THE AFL has announced a major $8 million extra investment to help bring community football back and ensure the grassroots game thrives, following two years disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Community football is the foundation of the game and the AFL has made supporting community leagues, clubs, players, umpires, coaches, volunteers and administrators across the country a priority in 2022.
The package significantly increases the AFL's commitment to community football and game development compared to the COVID-affected years of 2020 and 2021.
While the past two years have seen financial pressure placed on many parts of the game, the funding commitment directs funds to where they're most needed and has been made in acknowledgement of the importance of community football and the people involved. The package will go towards getting kids active in schools, helping households return to their community clubs and bolstering support for volunteers, coaches and umpires.
Additionally, four-time Hawthorn Football Club premiership coach Alastair Clarkson will be a community coaching ambassador, giving coaches at all levels access to insights from one of the game's all-time greats.
"There is no greater priority for our game in 2022 than ensuring community football bounces back and thrives," AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said.
"Footy means so much to so many people, towns and communities right across the country and we have an important role to play in helping everyone come back together, reconnecting families and friends and getting everyone back, engaged and active.
"Many have done it tough, and we don't take for granted that community football has been affected. In some markets, particularly Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT, the community game has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to support the thousands of volunteers around the country who keep community clubs going and play our role in reconnecting communities, particularly where so much footy has been missed.
"It's fantastic that someone of Alastair Clarkson's calibre and experience has come on board to help community coaches across the country. Alastair is passionate about working with those involved at grassroots level and I'm sure the community football coaching network will benefit from what he has to offer."
Below are some of the key components of the AFL's $8 million extra support package for community football nationally:
- $1.6 million towards volunteer support – more resources on the ground in all markets to benefit volunteers
- $1.5 million investment into schools - consolidate AFL schools program offerings nationally and help schools/teachers get kids active
- $1.4 million to remove coaching and umpiring registration fees across Australia
- $1 million COVID fighting fund to benefit Victoria and New South Wales
- $800,000 commitment to Victorian clubs for the 2022 season, such as coveringcertain administrative and insurance costs
- Four-time Hawthorn Football Club premiership coach Alastair Clarkson will come on board as a community football coaching ambassador
AFL Executive General Manager Game Development, Rob Auld, said:
"Despite the challenges and disruptions community sport has faced, our game rebounded strongly this year with grassroots participation back around record levels from 2019. More than 820,000 people were registered to participate in the game from NAB AFL Auskick through to junior and senior club football, women's and men's.
"But there have been considerable added responsibilities placed on volunteers and coaches to manage clubs and teams through uncertain periods. We must continue to provide opportunities and remove barriers for everyone involved in the game.
"COVID-related protocols and breaks in seasons have placed a significant burden on those leading and administering the community game, while many players and coaches have missed large chunks of football. Volunteers are a massive part of community football and they need greater support.
"This is why the AFL is prioritising support for community football in 2022 and making this extra investment, to bring people, clubs and communities back and get the game going in the way that makes it such an important and special part of so many lives."
Further details about the AFL's commitment to investing in community football in 2022 will follow.