Sport

AFL commission chairman stands by community football

By Alex Mitchell

An open letter from AFL Commission chairman Richard Goyder has vowed to protect community football through the coronavirus pandemic turbulence.

Written last week, Goyder’s letter began “Dear supporters”, and while it predominantly focused on the game’s top professional league, it did not forget about the lower leagues throughout the country.

Acknowledging the importance of country football to local communities, the chairman insisted his organisation would not let the game die at any level.

“At every level of the game, from the 18 elite AFL clubs down to community football and Auskickers, Australians are currently unable to play and watch the game we love, severely limiting the ability to be part of the footy clubs and communities that are so important within our lives,” the letter read.

“Which is why I want to assure you the AFL Commission and executive, led by myself and Gillon McLachlan, will protect our game at all levels. From the 18 AFL clubs, to the 14 AFLW teams, to state leagues and the community game, footy will be back when it is the right time to be back.”

All AFL Goulburn Murray-affiliated leagues have delayed their seasons until at least June, but some doubt remains about matches being able to be played by Queen’s Birthday weekend.

It means clubs are bracing for a financial hit with no gate takings and sponsors potentially pulling their backing, but Goyder was strong in saying no-one would be left behind.

“Our commitment is to protect the long-term viability of our game at all levels,” he wrote.

“At the end of the day, those of us with leadership responsibility in our game will continue to lead us through this, but we — with you the supporters — are stewards of this great game. All of us together.

“And it is what we create together that makes both AFL and AFLW what it is today.”

Goyder acknowledged AFL employees had been stood down along with other cost-saving measure — with Murray Bushrangers coaches and officials those impacted most locally — but said it was necessary for the sport to continue moving forward.

“For the time being, we have needed to reduce costs at AFL level, at our AFL clubs and across the states and territories dramatically, without regular revenue coming into the game, and this has been extremely difficult for everyone involved, but we are conscious that this is not an easy time for anyone in the community,” he said.

The full letter can be viewed on the AFL’s website.