The Weekly Advertiser

Editorial | Footy anxiety in population drain

Dean Lawson Editorial Nov 2017

It is no secret that the extent of sporting culture provides some of the best measures of western Victorian community stability.
If your sporting club, especially a mainstream football and netball club, is in good nick throughout all grades of competition, then the chances are your community is ticking along nicely as well.
The opposite can also be true. If your club consistently struggles, more in simply filling teams and administration and volunteer roles than having on-field success, there is often issues at play that go well beyond sporting boundaries. Sporting clubs that feed off the type of tribal passion that football generates, tend to involve a broad cross section of a community – the young and old, the rich and poor.
As a former Wimmera football administrator described, ‘it’s a glue that keeps communities together’.
AFL Wimmera Mallee, football’s peak body in this part of the world, is like many organisations keeping a close eye on demographic and cultural trends throughout the region.
Its existence is quintessentially tied to promoting the game. But in reality, its role safeguarding Australia’s home-grown code and its first cousin netball, is also translating into protecting communities and towns.
So great are its concerns that it has called on football-netball clubs from across the region to consider a variety of changes that might result in far-reaching changes to our sporting landscape.
AFL Wimmera Mallee regional manager Bruce Petering said population decline was a constant and serious threat to clubs, many of them long-time cultural institutions, and therefore communities overall.
“The structure of our game in the region hasn’t really changed that much in 30 years. But the number of people playing and being involved has fallen away considerably,” he said.
AFL Wimmera Mallee has given Wimmera and Horsham District football and netball clubs, which criss-cross the broad expanse of the Wimmera, five weeks to assess their future and consider everything from governance to game-day changes.
It will then draw up recommendations from responses.
“There are two words we’re using in this process – scarcity, based on the lack of people; and complexity, the business now required to run a club effectively,” Mr Petering said.
Make no mistake. Population decline, while nothing new, especially in our rural satellite areas, is hurting.
Organised sport is part of culture and culture is critical for healthy communities.
We need more industry, more projects and more people in our part of the world.

The entire July 11, 2018 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!


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Posted on Jul 11 2018

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