AFL South East derail footy season

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PENINSULA, Nepean and South East Football Netball Clubs (SENFL) seasons are on the brink of being derailed as a result of the senior football competition review handed down by AFL South East last week.

The review has taken over discussion at football games, at football clubs and via social media and no one is clear what the future holds.

And AFL SE isn’t helping. AFL SE General Manager John Anderson has declared that there would be “no comment” coming from the top office until after the recommendations are pushed down.

However, the lack of transparency and communication from AFL SE is confusing clubs and more importantly, the communities who support local football.

The two options of the review were:

• A full divisional structure initially comprising three divisions with promotion/relegation between each.

• A partial divisional structure also comprising three divisions, with a top division then two divisions below based on geography.

Since the review was released, club presidents and heavyweights have been meeting behind closed doors in a bid to determine what their options are “when” the league hands down its verdict.

While the SENFL are not fully supportive of divisional football, they are looking for a more competitive option than they currently have, where the likes of Cranbourne, Berwick, Beaconsfield and Narre Warren dominate the competition, while Hampton Park and Tooradin are hardly competitive.

A former SENFL president told MP News last week that he believed Cranbourne and Berwick had been in talks with Eastern Football League, while Hampton Park and Tooradin had spoken to Southern Football League. It was also suggested that Pakenham had been in talks with West Gippsland Football League.

In Peninsula and Nepean, all 22 clubs are categoric that they do not support divisional football, despite AFL SE claiming otherwise.

Sorrento FC had talked about joining AFL Barwon, although that region squashed that idea last week. However, the president did say that AFL SE needs to be ready for a fight should they push divisional football.

The majority of Peninsula and Nepean clubs do support promotion-relegation within the two divisions.

SENFL Clubs moved away from the MPNFL two years ago because they wanted power and to have a voice, however, once again they believe they have been stripped of their independence.

AFL SE’s plan seems to be to divide and conquer. They haven’t brought together all 31 clubs, which seems to be the obvious thing to do, they have met only with clubs individually or as a division and in a very recent case, met with SENFL Clubs without the SENFL Board being invited or present.

AFL SE seems committed to making clubs accept a proposal it does not support.

Here’s a thought. Rather than AFL SE trying to bring together three competitions that clearly don’t support it, how about they look at their own structure?

The AFL SE Region is around 60% larger than any other AFL commission in Victoria. Why wouldn’t they look at splitting the region geographically and create an AFL Peninsula Region, bringing in promotion-relegation and looking at options to include other clubs ‘within’ the region to join.

SENFL clubs, or the top ranked clubs, join the Southern Football League, which is having some issues of its own, form the basis of Division One and create AFL Southern region.

It’s understood that this very proposal was recommended to the AFL SE commission on a number of occasions in the past, only to be shot down.

The reality is that there is no support for division football or the recommendations released in the report.

It is not the only option to maintain competitiveness across the divisions. If AFL SE listened, they would have heard them.

Clubs are exercising their options to look outside AFL SE and it’s this activity that has consumed Peninsula, Nepean and SENFL football.

It’s time AFL SE was transparent, listened, communicated and worked with clubs, not alienated them.

First published in the Frankston Times – 12 June 2017

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