The crumbs that fall from the AFL table – a response

One of the issues raised about this concept of increasing funding to “community football’ is that any savings passed onto Clubs from Leagues will be spent on player payments. An interesting response given that some of the $1.25 billion (over 5yrs) will no doubt be used by AFL Clubs to pay for wages. The short answer to this is that this argument cannot be sustained for junior or amateur clubs (Vic, S.A, W.A.). The allocation of funding to these leagues may provide an impetus for other leagues to follow this status.

Player payments is problematic in non-metropolitan areas where this is quite difficult, and the buying of premierships is commonplace but generally short lived. It is can be different in metropolitan areas where there are Sporting/Social Clubs which support a range of sporting activities through gaming. But that’s another story.

With increased population growth in metropolitan areas access to grounds is going to be a major issue for junior and continued senior development. It won’t be as difficult in the outer greenfield suburbs (to find land) as distinct from existing suburbs where it will be problematic. Here facilities are going to have to be improved and managed to take more teams and clubs. Further an additional threat will be from indoor sports and those sporting grounds that are substantially smaller and can be played on synthetic surfaces.

From a metropolitan experience some Council’s have in excess of 35-50 football grounds. At a rolling program of improvement to review and upgrade 1-2 grounds per annum it is going to a significant time to complete; finalization will coincide with commencement. Further some communities in metropolitan areas consider that local government should not be providing recreation facilities for this “small’ part of the community, which represents another challenge for local government to resolve.

The strategy of increased AFL funding to junior and amateur leagues can only benefit the game and improve facilities throughout the country.

Should the AFL provide more funds then I would expect more accountability and maybe some loss of autonomy. Is this an issue?  Surely the aim of the AFL, and indeed all leagues and clubs is to improve the standard of football, facilities and football administration throughout the community. How can this objective conflict with the various leagues involved?

Each League would be required to have a five (5) year plan as to how to improve the communities access to football through increased resources (increasing participation & junior development), improvement to facilities (access to water) management etc. Such a 5 year plan would be developed, justified and costed and represent its application to the AFL. There will be some Taj Mahal’s that won’t get up.

The context for the increased funding from the AFL will be for the improvement of club facilities and League/Club administration. This is paramount if Australian Rules Football is to prosper into the 21st Century.

About Trevor Ludeman

Trevor Ludeman played country football for Northern United in the Golden City Football League in Bendigo as an U18, from 1977-78 where United were successful in winning their first ever Thirds Premiership (78). Study in Melbourne resulted in him playing two years with St.Bedes (VAFA) and later St.Kevins Ormond (Eastern Suburban Churches F.L), where he won a Senior B&F in 1982 playing for $35 a game! Wow it paid for the rent! Returning to Bendigo in 1983 he recommenced with United, which coincided with the amalgamation of the Bendigo and Golden City Football Leagues into a new 12 team competition. United recruited heavily this year and sought out Country Football legends Tony Southcombe and Ron Best to lead the team. Although playing finals in 1983 United failed, however were successful in 1984 where they beat Eaglehawk for the BFL Premiership. Trevor played CHB in the Senior Grand Final. Relocation to Alexandra Shire (Town Planning) saw him play with Alexandra (Yarra Mountain Districts F.L. 1985) while in 1986 Alexandra was cleared to play in the Tungamah League. Trevor played in the losing Grand final with Alexandra V Mansfield in 1987. A shift to Gippsland saw him play with Meeniyan Dumbalk United (Alberton F.L) which resulted in playing in senior premierships for 1988 & 1990. He retired from football at the end of 1993 season (age 32), when he relocated to Melbourne. Recommencing football training to "keep fit" with North Old Boys F.C. in 1997 (St. Josephs College North Melbourne) resulted in Trevor playing in 2004 in Club 18 (Reserve grade) in the VAFA. He continued until the end of 2007 reaching a further 50 games for NOBS, to bring up the total to approximately 290 games. North Old Boys played at Gillon Oval Brunswick, being the former Brunswick VFA ground. Mid way through 2007 he was asked by current President Terry Scanlon to take over the reins, being the first “non-old boy” President for the Club (Est 1963). This was contingent on the condition that he review the operations of the club, as the mantra of the club being in “A grade for 25 years in a row” was now a distant memory. This review identified the need for a player pathway to be established via the formation of a junior club, since the pipeline from the school had ended some 20 years prior. In 2010 he was successful in forming a new junior club, being Brunswick Junior F.C. being both the inaugural President and Coach, simultaneously with still being the President of North Old Boys F.C. Brunswick’s first team was U10's with just 16 players at the start of the season and finished with 22 at the end of 2010. Trevor has continued to coach this team (& son Jack) through to Premierships in 2012 (U12) and again in 2013 (U13). Trevor is still the Coach of this team now at U15 level. The Brunswick Junior Football Club has now grown to 9 teams (U9 to U15 + U15 girls) comprising of 180 players, since 2010.


  1. johnharms says

    Trevor, I agree that the argument that grass roots footy clubs should not be funded because the moneys will go on layer payments is a weak one. However I also understand how autonomous control of allocated funds may produce some waste.

    Is it messy to think payments to clubs could be made on a two-tier basis. one, an assistance to the general running of the club, and two moneys a fund which awards grants which are applied for?

    I would be interested to hear people’s views on
    1. any money they receive now
    2. how much would make a difference
    3. how that money should be made available


  2. While I confess to not being involved in grass roots football, as a former grants administrator in the not-for-profit sector, I find this discussion interesting.

    To me, a general administrative subsidy for clubs is not necessarily the best way to go for a couple of reasons:
    (1) as Trevor suggests, you risk the additional funds being spent on players or other activities, rather than increasing community access/benefit to the footy club;
    (2) unless the funding can be guaranteed in perpetuity, you risk propping up otherwise unsustainable clubs for a short period and then seeing them fold.

    In my opinion, better practise would see investment in infrastructure which either reduces the costs of running a league/club and/or increases the community accessibility of the clubs. This could be done via:
    (1) ground/facilities maintenance/upgrade funding (as Trevor suggests);
    (2) provision of staff/volunteer training and support (eg. basic medical training, umpire accreditation/training, management/governance training/seminars/conferences etc.);
    (3) reimbursement of reasonable match-day official expenses/wages (umpires etc.);
    (4) reimbursement of reasonable travel costs in country leagues;
    (5) provision of/reimbursement of league/club insurance costs (could the AFL investigate umbrella provision of insurance across all grass roots leagues?).

    Just some random thoughts to ponder.

  3. Mark Doyle says

    It is my understanding that AFL funding of junior and adult community football is predominantly for administration and management of leagues and clubs plus umpires and programs such as Auskick. The AFL also has significant input into the allocation of funds through peak bodies such as V.C.F.L. (Victorian Country Football League). These funds are not provided for player payments, although I have no doubt that some people might try and bend the rules. It is also my understanding that football in the major regional areas of Albury, Shepparton and Geelong is very healthy with increasing numbers of both junior and adult players as well as good local sponsor support from small businesses and good support from the local media. Local councils also do a great job in providing and maintaining grounds to play on. I believe that this good health of community football is directly attributable to the highly credible AFL administration and players, which encourages good local managers and hard working volunteers.

  4. Some interesting points there. Can’t agree with all.

    Not all grass roots clubs need money to make player match payments. They need it to exist.

    Wynyard Football Club had a lunch / auction to commence fudraising for a set of lights (160 K) so they can train with lighting that is at appropriate standard.

    I can’t say how much we raised but it was a lot. We get nothing flowing through to us from AFL for players that go on.

    The AFL system tells youngsters parents that they will not play AFL footy unless they move to the bigger town down the road. What rubbish. Hudson, Hart, Crosswell, Baldock and a plethora of others made it after staying at home for a year or two extra.

    Recently when players go on we get nothing from the system as they have been claimed as coming from another club. That is a lie.

    The AFL’s current ideology appears to be based on taking kids away from small towns and clubs on the pretence that they will all make the big time. Not all can – do the maths.

    This in turn takes the drawing capacity from the grass roots leagues away and that has a chronic negative economic effect of these areas often beyond the club. How did the Pied Piper punish the parents. He lured the children away. Admittedly there are opportunities outside regional areas but there are a lot inside them as well. That is another aspect to this debate.

    Limited funding for physical and support infrastructure will eventually have an extinction effect on footy in many places. Kids will move on to other activities and the rot at foundation level will eventually have an effect in toppling the whole structure over.

    We don’t ask for much but we need something more than the beads and mirrors currentlt cynically offered.

    The AFL is big business and should consider triple bottom line with emphasis on social responsibility. Some may argue that the best we can hope for (our reward0 is to see one or two local boys make the big time. That is simplistic ill informed, opportunistic rubbish. Perhaps any person who prescribes to such dogma could do a speech making tour on the country and local footy clubs circuit. They would have very shaky knees at about quarter time in the first round.

    The AFL taketh away but do not giveth, except to the inner sanctum.

    Government money at all three levels is harder to attract in contemporary times. If the peak body put into place real support structures and was honest enough to admit that they need strong, vibrant footy competitions at grass roots levels it will work.

    Oh and anyone who believes that the footy surfdom live only to work their guts out to keep their club afloat they weren’t in the kitchen at the Wynyard Football Club on Saturday and Sunday immediately past. We like the fat cats of the footy world like a bit of intellectual diversification every now and again.

    I just love being a Knacker.

  5. The other issue about AFL assistance for local clubs (besides those of money and infrastructure) is how the AFL can devise and oversee programs that prevent young footballers from being lost to the game. The whole system is geared towards getting the elite players up through “the system” to AFL standard, but what about the players who don’t make it? Can a system be devised the help these players get back down through the system to their original local club. I have heard too much anecdotal evidence of disconsolate players drifting away from the game completely if they don’t make the draft.

    Perhaps (and I’m just thinking out loud here) the AFL could set up a mentoring type program which encourages these footballers to go back to their local club in order to spread the knowledge of skills and disciplines they’ve learned whilst trying to make the top grade. It could almost be a coaching or “club leader” apprenticeship scheme. Plenty to flesh out here.

  6. That would be a great start Dips. I am sure many clubs and leagues would certainly be involved in that conversation.

    I can see why you are not employed by the AFL. Your brain appears to be working.

    What is the AFL spending on development overseas? Charity starts at home. There are plenty of underpriveliged communities in Australia. That amount would make a big difference with them.

    Good thing the Yanks are getting out of the space race. We would end up having inner, central and outer solar system development officers.

    “Wait for the big announcement folks. The AFL executive is currently having discussuons with influential astrominers to get Pluto reinstated as a planet so they can relocate an underperforming team there in 2020. The ‘Pluto Power’ “.

    “Sorry son you have been drafted to Mercury. It’s for your own good”

    “I was very impressed with that little green bloke with the three noses and seven tentacles. They got him off the Mars Rookie list last year”

  7. That’s “tentacles”, Phantom?

  8. Mars Rookie? – never knew Max had a brother. Bit of a space cadet, I hear. But if he’s only half as good as his brother, would be worth picking up.
    Which light year is he up for the draft?

  9. Seriously, excellent thread and important issues.
    I had no interest in grass roots footy until last 3 years following my nephew in the WAFL colts and the suburban leagues before that.
    They do a crucial job of developing young men, and the coaches and administrators I have encountered are amazingly skilled and committed. Anything that keeps young men engaged and involved in a network of male peers and mentors is crucial for the health of our society.
    More power to you Trevor. As a former Federal and State public servant I think there is a lot to what Dips and Phantom are recommending.
    Demetriou would be well reimbursed on $500K. Rest should go to grass roots. AFL players should not get a dime extra. Additional player $’s should go into some form of managed ‘quasi-superannuation’ (without the tax breaks). Access to 25% at 40, 25% at 50, and balance at 55/60 when leaving work force. That way there would be no selling Brownlows. Playing payments provide plenty to fund post-retirement businesses and investments – with this managed fund as a hedge against hard times.

  10. Pamela Sherpa says

    Dips, I don’t like the elite set up at all- for the reasons you’ve mentioned –the scarring and dumping of players before they have grown into young men seems ludicrous, It irks me that the AFL champions it’s so called welfare programs so much when there is a huge attrition rate within their system . The old reserves and thirds system nurtured and developed young players as they were maturing., Recently I was looking at an old trial match program from the 60’s and what struck me was the large number of recruits that the VFL clubs used to give a try out to in those days. Players were better for the experience of having just had a taste of VFL and went back to their local clubs with that experience. It’s ironic that cubs now crow about any late bloomers picked up in the rookie draft

  11. Mark Doyle says

    How about a little less pessimism, Comrades! I think you all underestimate the contribution of blokes who are either AFL players, delisted AFL players or players who do not get drafted. Most of them continue to play footy at either the semi-professional or community level and make a valuable contribution. In the past 15 years, I have had a nephew and a cousin who played with the NSW RAMS and the Murray Bushrangers respectively. They and most of their team mates, who were not good enough to play AFL, continued to play footy with various clubs in Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra, Wagga, Albury and Shepparton. The NSW RAMS team of 1996 is a particularly good example – my nephew and most of his team mates have good memories of the quality of coaching and life mentoring from David Noble, which provided them with the motivation to contribute to community football. This club had 12 AFL draftees over 2 years – three of these players (Cameron Mooney, Lenny Hayes and Mark McVeigh) plus the former West Coast player Josh Wooden and the Carlton/Geelong player Adam Chatfield have used their AFL contacts to assist their original and other community clubs. I am sure the same attitude apllies to most other AFL players and non-draftees in all states.

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