The crumbs that fall from the AFL table



So there we have it! $1.25 billon dollars are to be paid for the TV rights for AFL football: a record. Now the debate will be about how this amount is to be divided between clubs, players, administrators and the like. Who deserves this money: the poor clubs, champion players, or draftees and rookies? But where do these players come from?


The TAC, you say, with 60% of draft numbers now coming from the TAC and to a limited extent the VFL competition, avenues described in the 2010 AFL Annual Review as “Where champions are born”.


Contrary to popular belief, children are not born at 17 years of age, ready immediately to take to the field. They progress from grass roots football clubs – both junior and senior – developed and managed by parents and other volunteers throughout the State. Now described, not as grass roots, but as “community football”. This vital and important part of the football universe supplies clubs, teams and facilities for 238,288 footballers across the state while those enrolled in Auskick increase this total by 42,337.


So of that $1.25 billon how much would one expect to flow to grass roots or community football? The Annual AFL Review 2010 informs us that the expenditure for 2010 was $17.7 million of which 50% was AFL-generated income from direct AFL grants and talent development fees. This means the $17.7 million, divided across 238,288 players, equates to $74 per player. And if you apply the 50% contribution made by the AFL this equates to less than $40 per player. However, this $40-74 contribution is not made directly to clubs or leagues since the pie is divided into:


  • $10 million to be spent on the administration (including staff) and the TAC and VFL competitions;
  • $1 million on marketing;
  • $1.7 million on Auskick;
  • $1.291 million on community grants;
  • $1.1 million on various school, female, multicultural and coaching programs;
  • $976.510 on umpiring.


So your local league or club may have had access to a Community Grant, if it was lucky. But at $1.291 million it’s still $300,000 less that Andrew Demetriou’s wage for 2010.


Examination of some of the larger leagues reveals that the AFL’s contributions are insignificant. For example, the Victorian Amateur Football Association, the largest league in Victoria with 74 Clubs, last year received a total contribution of less than $70,000. This is about equivalent to the affiliation fees of five (5) clubs. The Yarra Junior Football League is the largest junior metropolitan league with in excess of 354 teams. This league’s total income was $86,000 from team entries but its expenses came to $73,000 for 2010, with no contribution from the AFL, although a photo of Matthew Kruezer adorns the league’s headquarters.


So from an AFL perspective this is a great revenue earner since junior and senior clubs throughout the state take children through their respective ranks, at no cost, for final development into the TAC and draft. For a $4.7 million development cost to refine the skills obtained at a junior level (TAC), you then get 60% of all players selected into the draft.


Simple division would see that 60% of $1.25 billion equates to  an effective $750 million contribution made by the community clubs of Victoria to the income of the AFL for distribution to players and clubs.


It is simply obscene that the AFL contributes less than $10 million (or $1.29 million in grants) to the future of football in Victoria! It is also pathetic that little or no contribution is made at all to junior and senior leagues throughout Victoria which are managed and developed by volunteers .At the same time the strategy is to develop the game in NSW and Queensland!


Would it be too much to ask that the AFL take on the administration and staff costs of leagues within Victoria? When clubs rely entirely on volunteers why are their efforts directed to raising money to pay for affiliation fees (representing 10-20% of club turnover) so that leagues can administer their duties? These clubs have spent the last 12 years coping with drought and desperately need funds to improve their grounds with adequate watering systems or access to recycled water. As well, their local councils lack the  financial resources to carry out this urgent upgrading of facilities.


There has to be a better way to develop football in Victoria. The current arrangement of contributing less than $2 million to junior and senior leagues throughout the State is nothing short of appalling.


Trevor Ludeman


(Trevor Ludeman is president of a senior club within the VAFA. In 2010 he initiated the formation of a junior club within the YJFL and is also president of this club).


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. Thanks for putting out the facts Trevor.

    It was great to hear Mark Ricciuto call on the AFL to do exactly this — put money back into the football heartland — at the Hall of Fame. (
    Ricciuto’s original club and league no longer exist.

  2. Pamela Sherpa says

    Very pertinent article Trevor .I hope you have sent a copy to AFL headquarters. When the AFL players put their hands out for the next round of money I wondered if any of them had the vision to think about the whole game or just themselves. Excellent article.

  3. forwardpocket says

    I’d hate to be seen as an apologist for the AFL but let’s remember the $1.25B ($1.118B in cash) is not annual AFL revenue but a figure for 5 years.

    I had a look at last year’s AFL annual report. After the AFL had paid its bills, clubs, facilities and players. there is about $50M left that went roughly $29M to “grass roots” (across the southern states) and $23M to new markets. Extra money for “grass roots” can only realistically come by taking it from the new markets where there are no volunteers but which the AFL thinks will drive the future growth.

    I’m also not sure that providing 60% of the AFL’s raw recruits equates to 60% of the value of the tv rights. Surely the clubs through their coaches, facilities and most importantly fans ( the eyeballs that will end up generating this $1.118B through tv subscriptions and purchase of advertisers’ goods) also contribute a great deal.
    I’d also imagine that with greater funding would come a loss of autonomy for the local leagues.

    I work as an accountant for one of Melbourne’s major hospitals, next year our budget will be about $800M which sounds like it would stretch forever but every year we are left debating budget submissions which all are important and worth doing but for which there is no money left.

  4. Mark Doyle says

    Thanks to ‘forward pocket’ for some rational thinking! I have heard from two blokes who are involved in different Melbourne suburban footy comps. They both say the biggest financial issue for their clubs is the demands for players to be paid. They also say the players are a bit greedy because most of the people who work at suburban clubs do so as volunteers. With respect to the demise of Mark Ricciuto’s former league in the northeast part of South Australia, this is a common occurence in low population country areas such as the northwest and east Gippsland parts of Victoria. Small town football clubs can generally only survive if they are located near a major population centre where potential recruits live and work, e.g.: Hume and Tallangatta leagues near Albury and the Colac and District league near Geelong. Clubs in these minor leagues can not afford to pay most of their players, except on a reimbursement of expenses basis for travel, footy gear and tape. Footy clubs in both suburban and country areas rely on a strong community involvment for volnteers and sponsorship of a few hundred dollars from local small businesses. Sports clubs for footy, cricket, tennis and netball in country areas also provide most of the social life for people in small towns.

  5. Very good Trevor.

    I am involved in a small club local Tasmanian that has produced seven high profile senior AFL / VFL players in the last few decades.

    Of course we have received nothing more than an AFL recruiting system that is designed specificly to take more.

    Our under seventeens are told they have to go to a neighbouring club inorder to get into the system. There is no recognition of where they came from when they make it.

    I am amused that under the current system an unborn boy can only belong to the AFL’S draft system and has no individual choice. Sounds very like a gross example of restriction of trade to me.

    Bovine Excreta.

  6. Mark Doyle says

    Phantom, The main purpose of non-professional small town and suburban footy clubs is as a community social activity. The blokes enjoy the camaraderie of training, playing and socialising together. It is also a good social environment for wives and girl friends to have fun together away from the stresses of their home and work life. Kids also have a great time playing and kicking the footy together. Lifelong friendships are made; I still have friendships made in junior footy in Albury from 50 years ago and adult footy with Manuka in Canberra from 40 years ago. The production of footballers for a higher level of the professional AFL or a semi-professional major league is nothing more than a bonus for the small town or suburban club. The heroes of small town and suburban footy clubs are the men and women who give years to working as a volunteer plus the players who play for many years.

  7. Shane Johnson says

    Hey Phantom… that wouldnt be the Wynyard Footy Club would it!!!

  8. Yep.

  9. Mark Doyle, you played footy in an era when everyone played footy for the love of it, including the elite players. But the world has changed significantly in 40 years.

    There is very little anyone can do nowadays purely for the love of it without firstly being able to afford to do it.

    Gone are the days when individuals and communities were relatively self sufficient and independent. Interdependence has replaced all that which means, economically, that we are now one big team and rely on each other to turn the cogs we find ourselves responsible for.

    My partner and I often have philosophical discussion about wealth and she says she teaches for the love of it, not the money. I ask her if she would continue to teach if she were suddenly not paid and she says she could not afford it. And that’s the point. Volunteers volunteer their time while they can afford it. I think there needs to be some consideration given to the possibility that those days may be numbered.

  10. Mark Doyle says

    A bit cynical Pete! People still play footy for the love of it and that includes all levels. Notwithstanding the weekly committment of 50-60 hours plus the media scrutiny and celebrity nonsense, AFL footballers would not swap their job for anyone or anything – they get to do something they love and get well paid. At the semi-profressional level players commit to 20+ hours per week on top of their full time job and generally get paid between ten and twenty thousand dollars per year. I would have thought that this level of committment would be a love of the game. At the community level, players and volunteers make a huge committment for little or no financial reward – they do so because of the satisfaction and social gratification of being involved in a community organisation. Please do not judge life experience by a dollar value! Individuals have never been self sufficient and rely on their communities for support. However, a lot ot people who live in our cities have become more individualistic and narcissistic and alienated from their local community, which is unfortunate.

  11. Mark,

    you are too generic with your ‘because of the satisfaction and social gratification of being involved in a community organisation’ bit.

    That may be so of some, but others including me and most I know, love the club and the players who are generally sons, boy friends, husbands, friends or neighbours kids etc. It’s feeding an adiction not some covert form of self flagellation

    There is absolutely no link to gratification beyond the ‘damn good shallacking of those mongrels on their own dung heap because they belted us last time’ philosophy.

    We do it because we are footy nuts, not meek pillars of our local community. We are driven by the thrill of the kill not the ‘I will pave my way to heaven through a long suffering community puritan work ethic to keep currency with the local movers and shakers – because most of them barrack for the other mongrels.

Leave a Comment