WA teams push for standalone reserves
West Coast and Fremantle believe their detailed proposal to introduce standalone teams into the WAFL competition is the best thing for West Australian football, with the state league unsustainable in its current format.
The two AFL clubs want to field their own reserves sides in the WAFL next year to maintain control of their listed players and keep pace with their AFL competitors.
But they argued in a 52-page proposal, presented to WAFL clubs and key stakeholders on Thursday morning, that the state league also stood to benefit significantly.
Under West Coast and Fremantle’s proposal, the WAFL clubs will each receive $125,000 in increased financial returns annually (a total of $1.125m for the competition).
This will come from a licence fee paid by the AFL clubs as well as additional sponsorship and membership opportunities; compensation payments to cover the loss of AFL players on each WAFL list; and additional gate, bar, catering and signage incomes.
The AFL WAFL teams will play all home games at WAFL club venues under the proposal, which also suggests that the more profitable the two AFL clubs are, the larger their financial contribution will be to the WA Football Commission.
West Coast chief executive Trevor Nisbett said the AFL clubs had put forward a compelling argument for a stronger football system in WA.
“It’s not a sustainable system as it is today,” Nisbett said on Thursday.
“I certainly would have been against it five years ago, but the landscape’s changed. It’s a different game now at AFL level. There is more involvement you need with your players.
“If we don’t keep changing and evolving, we’re going to become stagnant, and that means that the clubs will start to spiral downwards.
“At the moment we’re going pretty well, but last year the majority of the [WAFL] clubs had a [financial] loss.
“There needs to be change to make it sustainable in our view.”
West Coast, Fremantle, Adelaide and Port Adelaide are the only AFL clubs that don’t field standalone or aligned teams in their state leagues, with the AFL establishing dedicated reserves sides for new franchises Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney.
Fremantle chief executive Steve Rosich said the AFL clubs needed to implement best practice in terms of managing and developing their players, and that wasn’t the case now.
“When we look at our competitors and what’s happening around the league, they’ve certainly got the jump on us,” Rosich said.
“Gary Pert, CEO of Collingwood, said if he was the CEO of any other club, the first thing that he would be doing would be implementing a standalone team. It’s been the best thing they’ve done in recent years.
“This is about enhancing the WAFL system and our player management as well.”
WAFL clubs have voiced concern about where the top-up players will come from for the AFL reserves teams, suggesting the talent pool would be spread too thin.
Injury-hit Fremantle had seven players involved in round 11 of the State competition, with ruckman Zac Clarke also playing in the Foxtel Cup.
West Coast and Fremantle said they would each require up to 10 top-up players a week on average, with no players to be sourced from any WAFL club’s top 40 listed players.
All top-up players would come from a mix of AFL delisted players (not originally drafted from WAFL clubs), interstate players, temporary permit WAFL players and non-WAFL listed metropolitan or country league players (aged 19 or over).
Nisbett said the AFL clubs had not considered their next move if the proposal was rejected by the WAFL clubs.
WAFC chairman Frank Cooper said amending the WAFL constitution requires the permission of the clubs and it was not an option to allow the proposal to be passed.
While the WAFC has no position on the AFL clubs’ proposal, Cooper said the WAFL needed to change, and protecting the future of football in WA was the Commission’s responsibility.