The AFL welcomes the Victorian State Government funding announcement to provide almost $1 million to help Victorian VFL clubs recover from the impact of COVID-19.
The Strengthening Victoria's AFL Development Pathways Funding Program will help protect the legacy of some of Victoria's oldest football clubs.
The Funding Program will provide grants to eligible clubs to support them in the their transition back to football in 2021, with funding of $130,000 available to eligible stand-alone VFL clubs – Coburg, Frankston, Northern Bullants, Port Melbourne, Werribee and Williamstown, and $65,000 to eligible AFL-affiliated VFL clubs – Box Hill, Casey Demons and Sandringham.
The one-off assistance package for VFL clubs will strengthen Victoria's AFL development pathways and support the COVID-Safe response of VFL Clubs for the 2021 VFL season.
Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events Martin Pakula said the funding would help strengthen standalone clubs after a tough year last year.
"Our VFL clubs were battered financially last year and that's why it's important that we support them as they confront the significant costs of playing in a multi-state competition and providing a COVIDSafe environment."
"This new competition will help more players to reach the AFL and boost the standard of football for the many passionate fans who love to watch their teams play in the VFL."
The 2021 VFL season is set to begin on Saturday April 17, which will see state league men's footy return to Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales after a 2020 season affected by COVID-19.
The VFL and VFLW competitions play an important role in Victoria's sporting sector by supporting participation and pathways to further competition for males and females. The evolution of the VFL ensures the talent pool across the east coast of Australia continues to grow, providing elite and emerging athletes with more opportunities to play at the highest level.
AFL Head of Talent Pathways and State Leagues Tristan Salter welcomed the announcement and said it was great news for clubs and fans on the eve of the season.
"Our VFL clubs have been pillars in Victorian football and their local communities for many, many years and this assistance from the Victorian State Government gives our clubs the best opportunity to flourish again after a challenging year in 2020," Salter said.
"The new competition will not only provide more opportunity for players to potentially realise their AFL dreams, but also improve the standard of footy for the legions of passionate fans and their local VFL club."
"On behalf of our VFL standalone clubs we thank the Victorian State Government and Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events Martin Pakula for ensuring the legacy of these clubs continues to play an important part in the Australian football landscape."
VFL practice matches will continue this weekend ahead of Round One on Saturday April 17. The 2021 VFL Fixture will be released shortly with clubs and industry demonstrating the resilience and flexibility to adapt where needed to keep footy going. The later release of the fixture will provide more certainty to clubs, players and supporters.
The AFL would like to acknowledge the support of all industry stakeholders throughout this process and their patience in the construction of the fixture.
The AFL will continue to review all arrangements ahead of Round One in consultation with clubs, the various State Governments and respective Health Officers to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved in this competition remains the priority.