THE future of football in the region is firmly in the spotlight following the release of AFL Wimmera-Mallee’s future directions report this week.
The organisation has provided practical and reasonable recommendations to safeguard the future of football across the region. These recommendations aim to ensure clubs maintain sufficient player and volunteer numbers to survive as well as having the appropriate governance and support for the running of the sport in the modern era.
The report came after months of consultation and clubs and players now have a chance to provide their feedback in coming weeks before final recommendations are handed down.
It’s a report that makes for interesting reading – and should be a priority for all those who play or support the game.
The benefits of involvement in sport and in clubs are well documented. For individuals, there’s health and social wins while for wider communities the connectivity and financial flow-ons are significant. These places remain an institution for so many.
Census data shows there is one club to every 2084 residents within the area under the guidance of AFL Wimmera-Mallee.
It’s no surprise that Wimmera people love their footy, but that’s incredibly high – and particularly so when compared with other football regions with much larger population bases. These include AFL Goldfields with one club to every 4545 residents and AFL Barwon with one club to every 6888 residents.
Further, the AFL Wimmera-Mallee report also says that one in every 7.5 senior players live in Ballarat or Melbourne. That doesn’t include the players who travel from other major centres, including Adelaide and Darwin, to play footy in the Wimmera.
Administration of sport is only increasing as clubs become more akin to businesses. That work doesn’t just happen without commitment, hard work and dedication behind the scenes.
So while at weekends, they might be rivals, clubs will surely look to unite to find the right path forward for football in the region. It’s in everyone’s interests to consider their responses carefully and think outside the square.
The recommendations and relevant actions that will stem from this have the potential to leave a positive and lasting legacy – and that deserves our attention.
Jessica Grimble, editor