Roosters left wondering where it all went wrong

North Ballarat Roosters chairman John Nevett.
North Ballarat Roosters chairman John Nevett.

A frustrated Roosters chairman John Nevett says there is no guarantee Ballarat will have a VFL presence in 2019.

The North Ballarat Roosters’ VFL licence was terminated on Thursday by AFL Victoria leaving Nevett “angry” and “gutted”. 

The chairman, who joined the club in February, painted a lone figure at the front of Friday’s press conference as he voiced his dissatisfaction towards AFL Victoria’s decision.

Nevett said he would attend a board meeting on Friday night to discuss the club’s movements going forward and whether it would endeavour to deliver a VFL side in 2019.  

But Nevett could not guarantee that it would be a positive outcome given the significant setback the revoked licence has dealt the Roosters.

“I can’t give anybody a guarantee that this club will endeavour to bring back a VFL club,” Nevett said.

“I always thought we would be here (in the VFL), so you can imagine the shock yesterday. The disappointment, that feeling of emptiness, that went last night, and now there’s a certain amount of anger.”

Nevett had been in contact with AFL Victoria since the disappointing decision and had fought for the Roosters short-term survival in the VFL competition. 

Nevett said he had asked for AFL Victoria to consider reinstating North Ballarat into the VFL competition for 2018 with the condition it would conduct a restructure of its board and football department to meet AFL Victoria’s requirements. Part of the governance issue was AFL Victoria having a “fractured” relationship with “some members of the board”. 

Nevett said a restructure, which would seperate the Roosters, North Ballarat City and North Ballarat Sports Club, would ensure the Roosters would be its own VFL entity and remove any perception there would be crossover of boards.


‘We were left in the dark’

North Ballarat Roosters chairman John Nevett believes his club was left in the dark during the decision-making process surrounding its future in the Victorian Football League competition.

In Friday’s press conference following AFL Victoria’s decision to remove the Roosters VFL licence, Nevett felt North Ballarat was not kept in the loop on a number of occasions when it came to determining its future in the VFL competition.

Nevett said he believed the decision to boot the Roosters out of the competition was decided before the club even got a chance to present its case to AFL Victoria.

Three weeks ago, the Roosters were given a last-chance opportunity to prove to AFL Victoria it was capable of fielding a sustainable VFL team for next season and beyond. A presentation Nevett felt met all the criteria required. But the chairman told the media that during the presentation, he was advised the Roosters’ program should be deferred for 12 months, while dialogue throughout the year with AFL Victoria was not to the level he would have liked.

“We were left in the dark...they’d already formed an opinion, before the presentation,” Nevett said.

The aim of that presentation was to meet AFL Victoria’s criteria to conduct a VFL program and provide AFL Victoria with a case as to why it could deliver a program that had all the elements of “stability, purpose, ownership, financial solidarity, football department structure and future security of the VFL side”.

“In my view our presentation covered off on that in detail,” Nevett explained.

Given this, Nevett was left disillusioned about the decision and said it had huge ramifications on its ability to return to the competition.

He dismissed the Roosters had financial woes and said the club was in a great position, hence his disappointment and bewilderment towards the call.

“We don’t understand why a VFL side in Ballarat has been removed. 

“There’s a real problem coming back into the VFL...we would have to start from scratch. We would spend a lot of time and energy putting into place what we’ve already done in our presentation, there’s nothing more to that presentation that we could add.”

Nevett fully understood there was a “disconnect” with some factions of the Ballarat region, but stressed the VFL pathway was crucial to football as a whole.

“There are a lot of people out there who have a disconnection to the North Ballarat footy club...but the VFL side becomes the instrument to promoting football from here through to the border.”

The chairman added the timing of the announcement did it no favours.

“To do this licence renewal at the time it was done was always going to put us behind the eight-ball – and maybe that was known. Having to wait until yesterday, the damage was already done in the sense of...getting people on board for next year and going forward.”


City of Ballarat agreement could be tested

In February, the City of Ballarat announced the compulsory acquisition of the freehold title of the Eureka Stadium sports club.

However, that was under the condition North Ballarat would meet a number of requirements in order to secure the lease to the facility, one of which was to field a VFL team. Thursday’s decision to revoke the Roosters VFL licence further clouds the murky waters surrounding the matter.

Roosters chairman John Nevett made it clear on Friday he expected the agreement to be honoured.

“If they don’t give us a lease because we don’t have a VFL side, what are we going to do with this business? We’re going to have to move...the City of Ballarat would have to fund the purchase of land and the construction of a similar building on that land (according to the land acquisition compensation act) if they were to force us out,” Nevett said.

City of Ballarat CEO Justine Linley spoke on the matter in February.

“They need to be able to field a VFL team and they need to be able to provide access to the facility,” she said.

Doubts set in on VFL future

Nevett felt this process would take two months, and if the Roosters could not meet this time frame, it would step aside. But the request was not accepted, leaving Nevett and the club shattered.

Nevett said if it were to reapply for a VFL team, that presentation would be exactly the same as the one presented this month. He said he felt for the coaching staff and players, he also conceded the playing group took a while to embrace him as chairman, but by season’s end felt he had their respect.

Nevett slammed any insinuation the North Ballarat decision could be compared to Frankston, Nevett saying the comparison was “inappropriate because they were two different scenarios.”

Frankston were booted out of the VFL competition for the 2017 season, but have since met the requirements to return to the competition in 2018.

He also added that any suggestion the Roosters commitment to having a VFL team was lip-service was “simply not true.”