Comment: any changes to BFL a long way off

AMID all the talk surrounding the future of the Ballarat Football League and the possibility of some eastern teams looking elsewhere, it is important to remember one thing – nothing is going to change any time soon.

Yes, Sunbury has publicly stated it is exploring its options, but at the moment it is nothing more than that.

It will be years before a decision is made either way.

At the end of all of this, the Lions could end up staying put in the BFL.

But what if they don’t?

What would happen to the BFL and surrounding leagues if a powerhouse club like Sunbury packed up and left?

It could be the trigger point for a massive restructure not just in the BFL, but across the entire Ballarat football region.

Other clubs, namely Darley and Melton South, have previously declared they would watch with interest to see what Sunbury’s plans were before making a call on their future.

The writing is on the wall; the BFL as we know it in its current form will not be around forever.

Not that this is necessarily a bad thing.

The forecast massive population growth in Melbourne’s west means AFL Victoria and AFL Goldfields will have a great deal of work on its hands in the coming years.

Leagues will almost certainly change, new leagues could even be created.

But what will it mean for Ballarat football?

It’s impossible to say at this point.

A number of ideas have been thrown around, some outlandish, some with a seemingly solid grounding.

For the sake of it, let’s just imagine there are no eastern sides playing football in Ballarat anymore.

It is a drastic thought, but one that is not entirely out of the question.

That would leave six Ballarat teams in the league – not enough for a league on its own.

Combine that with the existing Central Highlands Football League, however, and you have 24 teams within 45 minutes of Ballarat’s CBD.

There’s no doubt there is a gulf between BFL and CHFL standards, but the general consensus is that gap has closed significantly in recent years.

Imagine a 24-team competition split into two divisions, with the six remaining BFL sides battling it out with the best of the CHFL.

Instil a promotion-relegation system and it would not take long for the evenness of the competition to level out.

It cannot be doubted there are some clashes involving eastern teams that fail to capture the imagination of Ballarat-minded folk, and vice-versa.

However, the interest surrounding a clash between Lake Wendouree and Bungaree, for example, would be fever-pitch.

It is a distant thought and there are a lot of changes that would need top be made.

The sense of community and juniors that the CHFL prides itself on may have to be relinquished to an extent, while there might be a slight drop in the overall standard for the BFL.

The crowds would definitely be bigger and there would be tremendous interest in the first year, but there would be a bit of a risk that it might not work long term.

We have just scratched the surface of the many factors that will have to be weighed up – and that is for just one possible solution.

The moral of the story? Do not expect any big changes within the next three years, at a minimum.

patrick.nolan@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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