Local Footy: Sponsorship deals – always a thorny problem

Sponsorship deals: always a thorny problem for local footy


Signing up new sponsors and maintaining their interest has always been a huge issue for football administrators, at league and club levels in the city and up-country.

Back in the mid-eighties the Bendigo Football League had settled on a very handy arrangement with transport company Comet.

Or Comet Overnight Transport, to give the firm its full name.

An energetic and active board of management under the chairmanship of Bill Bonney signed up Comet to a $12,000 deal for the 1985 season, its second year of association with the BFL.

“It’s the largest single deal for a country league anywhere in Victoria,” said a delighted Mr Bonney at the official signings.

The transport outfit had sponsored the BFL in 1984 and seemed more than happy to continue their arrangement.

“Considering the league was ‘broke’ when we took over the running of it at the end of 1982, Comet has allowed the league to be placed on an excellent financial footing,” the league boss said.

So what did Comet’s involvement permit the BFL to do?

Well, the end-of-season Best Of side was to be known as the Comet-BFL All Stars, there would be a Comet footrace on grand final day, the best player in the Big Dance would be known as the Comet Player of the Day and there would be a televised grand final breakfast from BCV-8’s Lily Street studios.

I remember the grand final breakfast quite well as I chaired the panel discussion with the two grand final coaches on either side with a couple of special commentators also on the panel.

And of course Comet sponsored the Blue and Gold BFL inter-league team.


Another thing the Comet sponsorship provided was footy scholarships for promising players.

The four who’d been named for the 1984 season and had used their allocated money were Leo Bruinier (Kennington-Strathdale), Danny Ellis (Sandhurst), Leigh Trethowan (Castlemaine) and Paul Harris (South Bendigo).

Each winner was handed a $100 education bursary.

Seventeen-year-old Bruinier was a HSC student at Bendigo High School (later to be re-named Bendigo Senior Secondary) and played senior footy for Kennington in the ’84 season.

He intended applying for the outdoor education course at the Bendigo College of Advanced Education, now LaTrobe University.

Trethowan, 19, was a student at the Castlemaine Technical College and intended to enrol for teacher training in 1985.

He played senior footy for the Maine Magpies in 1984 having won the BFL’s under-18 Symons medal in 1983 with a record 48 votes.

Trethowan had also won that season’s Castlemaine club under-18 trophy and additionally a special category in the Castlemaine Sports Star Awards for 1983.

Seventeen-year-old Ellis was completing Year 11 at Catholic College Bendigo in 1984. He’d captained the Bendigo under-17 representative side and had been chosen in the North-East squad.

Ellis had also been selected in the final 30 of Carlton’s scholarship squad.


Paul Harris was a student at the BCAE’s business studies course and in 1985 planned to further his studies so he could qualify as an accountant.

He was the captain of South Bendigo’s 1984 under-18 side having been named in the 1983 Bendigo district under-17 Teal Cup squad as well as in Carlton’s zone team.

The Blues’ side played in the curtain-raiser to the VCFL versus the Australian Amateurs clash at the QEO.

Harris had been the winner of South Bendigo’s under-16 best and fairest player medal in 1982.

Mr Bonney congratulated the four winners of the Comet scholarships and said their selections underlined the talent available in Bendigo football.

“In addition in these times, unlike in years past, football can become a career in itself if a person so wishes,” he said.

BFL executive officer Greg Hilson added Comet’s sponsorship of the league not only assisted outstanding young players but also paid for the grand final telecast coverage and the overall sponsorship of the league’s weekly publication, the Bendigo Footballer.

“We publish the Comet Team of the Week in our guide each issue, of course,” Mr Hilson said.

“So the company package covers, and will continue to cover, a wide range of involvement with Bendigo football,” he said.


A few years down the track and the BFL had a new major sponsor in XXXX, a signature drop from the Bond Brewing Company.

Looking back at the league’s 1989 season, one dominated by the Blue and Gold triumph in the top division of the annual country championships, it’s interesting to note in the annual report how Mr Bonney ascribes a key role in the league’s success to its sponsor.

“The Bond Brewing Company has been a tremendous supporter of country footy over the years and we hope it will continue with us,” he said.

Executive officer Gary Thorn, who was later succeeded by Kevin McNaughton when Thorn took over Robert Cook’s vacated spot on the board of management, said Bond Brewing would continue on for another two years: 1990 and 1991.

“That sort of support is vital to the promotion of football in our area,” he wrote.

But both administrators were concerned about where football was heading in Bendigo and district.

“With the many pressures being brought to bear on our sport more than ever we need to close ranks and support each other if we are going to continue to expand and develop.

“The time has obviously come when clubs must be less parochial in their thinking and planning and start making decisions that are going to benefit the code as a whole,” Mr Bonney wrote.

Mr Thorn was worried about the fall-off in footballer numbers. “The numbers playing our game after they leave junior ranks has dropped and must be addressed.

“And how can we assist lowly clubs in having more success. It behoves us all and not merely be left to individuals to be involved in addressing these issues, all of which confront our great game.”


One thing which wasn’t common back in the Eighties was the constant naming and re-naming of BFNL ovals.

For instance for a while we had Country Vet Oval out at Golden Square. It’s now MyJet Oval.

Plain, old Dower Park in Kangaroo Flat is now Bendigo Mazda Oval. It was Beck Legal Oval a few years before that.

I pitied poor old Roo president Paul Brooks trudging around the boundary lines in 2015 flogging Flat sraffle tickets while a little Mazda 2 trailed along behind him.

It was to be the major prize in that weekend’s raffle. Mind you, not a bad collect if you had the winning ticket that Saturday afternoon!

The longest-winded ground name to my mind was Castlemaine’s Camp Reserve. For a season or two it was Countrycars.com Oval.

Figure that one out and even worse try to wrap your tongue around it if you happened to be calling the action on Fresh-FM’s BFNL radio broadcasts.

And Maryborough’s Princes Park was Barker’s Trailers Oval for a period. Yikes.

Yes, I know clubs just like leagues need major sponsors to keep the revenue flowing in.

Then there’s Flight Centre Park out at Strathfieldsaye. When the club first entered the BFNL we just used to say ‘we’re broadcasting today from beautiful Tannery Lane out here at Strathfieldsaye’ before the sponsors hopped aboard.

Like everyone not associated with trying to raise club revenue I’m hoping the Queen Elizabeth Oval, the QEO — not to mention the MCG — never gets saddled with a sponsor’s name.

Can you imagine tuning in to a radio call or direct telecast from the G and hear Anthony Hudson (who started as an 18-year-old at Triple C community radio), Rex Hunt or Gerard Whately state: “It’s AFL Round 14 and we’re here at the Kentucky Fried Chicken MCG today for Collingwood versus Essendon.”

Nuff said.
























  1. As you mentioned from the outset it’s a thorny issue fire clubs and leagues regarding sponsorship. The cost of maintaining or enhancing the club’s or league’s quality can be the perceived dignity associated with the traditional names of football grounds.
    Regardless of the sponsorship name attached to AAMI Stadium in SA, many people still referred to it as Footy Park.
    A sense of relief I believe was felt by many after the redevelopment of Adelaide Oval when the State government announced that there would never be a sponsor’s name attached to the oval. I think some traditions are worth maintaining.

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