Background & Context
Tasmania has a rich and proud football history, with some leagues and clubs dating back to the late 19th and early 20th century. Australian football clubs continue to be important community centres that promote personal development, health and well-being, social cohesion, and connection.
Paralleling national trends, participation in community football continues to grow in Tasmania. Broadly structured into three regions; North West, North and South, and covering 13 leagues, 129 clubs, 58 Auskick Centres, and 16,180 registered players from Auskick to junior to senior levels, our game has extensive and deep reach into communities in all regions.
However, common challenges and opportunities, some macro-others localised, are emerging, and impacting community clubs and their respective competitions:
1. Competition structures in Tasmania have largely emerged from the ‘bottom up’ and are rooted in tradition. As a result, different leagues and clubs often operate as silos and act in protective and competitive ways rather than seek productive partnerships that build the greater interest of the game. There is an opportunity to co-construct a collective vision for the development of the game across Tasmania.
2. The convoluted structure of Tasmanian football results in unclear and, at times, conflicting pathways for participants of all aspirations.
3. Despite the growth in participation there is some public perception that our game is struggling, if not in crisis. There is an opportunity to develop a strategy for promoting Australian football in Tasmania that acknowledges its challenges but focuses on its many successes and future possibilities.
4. Commitment to and compliance with salary cap and player points systems is spasmodic across leagues and clubs. Unregulated competition for players has led to significant player movement between leagues and clubs, uneven distribution of players, reports of escalating player payments and a sizable competitive imbalance within leagues.
5. A variety of governance structures exist across leagues and clubs. Some are more effective and efficient than others. There is a need to support leagues and clubs develop ‘best practice’ governance arrangements.
6. Increasing financial pressure – the costs associated with running leagues and clubs are growing at a time when it is becoming more challenging to raise funding, creating pressure on the bottom line for community clubs and leagues.
7. Attracting and retaining players, coaches and umpires is becoming harder for a significant number of clubs and leagues – two key factors are impacting on Tasmanian football’s ability to attract and retain participants.
8. Population trends and changing demographics in some regional/rural areas has led to a smaller pool of people from which to draw players.
9. Pressures of balancing football commitments with family, work and study demands and increases and diversification of options for sport and recreation have placed some clubs and leagues under pressure to attract the player and volunteer numbers needed to operate successfully.
10. There are emerging examples of innovative and flexible programs and events designed to make the game more attractive and accessible to current and potentially new players. Continuing innovation has the potential to enhance participant numbers and experience.
11. There is an increasing trend for players who aspire to play in AFL competitions to join what are perceived to be higher rated competitions, chiefly the VFL and SANFL, in order to pursue their football career aspirations. This has escalated since the removal of interstate transfer fees in 2017.
12. There has been a major increase in the number of female participants in football across Tasmania. Managing that growth in a way that optimises player experience and increases the likelihood of continued participation and continues to impact positively on the culture of football is both a challenge and an opportunity.
13. As is the case in other States, Australian football in Tasmania is emerging from government-imposed restrictions relating to the global COVID-19 pandemic. While participation numbers across the State are currently tracking ahead of 2019 participation levels, some clubs and competitions are struggling to recover to pre-COVID levels. A small number of clubs have not survived or continue to be in recess.
14. The Tasmanian State League (TSL) currently comprises 7 clubs: 5 in the South and 2 in the North. At its most recent conception in 2010 the TSL comprised 10 clubs: 5 in the South, 3 in the North and 2 in the North West. Licences for the seven TSL clubs expire at the end of 2023. The Tasmanian State League Women’s competition was established in 2017 and dissolved at the end of 2020 due to an insufficient number of clubs committed to participate in a state-wide competition.
15. AFL Tasmania released a State-wide Facilities Strategy in April 2021, developed to enhance facility capacity across local communities and continue to drive the game’s growth over the next decade.
16. AFL Tasmania is committed to establishing productive and supportive partnerships with leagues and clubs and other stakeholders. There is an opportunity to gather feedback about how AFL Tasmania can best support Leagues, clubs, and game development.
17. This process will take place while the Colin Carter-led review into the AFL license submission is ongoing. We want to be ready for various possible scenarios regarding the AFL license recommendation, which is due to be announced towards the end of 2021.
To address the challenges, capitalise on the opportunities and to develop a long-term vision and plan for Tasmanian community football. AFL Tasmania has proposed an in-depth consultation and situational analysis of the structure of Tasmanian football with a need to create a model that supports Tasmanian community football to flourish into the future.
The key objectives of the project are listed below:
1. To develop a vision for football in Tasmania for the next five years and beyond that defines the shared purpose, values, and ways of working together to best achieve the vision.
2. Determine the appropriate operating structures and relationships, including governance, competitions, and administrative support to ensure long term growth for community football in Tasmania.
3. Develop a transition plan to deliver the recommendations and realise the benefits in Tasmania.
The Futures Project aims to support Football, including:
- Providing a model that provides the opportunity for Leagues and clubs to be financially viable moving forward
- Competitive balance across competitions
- A future model supports player attraction, retention, and development
- Junior and Youth competitions are healthy and can feed into senior competitions
- Respect and maintain the history and legacy of football in Tasmania
- Governance and coordination is managed, across all levels, in a consistent manner
- AFL Tas provides support in an efficient and productive manner
- Ensure local leadership is respected with decision making to be retained and led within Tasmania
In developing recommendations to support Tasmanian Football, the Futures Project will seek to:
- Engage extensively across the industry to drive alignment and ensure a sustainable solution
- Engage with representatives, Leagues, Clubs,
- Engage with players
- Engage with supporters and fans
- Engage with local and state governments
- Engage with AFL, AFL Tas Representatives,
- Seek and obtain feedback on recommendations
Approach to community engagements:
- Initial surveys of players/umpires and administrators/volunteers
- Initial meetings with stakeholders to provide snapshot of current landscape and issues/opportunities
- Two rounds of Industry town halls with everyone encouraged to attend and provide input to both the initial thinking and to capture feedback on the draft recommendations
- Individual interviews with a broad collection of stakeholders e.g., leagues, clubs, players, umpires etc.
- Written submissions from clubs to provide initial input and feedback on recommendations
Approach to the Project
AFL Tasmania is leading the project with support from an independent consultant, ColganBauer. The work led by AFL Tasmania will enable an array of stakeholders to have input into what is in the best interests of the game long-term.
ColganBauer is a boutique strategy consulting firm that uses strategy led big data analytics to aid client decision making in the global sport and media industries.
They have run similar projects within the industry including most recently undertaking the major Gippsland Football Review – G25.
The Futures Project will include the following activities:
Key Milestone Activities & Dates
|Undertake Baseline Analysis to establish understanding of environmental factors, demographic, and participation trends|
· Definition of key challenges in Tasmanian football that will be addressed
· Review prior materials and current landscape including population trends, financial performance, player trends
· Assess existing model/challenges
· Collation and analysis of existing data
|May to (July 2021)|
|Develop and distribute surveys|
· Surveys for industry to understand current performance, pain points
o General Participant survey (Player/Umpire)
o Volunteer/Administrator survey
|June to (July 2021)|
Engagement with Tasmanian clubs, associations, and leagues
· Define challenges and identify root causes to current issues
o League interviews
o Club interviews
o Working groups
o Opportunity for industry written submissions
o Open town hall sessions
|July to (Sept 2021)|
|Conduct face-to-face Tasmanian Community Engagement Forums and follow up meetings||July to (Sept 2021)|
|Preliminary Findings and provided for review/feedback|
· Assess potential options against engagement and desktop findings
· Identify key enablers
· Select proposed solutions
o Town hall sessions
o Smaller sessions with most impacted stakeholders
o Opportunity for industry written submissions
|Preliminary Summary of Recommendations Completed|
· Review submissions and refine final model
· Approve final model
o Change impact assessment
o Transition timeline
For more information, please contact your relevant Regional Manager.