Football council reveals all

The hottest topic around sporting venues has been the future of country football and netball and the potential future has been made clear after the Limestone Coast Regional Football Council revealed all on Tuesday morning.

Following months of meetings, discussions and debate, a 29-page report reviewing the sustainability and structure of Limestone Coast football and netball was released to the world.

In the second paragraph of the document the LCRFC and SANFL made it clear change was required for the game to maintain its place at the sporting soul of the community as working and recreational activities evolve.

No less than 12 important matters from demographic changes to participation decline were considered in the investigation which contained a four-part process.

Talks were initiated at a historic meeting in June between the LCRFC, SANFL plus all clubs and leagues in the area.

Since then, the LCRFC analysed the state of play in the South East by producing a discussion paper and arranging meetings with all parties to develop a way forward for the sport to prosper in the future.

Four potential restructuring options were put forward to the SANFL from dissolving the WBFL, to playing conference, town and community and division based competitions.

Tuesday’s final report revealed if change was required, Penola and Kalangadoo would be the best suited clubs to join the six Western Border teams in a new league from 2023, while the remainder of the Mid South Eastern and Kowree Naracoorte Tatiara competitions remain untouched.

The small moves could pave the way for separate town and community competitions to commence in the medium to long term.

However, these are only recommendations as back up options if changes are required to keep football and netball sustainable in the area.

Possible examples of a catalyst to spark change and bring these backup plans into action include losses of clubs in any league, continual decline of playing numbers and ongoing inability of clubs to field a full suite of teams.

LCRFC chair Trevor Smart said they were the most sustainable options of keeping all clubs alive in the next decade and beyond.

“We looked at what our options could have been and geographically (Penola and Kalangadoo) were the best fit and also how they have done some great work in terms of facilities, culture and how they approach things generally,” he said.

“What we have maintained all along is being proactive rather than wait for change to be forced upon us, so we feel it is a positive move.

“We met with the two clubs and three leagues last night, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

“Both clubs have at least committed to working with the football council to consider what they need to enter a new league successfully if the scenario does occur in 2023.”

Although the Eagles have previously played in the WBFL from 1963 to 87, the hypothetical move will not be an official homecoming.

The proposed eight-team competition will not be called the Western Border Football League with a name yet to be decided, but the MSEFL and KNTFL are expected to maintain their identities if these changes occur.

The small changes will be made in the short term before a more significant revamp of splitting the clubs into two competitions based on population.

Smart said the decision to circle the town and community league structure was based around its sustainable qualities.

“Sustainability is largely around playing numbers and the ability of towns and various communities to sustain and attract people,” he said.

“The town competition is based around the larger population centres where there is more opportunities to employ people et cetera.

“We also felt more juniors would be available, so it sustains the whole club football and netball approach.

“Some community clubs are well run, but others may struggle retaining numbers, so it can give us different options going forward.

“A community competition may be able to play different grades to reduce the prospect of a club disappearing.

“Our one aim is not to put any clubs out of business and provide the opportunity for everyone to exist in one form or another.”

Looking ahead, the LCRFC will give clubs, players, umpires, leagues, volunteers and fans time to process all of the information ahead of a regional forum between all parties early next year.

“We put the report out to give everyone the chance to have a read and talk to clubs and leagues et cetera,” Smart said.

“We will take feedback from anyone and had planned to hold a forum this month, but time did not really allow with the work we were doing,

“We are planning to have one on a date yet to be determined between January and early March for information sharing.”

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