Money a sticking point as VFL clubs try to map out a shortened season
The VFL season remains up in the air, but Sandringham says if it does go ahead players will have to play for nothing unless the AFL covers all costs.
Paul Amy, Jon Ralph, Bayside Leader
May 4, 2020 3:30pm
Max King marking for Sandringham last season.
The VFL season should only go ahead if the AFL is prepared to bankroll it or players agree to play for nothing.
That’s the call from Sandringham secretary Dennis Galimberti as league and club officials try to salvage a season from the coronavirus pandemic.
The VFL draw for 2020 BC – before coronavirus – had 15 teams playing 21 home-and-away rounds.
But if the league does kick off this year, it will almost certainly be with eight sides or less.
Officials are discussing a scenario in which AFL clubs Carlton, Collingwood, Geelong, Richmond, Western Bulldogs, North Melbourne and Essendon take no part in the competition.
That would leave stand-alones Coburg, Port Melbourne, Williamstown, Werribee and Frankston, and aligned clubs Box Hill Hawks, Sandringham and Casey as the teams competing in a shortened season.
It could consist of 10 rounds and finals, extending into October.
A number of VFL grounds does not host cricket and could be used as finals venues.
Planning is underway for a 2020 VFL season without reigning premier Richmond and other AFL teams.
Under the eight-team proposal, Box Hill, Sandy and Casey would use only VFL-listed players.
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But Sandringham stalwart Galimberti said his club would be unable to take part unless the AFL was prepared to finance the season.
He said without crowds the clubs could not generate enough money to pay players and umpires or cover operational costs.
The Zebras are aligned with St Kilda, which told them in March that they would be withdrawing their players from the VFL this year.
“Unless the players agree to not receive payment, we couldn’t participate, because there would be no matching income to cover the expenditure,’’ Galimberti said.
“Our club would be against it (starting the season) unless the players agree to forego their payments or the AFL was prepared to pay for it. Because at the end of the day someone is going to have to pay for the cost of the players, the umpires, the security to keep spectators out … there would have to be money coming from somewhere to cover the fixed costs … and it’s not obvious where it’s going to come from.
“My view is we’re better off maintaining the suspended season and getting ready for 2021, putting everything in place for a viable season next year.
“But if the money was there, it would bring us back into the game. We’d like to see it get back and up and running provided the costs are covered. If the league came to the party, that would solve our major concern.’’
Sandy secretary Dennis Galimberti.
Sandringham stood down its entire staff in March after the AFL announced the VFL season would be delayed until after May 31.
Other clubs have kept skeleton staffs.
Port Melbourne CEO Paul Malcolm said it had been a difficult time for the Borough but members had sponsors had been “sticking tight’’.
“We certainly haven’t had any wanting to pull away,’’ he said.
“We’ve continued to sell memberships over the last couple of months.’’
Malcolm said Port Melbourne was planning a number of fundraising ventures in the next few months.
He said the club was eager for a season to start.
It was to kick off on Friday, April 3, with a clash between Collingwood and Box Hill Hawks.
The group of eight VFL clubs has been meeting regularly and is taking weekly guidance from the AFL’s head of state leagues Tristan Salter.
Some AFL clubs might still want to play in a rejigged VFL to get regular match practice leading into finals but Hawthorn has told its listed players they will not play for Box Hill at all in 2020.
Hawthorn chief executive Justin Reeves spoke of the AFL team taking a “short break” from its playing affiliation with the VFL team but maintaining a link it would resume in 2021.
Box Hill Hawks president Ed Sill said recently the club would play in the VFL in its own right in 2020.
If AFL clubs were not involved in this year’s VFL competition they would likely seek to play a series of formal practice matches against other AFL teams to keep their players match-ready.
The AFL approves a series of those matches during the VFL pre-season when the AFL season is already underway to ensure players not picked in the AFL team are ready for selection.
There is much speculation about the future of the VFL, with suggestions it could morph into a competition taking in teams from Queensland, Sydney and the ACT and being rebadged Eastern AFL.