mindful of the different circumstances clubs are in.

"We know it's not going to be an easy solution and that's why there needs to be a fair bit of consultation."

Hamilton hopes proposals will be drafted for next year's trial by October.

"Next year's trial is all about giving the clubs a year to get an understanding of if this was brought in this year how they would be affected... would it work for them, do they need to make changes, or will they never be able to meet the requirements?" Hamilton said.

"That's the information we're wanting to find out."

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