WESTERN Border league officials say they will not stand in the way of Portland and two Hamilton clubs leaving their competition.
League president Jim May yesterday said the clubs had his blessing as they embarked on new futures in the Hampden league.
The verdict comes as clubs across the region receive the final recommendations of the much-debated Southern Border Review.
The Victorian Country Football League sent the report to clubs on Monday and will make it available to the public and media today.
But The Standard can reveal the report reaffirms a preliminary finding that a 10-club Hampden league — including Portland and a merged Hamilton club — was “in the best long-term interest of the region”.
It also wants Penola to leave the Kowree-Naracoorte-Tatiara league and compete in a to-be-rebranded seven-team Western Border league.
The recommendations pave the way for Hamilton, Hamilton Imperials and Portland to apply to leave the WBFL.
The league has the power to deny the application, but May said it would not stand in the clubs’ way.
“We wouldn’t be looking to do that,” he said.
“They’ve made their call and we’ve known that for some time.
“Now we have to move on and they have to move on, and good luck to them.
“We have to worry about what we can do.”
May spoke at length about the future of the WBFL, and was upbeat it would remain the premier football league in south-east South Australia.
He said the endorsement for Penola came from “left field” and the Eagles would be a welcome addition.
“Our ambition is to get ourselves back to an eight-team competition as quickly as possible, that’s one of our aims,” he said.
“It gives you a bit more flexibility with finals.
“The invitation is out there for anyone who wishes to come.”
May said there were “three or four options” for an eighth club, including establishing a fifth club in Mount Gambier.
He backed a recommendation for a South Australian Community Football League working party to investigate whether other clubs could join the WBFL.
“We’ve had a number of meetings where we’ve talked about things but until this review has come out we haven’t been able to do anything,” he said.
VCFL south-west area manager Brett Anderson said he would not comment on the report until today.
Hampden league president Bob Guiney welcomed the report, saying it contained no surprises.
Guiney said he couldn’t be more excited about the prospects of season 2013 and what could be the biggest grand final day in league history.
“It’s going to be so much better with Hamilton and Portland as well.
“They’re such a good fit for the league,” he said. “The fact that Saturday was such a wonderful day, if you have another couple of teams, who knows how big it will be.”