Push for new governing body to rule country football
Peter Rolfe, Herald Sun
June 12, 2019

Country football is in crisis and a new plan suggests stripping the AFL of its control of bush leagues and forming a new grassroots governing body to fix the game.

A Victorian magistrate has proposed stripping the AFL of its power over country football to help fix the grassroots game.

Magistrate John O’Callaghan believes country and community footy would be better off out of AFL hands and suggested a shake-up of the game’s governance to help struggling regional leagues.

Mr O’Callaghan — who acted for Footscray in 1989 against a merger with Fitzroy — said the AFL was too busy to properly look after the interests of grassroots footy.

“It’s almost impossible for an organisation like the AFL to properly manage every aspect of the game,” he said.

In a proposal dubbed “The O’Callaghan Plan”, he said the AFL should focus on the elite competition and proposed the formation of a body dedicated to running grassroots football.

The Australian Rules Football League would then control the game around Australia, ­except the professional game, including suburban, rural and regional, women’s, junior and disabled footy.

Such a model already exists in major sports around the world, such as the English Premier League, NBA, Major League Baseball and NFL, where governing bodies for grassroots and professional competitions are separate.

Mr O’Callaghan, who has served on several country football boards, said the AFL was too stretched to fulfil all its functions, and grassroots ­football would flourish with a body “totally committed to its success”.

“In my view, the obligations imposed upon the AFL in promoting the elite competition has inevitably come at the expense of other aspects of the game,” he said.

“This is particularly noticeable in the suburbs, country areas and Tasmania.

“Further, despite their best efforts, I do not believe the league is capable of giving proper attention to the future needs of the women’s form of the game.”

The plan suggests the new ARFL “enter into negotiations with Netball Australia with a view to jointly administering and funding the operation of the two sports nationally.”

The AFL on Wednesday declined to comment.

Push for new governing body to rule country football