Originally written by MICHAEL HOWARD
THE final draft of the WorkSafe Victorian Country Football League’s player registration program has been delivered to leagues and clubs and been met with a mixed reception.
The program, which was first floated in March this year but postponed due to poor timing, has been fine tuned and re-released on Tuesday to be included for the 2003 season.
The basic gist is that every player will be required to complete a VCFL registration form prior to playing and each player will be required to pay their respective registration fee dependent on whether they are open age ($40 per person) or in an under age team ($20).
“The real achievement of the scheme is that the VCFL can be assured every player playing country football has a basic non-Medicare medical cover,” VCFL western region manager, Gerard Lucas, said.
“The other real beauty is that every player registered is recorded on a database and that information will be kept private, but there complete playing history will be a part of a database.
“That information will be used by clubs who are searching to recruit players or coaches because their total playing record from 2003 forward will be there.
“It also gives us accurate data of how many players are playing out there, what the average age is and how many players are competing in different leagues.”
Funds raised will also allow the VCFL to increase its ability to assist and direct its affiliate leagues and clubs.
“Some of the surplus funds generated by the scheme will go towards funding full-time field officers into country Victoria,” Lucas said. “Roles they will play will be in providing development, education and support at club and league level.
“There will be four full-time field officers operating across country Victoria and they will live in the areas that they are working in.”
However, the registration program has been met with less than rapturous applause from Hamilton Junior Football League president, Ian Whiting, who cited the significant increase in costs as a huge blow to junior football.
“I see the idea of revenue raising as just empire building by the VCFL at the expense of junior football,” Whiting said.
“Obviously we are disappointed with the program.
“It means for the juniors a cost of $20 per person which includes bronze level of cover for insurance.
“Last year that level of insurance cost $135 per term which divided by 24 is about $5.60 per player.
“That leaves $14.40 which we see as a fee from the VCFL put on junior footballers.”
Whiting believes that the flow on effect of higher costs could initiate a player drain in the league, which he admitted was already finding it difficult to attract players.
“It’s obviously going to have some implications.
“The average club cost per player is about $50 to $60 and then this is another $20 directly on top of that.
“Already all clubs are under pressure to find players. There will be a lack of numbers going into under-16s next season and likewise those coming into grade six level.
“On top of those short numbers we are now going to have further financial pressure on parents and it will affect the Hamilton Junior Football League.”
Having said that, Whiting admitted the general concept had merit, including offering a players card which gives several commercial benefits, but it was the $20 price tag which was the main stumbling block.
“I think the concept of the members fee received support at the VCFL’s senior seminar, but when we work shopped it there was overwhelming support for junior fees to be just $5.
“We realise the membership fee is unavoidable and would come in, but will be writing to the VCFL immediately to have the fee reduced by at least 50 per cent.
“That would soften the impact, but it would still be detrimental to junior football.”
While Lucas admitted that junior footballers would be the group most hard hit by the costs, he said generally the acceptance across the state for the program has been positive.
“The acceptance in some regions has been really good, particularly in junior leagues.
“On the Mornington-Peninsula, which is a high football growth region with big junior leagues, they adopted their own player registration scheme for last season.
“They thought it was an excellent idea.
“These views have been shared by most from my talkings with other regional managers and the majority of regions and leagues accept it as being positive.
“It reduces the costs of affiliation to football clubs and reduces the burden of insurance cover on clubs and moves it to where it should be Ñ on the players.
“The VCFL feels the responsibility for insurance lies with the players, not the clubs, and this program achieves that among other things.”