AFL Victoria is doing more for country leagues than ever before, according to Rod Ward.
He is the regional general manager for AFL Western District and was responding to claims the league was neglecting country clubs.
Ward refuted the assertion that AFL Victoria was out of touch with country people.
"When the Jackson review into country footy took place eight years ago, one of the recommendations was that responsibility for country football be decentralised from head office," he said.
"As a result of that, 11 local commissions were put in place so the local commissions could be in touch.
"Further, 28 full-time football development managers and 10 regional general managers were employed by AFL Victoria to support country clubs in each region.
"There is no other sport that has made such an investment to support their local clubs and local volunteers."
Ward said AFL Victoria provided $2.7 million to local facility funding in 2018.
"I don't know another sport that would have done that at grassroots level," he said. "There is no other sport that has made such an investment to support their local clubs and local volunteers."
Ward said he acknowledged that country clubs had challenges.
"I'm not blind to the issues and challenges," he said.
"One of the biggest challenges facing communities in general is attracting and retaining volunteers."
Ward said the AFL was working with clubs on addressing the issue.
"People are far more time poor than what they were," he said.
Ward said country football clubs were the lifeblood of a number of communities and AFL Victoria was committed to ensuring they had a bright future.
He said another challenge for some country clubs were ageing and dwindling populations.
Ward said this was an issue facing many Mininera and District Football League clubs.
He said leagues in the Western District had been invited to share their views on the challenges they faced at the end of July.
"We will be talking about the challenges we're facing collectively and what we can do in partnership to grow the game," Ward said.
"I think different leagues have different challenges so we'll be starting with a blank piece of paper."
Ward acknowledged some clubs had raised the issue of growing costs, but pointed out AFL remained affordable in comparison to other sports.
"AFL football is still the second cheapest participation sport to play behind cricket - but when you throw in the cost of a cricket kit, we're probably number one in affordability," he said.
Ward was responding to criticism from two club presidents, who claimed the AFL was not doing enough for them.
Terang Mortlake president David Roberts said the cost of being affiliated with the AFL was continuing to rise, but he didn't believe his club was receiving much in return.
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