Members of the Western Region Football League are joined by (L-R) Telstra's Brent Smart, Collingwood's Josh Daicos, AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan, Essendon's Bonnie Toogood and AFL's Rob Auld. Picture: AFL Photos

LOCAL football clubs across Australia will receive an $8 million boost over the next four years as the AFL and Telstra today unveiled Telstra Footy Country Grants.

With a pool of $2 million to be distributed each year starting in 2024, eligible regional and metro clubs can apply for grants up to $20,000 – helping strengthen, sustain and grow local footy.

Whether it's upgrading to an electronic scoreboard, upskilling volunteers or introducing new initiatives to attract more participants, Telstra Footy Country Grants aims to provide tangible support for clubs and help to alleviate the challenges they may face.

As the foundation of our great game and the heartbeat of communities, investment in local clubs is vital to ensuring everyone has access to play Aussie Rules and experience the health, social and wellbeing benefits that come with belonging to a club.

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said this initiative follows the League's commitment to increase investment in local footy.

"Telstra Footy Country Grants is targeted directly at clubs to make volunteering easier, diversify and broaden our participation and ensure our game is truly welcoming and inclusive," McLachlan said.

"This initiative comes off the back of the commitment we made in 2022 to invest a minimum of 10 per cent of the game's annual assessable revenue enshrined to go towards game development.

"On behalf of the AFL I'd like to thank Telstra for their investment in our game. They have been long-time supporters of footy – more than two decades – and the benefits of this grants program will be felt for years to come."

Telstra CFO and Group Executive, Michael Ackland, said:

"Footy is woven into the fabric of communities across Australia, where it's so much more than a sport or a weekend activity – it's part of our culture and national identity and for many it's what provides a deep sense of community, not to mention a range of health benefits.

"The Telstra Footy Country Grants initiative is an opportunity to celebrate and elevate an unrivalled passion and commitment: from players, to the armies of supporters and volunteers that make such a valuable contribution.

"We are proud to build on our long running work with the AFL to deliver tangible support for local clubs across the country to back them where they are most needed. We hope that by investing in sport we will not only fuel the love for the game but also nurture young talent, so they have equal opportunity to follow their dreams."

AFL Executive General Manager of Game Development, Rob Auld, said this initiative plays a critical role in providing clubs with targeted support.

"Local footy clubs are the heart and soul of every community. It's where friendships are made, traditions are created, children grow up and memories of famous wins and heartbreaking losses go down in folklore," Auld said.

"It's a priority for the AFL that we continue to support and invest in local footy and Telstra Footy Country Grants will ensure clubs have access to funds that go directly where they need it most.

"Whether they want to offer new footy initiatives to drive participation, enhance finance software, acquire new goal post pads or upgrade to an electronic scoreboard, this initiative has been designed to help with challenges clubs may face, aid their sustained growth and make life easier for volunteers.

"Submissions open in early 2024 and we'd encourage clubs to apply and take advantage of Telstra Footy Country Grants."

Collingwood's Josh Daicos said he had fond memories of playing local footy.

"This is an amazing initiative by Telstra and the AFL, personally some of my fondest memories playing football was when I was at my junior clubs so I'm sure the funding will go a long way in helping juniors enjoy the game we all love."

The Grant Program will have a Board assigned with representatives from the AFL, Telstra, and Community Football, and will meet quarterly to review applications.

Ahead of officially launching applications in early 2024, clubs can submit expressions of interest for funding from today. For more information visit:

Telstra Footy Country Grants is the latest initiative under Telstra's 'This is Footy Country' campaign, a celebration of the deep relationship between local footy clubs and their communities.