BALLARAT will be without a Victorian Football League team for the foreseeable future. North Ballarat Football Club and AFL Victoria are at an impasse on re-entry to the state league for the 2020 season.
The club will this week advise VFL’s governing body it will not pursue a licence to rejoin the league at this stage, due to the model AFL Victoria has presented.
In an email seen by The Courier, AFL Victoria has made clear no new VFL licence could be issued under the North Ballarat name but also only a new entity from the region would be considered to compete in the VFL. The latter condition is the sticking point.
While the club, including chairman John Nevett, has long made clear any move back into the VFL would be done with a re-branding to reflect the region, the AFL Victoria model would deny North Ballarat control in the outfit.
North Ballarat chief executive officer Scott Seward said this was a disappointing blow for the club, which had spent more than 10 months extensively exploring the right structure for the club to re-launch into the VFL.
AFL Victoria axed the Roosters late in the 2017 season after 22 years and a triple premiership in the VFL.
At the time, AFL chief Steven Reaper told The Courier the league's governing body was not confident in North Ballarat's ability to meet the requirements in its existing structure.
Key issues he cited were governance, on-field performance and uncertainty, which has since been resolved, in a lease with City of Ballarat for Mars Stadium.
AFL Victoria issued a statement to The Courier’s query for comments on Wednesday, saying:
"We believe the best model for a VFL entity is one that is representative of the region, to help it to be embraced by the Ballarat and Western Victorian community.
"We remain open to discussing future options with relevant stakeholders."
Mr Seward, who joined the club early last year, said a bid to re-join VFL ranks was not something the club had taken lightly.
The club invested in legal advice to restructure its VFL arm, including a separate board and limited club powers. He said the club had studied new AFL franchises, particularly Greater Western Sydney, and their constitutions to develop.
Strengthening ties with grassroots developments and pathways in the region were key components of criteria AFL Victoria set for a submission.
Under criteria, a new VFL program would demand further developing women’s football in the region and ultimately a VFLW team. Mr Seward said the club had taken this into consideration when building a restructured model.
Mr Seward also said the board believed it was in a better financial position for a VFL program, should it work to develop better support across the region, including a stronger membership push and community presence.
The North Ballarat board put its decision to life members, who unanimously agreed not to pursue the licence should it mean a new entity. A letter from the chairman detailing the decision will be sent to club members later this week.
Mr Nevett, Mr Seward and North Ballarat board member Michael Ryan met with AFL Victoria officials, including then-chief Steven Reaper, in October to seek set criteria for the club to make a bid to rejoin the VFL in the 2020 season.
The club received criteria in mid-November with a deadline to respond by May 31 and decision to be made by July 31.
Mr Seward said the board did not want to act as a facilitator or to merely help fund a new team in the VFL.
But the board did not want to rule out launching another VFL bid altogether.
“We’re a bit flat about it but we get this is AFL Victoria’s decision,” Mr Seward said.
“We will continue to focus on rebuilding North Ballarat Football Club...We still support having a VFL team, but just don't support this model.
“The board has done everything in its power to investigate properly.
“It’s a no, but a no for 2020.”
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