All’s not well in the AFL

A new era for AFL on the Central Coast. Image: new era for AFL on the Central Coast. Image: - though not everyone is happy.

Black Diamond AFL (BDAFL) Inc. President, Wal Bembic, has farewelled the Central Coast and Hunter region’s AFL Clubs in the BDAFL’s 2018 Annual Report.

The BDAFL has officially been ousted as the region’s AFL operator, and will be replaced by the newly minted AFL Hunter Central Coast Inc. in 2019. A battle over the future of the BDAFL has been quietly raging throughout the majority of 2018, sparking friction between the BDAFL, the sport’s state governing body AFL NSW/ACT, and local clubs. “As the last ever President of the BDAFL, I find myself writing this report drawing the curtain on not only season 2018, but also on five years of unheralded development of senior football in the region, as well as potentially the demise of the Black Diamond Australian Football League,” Bembic said.

“This season brought to fruition the results of much hard work and planning in previous years by our elected Boards, to enable our league to achieve what a few years previous had been perceived as impossible. “We expanded the Premier competition to 11 clubs, we developed the opportunity for two junior clubs to enter our senior league and we also ran a social competition.

“The Board has suffered much criticisms in its methods, and much undermining by a few clubs, which inevitably comes at the expense of others. “I have heard from ‘knowledgeable football people’ there was no way Wallsend-West Newcastle could ever run a senior team, yet it ran two. “I have been told that our equalisation policy would cripple Newcastle City for a decade. “They won two flags this season and competed in three grand finals (with 17’s boys grand finalists as well).

I have been told Gosford and Wyong Lakes weren’t ready for the cup. “They are. “I was told that Muswellbrook would never have a side in the Black Diamond Cup. “I would suggest they should next year. “One individual who made some of those observations celebrated a premiership on Grand Final Day, and his players urinated on the BDAFL logo after the game. “I stand by my loyalty to the BDAFL and all its clubs. “I think his should certainly be questioned,” Bembic said.

“Our Board has been told that we are biased and not transparent, that we favour our past allegiances and that we have vendettas against clubs. “I can’t help perceptions, but I personally found it unpalatable that larger clubs felt that they can dictate and actively undermine the Board that has grown football and assisted them, when they were asked to act in the best interest of the league overall. “I can only hope that all clubs have an equal say in the running of football in the region in future,” he continued.

“Whilst this year has been a continual defence of the BDAFL against its alleged unfair treatment of Cardiff AFC, and its loyalty to our league’s future against the AFL’s amateur takeover attempt, I prefer to reflect on the success of our new clubs in Port Stephens and Wallsend-West Newcastle, the continued development of community engagement of all our clubs, and the overall health of our clubs, which has never been better. “The last few years has seen an expectation of clubs for our league to offer more than just games of football. “The partnership with Run Against Violence taught us the contribution we could make to clubs. “The club visits since have been a great conduit to the clubs as well as a terrific connection to our members. “Bar TV is now an expectation rather than a pipe dream, live scoring is envied by every other league. “But Women’s Football is the real key to the Board realising and maximising its opportunities over the last few years.

“It has helped clubs grow, developed their reach and improved their culture. “The opportunity for clubs to now play three matches together for most of the season, has eased clubs’ biggest burden of volunteer numbers. “Any move away from the current league competition structure cannot happen without diminishing this outcome,” Bembic said. “I would like to express, on behalf of all our members, our gratitude to our Board. “Unbeknown to many, Board members had to deal with health, family and legal issues this year, which any would have been reasonable enough to resign their position.

“They didn’t and under much concerted and unwarranted criticism and interference from some detractors and the AFL, worked tirelessly to try and navigate the best path for all clubs. “Some know the personal toll this has taken on the board but few have expressed any sympathy, let alone gratitude for their effort, so I will personally thank our long serving Board, “So, to the future, as we have continually said, it’s up to our clubs. “I can tell you the model being offered to our clubs now is far better than the AFL originally offered, and I would consider it has finally met most of the issues that the BDAFL demanded in March.

“Of course, if the AFL had considered the detriment of its actions and had a little thought for the impact on relationships and the welfare of football in the region, they could have acted on our suggestions in May and things could have been very simple. “If they could have just listened rather than use clubs to hamstring the BDAFL and attempt to undermine the growth and achievements of the BDAFL to date, it would have demonstrated their commitment was to improve football rather than simply take control. “I wish whoever is running football in the region well. “If the AFL is correct and the current Board has been corrupting and hampering football in the region, it should be an easy task to improve on.

“If not, I hope all clubs hold whoever is in charge to account. “It is critical that smaller clubs are given the chance to develop and grow in preference to developing super clubs. “I know one thing for certain, that this cannot happen without some method of external equalisation. “If clubs who have been benefiting from other club’s juniors for the last 10 years could see a way to assist those junior clubs before trying to run multiple sides, that would be a great start, but from what I have experienced, the bigger the club, the less regard they have for others. “So to the smaller and developing clubs, please demand what you deserve and don’t be intimidated by others. “Only by speaking up and calling cronyism out will you ever hope to break the stranglehold of the clubs who played in the Senior, Reserves and 17s grand finals in 2018, let alone ensure your existence in the long term,” Bembic concluded.

Source: Document, Oct 29 Wal Bembic, Black Diamond AFL