Country footy faces major revamp

CENTRAL Victorian Football chief executive officer Steven Oliver has welcomed the announcement that 13 new regional football commissions will be established across Victoria starting later this year.

The VCFL yesterday used the South Bendigo clubrooms at the QEO to announce it will support the proposed reforms as part of the AFL-commissioned Country Football Review last year.

Among the recommendations was the implementation of 13 regional commissions to “start making decisions in the best interest of football for each region”.

“In our belief, the most important recommendation is the establishment of the 13 regional commissions across the state,” VCFL president Nicholas Rolfe said.

“The VCFL is not winding up – the board will continue – and at a regional level, clubs will affiliate with the VCFL and a regional commission and ultimately, what will happen is local people will be responsible for local decisions.

“In terms of each commission, and there will be one in Bendigo, Shepparton, Albury, Wangaratta, Ballarat, Geelong and so on... those individuals, men and hopefully, some women, will be in charge of football within that local area.

“So, instead of having the VCFL, which is centralised in Melbourne, being responsible for all of country football, it will be divided through the state, which we believe is a big plus.”

The new regional commissions will begin to be phased in from November 1 this year, with the central Victorian commission likely to oversee the Bendigo, Heathcote District, Loddon Valley, Bendigo Junior and Midland Junior leagues.

There’s also the possibility of the North Central Football League, Bendigo Gold and Bendigo Umpires Association coming under the central Victorian commission banner, as well as netball. 

“There has probably been a bit of a fracture here in the Bendigo area, and that has been highlighted in other areas around the state as well, so working more closely with all organisations in the area can only be a benefit,” Oliver said.

“It would be a fairly big change, but something that would be well overdue.”

The new commissions will include up to 12 commissioners, including a chairman, ideally made up of a mix of league representatives and independent members, while a regional general manager would also be employed.

A working party, which includes dual Golden Square premiership coach Nick Carter and Wedderburn-based Leon Holt, who were both members of the AFL Victoria Country  Football Review steering committee, is currently looking at the establishment of the central Victorian regional commission.

Three of the commissioners will be appointed by AFL Victoria, with the remaining positions to be appointed by the working party in conjunction with the local leagues.

The Bendigo Advertiser understands an announcement on the commission structure and its inaugural chairman is likely to be made by the end of September.

AFL Victoria chairman Peter Jackson, who led last year’s review, believes the proposed new model will “assist in developing strong, sustainable clubs all across country Victoria.”

As well as the commissions, a new Community Football Board will be established to represent the best interests of community football to AFL Victoria and provide leadership and growth strategy priorities.

Additionally, the reforms aim to provide an extra 30 full-time resources working to service country football.

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