AFL Gippsland’s plan to merge the Alberton and Mid Gippsland leagues was strongly opposed. (Supplied: James Kelly)
AFL Victoria has asked for, and received, the resignation of the six commissioners who oversee the game in Gippsland after they amassed debts of between $100,000 and $200,000.
- Commissioners for AFL Gippsland, set up to administer 130 registered clubs, have resigned after accruing debts of up to $200,000
- AFL Gippsland’s financial position deteriorated when it was took on more administrative responsibility for more leagues
- Mergers of leagues faced strong opposition, and a decision for the Alberton league to merge with Ellinbank is pending
Representatives from AFL Victoria attended the AFL Gippsland regional commission meeting on May 14 in Morwell, south-east of Melbourne, where the commissioners were asked to step down.
AFL Gippsland was one of a number of regional commissions set up in 2013 to administer and grow the game in regional Victoria.
It encompasses 130 registered clubs spanning seven local government areas from Melbourne’s outer south-eastern suburbs to the New South Wales border.
The outgoing chair of the AFL Gippsland Commission, John Schelling, confirmed the organisation was in debt, but said the request to resign came as a shock.
“AFL Victoria came down and basically told us that we’re insolvent and they couldn’t see that we could trade our way out of the situation,” Mr Schelling said.
“So they said to save ourselves we needed to resign.
“When AFL Victoria wouldn’t back the financial status and our player levies … they said we, as directors, were liable for the debt should we become insolvent, or should it fall over. So they suggested we resign to protect ourselves.”
AFL Victoria will now assume the Gippsland commission’s debts.
Expansion led to debt
Mr Schelling said the organisation’s financial position deteriorated after 2016 when it took on more administrative responsibility for more leagues in Gippsland.
It followed an edict from AFL Victoria to have all competitions overseen by their regional commission.
As it incurred more debt, AFL Gippsland scaled back its responsibilities to focus on the Gippsland and West Gippsland leagues.
In response to the commission’s resignation, AFL Victoria put out a statement saying a “fresh approach” was required in the region.
“AFL Victoria will appoint an interim commission while it consults with local stakeholders on the make-up of a new commission,” the statement said.
“The AFL Gippsland Region Administration Centre (RAC) will continue to operate in its current format and the changes do not impact on other regions.”
League’s fate in limbo
Alberton clubs are worried about what the resignation will mean for their attempts to find a new home. (Supplied: Alberton Football Netball League)
The resignation of the AFL Gippsland Commission has left clubs in the Alberton Football Netball League concerned about their league’s future.
AFL Gippsland has been working with the six Alberton league clubs to help them find a new home amid fears the league cannot survive in its current six-club format.
All six clubs recently had their application to the nearby Ellinbank league rejected and had lodged an appeal with AFL Gippsland.
Fish Creek Football Netball Club committee member Megan Vuillermin said she was shocked by the timing of the decision.
“I would find it very hard to believe that AFL Victoria would force something so drastic on the eve of our appeal being heard,” Ms Vuillermin said.
“I just find the timing incredible, and why right now?”
The appeal was lodged last week and AFL Gippsland has until June 3 to issue a ruling.
Last year, AFL Gippsland attempted to organise a merger between Alberton and the Mid Gippsland Football League which faced strong resistance from the Mid Gippsland clubs.
AFL Victoria overturned the merger after the Mid Gippsland league appealed.