Player payments just one brick in the wall

By Tyler Maher

PUTTING all grades of football and netball out on the oval and court each week is like weaving a tapestry.

A myriad of threads come together behind the scenes for action to happen at the weekend — and plenty of them cost money.

With community seasons still up in the air due to COVID-19 restrictions, calls have been made to do away with player payments this year to fix the problem that potentially limited crowds at matches may not allow clubs to stay afloat.

But one president says that would barely be half the story.

“They (player payments) are definitely not the whole picture,” Merrigum's Aaron Moor said.

“They can be a big part of a club's bottom line, but I imagine they wouldn't exceed half of what any club spends money on each year.”

From turning the lights on to mowing the grass and stocking the bar fridge — there are far more moving parts to a club's financial health than just paying stars.

“Utility bills are an important part of running a club that you don't probably think about too much,” Moor said.

“You've got to turn on the lights at training during the week, keep the fridges running and the cookers going — if it adds up at home you can imagine what it looks like at a club.

“League fees, they're not a huge part of it, but are another outgoing cost.

“Council fees as well, even just down to the fact that council mows our ground 20 times a year, so there would be costs associated with that.

“Player insurance, clubs approach it in different ways, but that's a cost you might try and cover through membership fees. You've got to have players insured to go out on the oval and court.

“Liability insurance and stocking up fridges are other costs to consider as well.”

There would be no games without umpires either, with Moor highlighting those costs would need to be taken into account also.

“Another big one is umpire payments, they're out there doing their job week to week, they've got to get paid as well,” he said.

“It would be a pretty hard expectation for them to come and umpire for free if we had no crowds — and you need six to eight umpires per game of football as well as netball umpires, so there's a fair few there on game day.”

One way clubs raise funds outside of crowds is sponsorship agreements, but many of those may be up in the air due to the impact of coronavirus restrictions on the business community.

“Sponsors are very important to every club and every club is obviously very keen to get back out there to help support the local businesses that sponsor them,” Moor said.

“We have a wide range of businesses big and small who sponsor us, and they're mostly local businesses around the Merrigum, Kyabram and Tatura area.

“You wouldn't expect sponsors to come on board if there's no crowds — you would obviously love them to — but it's pretty hard for small family businesses when they've gone through everything associated with the restrictions just like we have.”

It means even if player payments were completely scrapped, crowds would still be integral to whether clubs could afford to play this season.

“Roughly we average about 500 people through the gate for a home game and if you're looking at a restriction of 100 or 200 you're probably looking at the playing base and that's about it,” Moor said.

“Even if you scrap player payments and the like, if you don't have people paying money at the gate, bar and canteen, you're not going to keep those outgoings covered.

“The amount of volunteers it takes to run a club is huge as well, and a lot of them are probably a bit older and more vulnerable in the current climate.

“But local footy clubs are resilient — if we do go ahead this year we'll find a way to make it work.”