A century-old Warrnambool and District league football netball club won't return to the field.
East Warrnambool Football Netball Club will not compete in the Warrnambool and District league in 2023 and its future remains unclear.
In a letter addressed to the league on Tuesday, the club, which had been in recess since the end of 2019, advised it would withdraw its application to re-enter the competition next year.
The league said under AFL Victoria's rules the club, which last won a senior football premiership in 1995, was now deemed to be disbanded.
A team is deemed disbanded after two seasons without playing unless given an extension by AFL Victoria.
The Bombers had already been given an extension because of the 2020 cancelled season.
Bombers president Allan Miller said its grounds for withdrawing the application were because it couldn't meet re-entry requirements by a September 20 deadline.
Miller said the league had initially told the club it needed to provide a "tenancy agreement or similar" for Reid Oval from Warrnambool City Council by the deadline.
"So then we produced our lease document (for the clubrooms) which still has a number of years left on it and they go 'that's not going to cut it, we actually need proof from the council that you're allowed to use the oval'," Miller told The Standard.
Miller said it was impossible to attain by September 20 due to council only providing seasonal tenancy agreements at the start of every year.
"To put that in context, all the other clubs, they won't get that off the council and provide that to the league until a few weeks before the season starts," he said.
Bombers treasurer Julie Scoble said the council also wouldn't offer seasonal tenancy agreements until a club had been admitted to a league.
The other stipulation the club said it couldn't meet was to provide team lists across all junior and senior football and netball grades by the deadline.
Scoble said the league told the club mid-year it only needed to fill one junior football team but in later correspondence that changed to every grade.
"Which we found to be extremely unfair," Miller said.
"Ultimately for the long-term success as a football netball club we'd love to get to the point where we are fielding them but when it's a strict mandate whether you re-enter or not, when other clubs aren't already doing that, we felt it was a bit draconian."
Scoble said the club had four coaches appointed and 35 senior footballers committed for 2023 and was "well on the way" with its netball numbers.
She said it was still assessing its options but would remain as a social club.
"Our special general meeting didn't go into the full detail of where to from now," Miller said.
"It was solely and wholly around our participation in season 2023.
"Now that we've come to the conclusion that we won't be participating in the Warrnambool and District Football Netball League next season it's back on us.
"We certainly have floated a few ideas on what we can do moving forward and we'd love to keep the East Warrnambool name and brand out there and contributing back into the community as we have for over 100 years now.
"We've got a few options which we're working through with our members and go from there. Being active as a social club is definitely on the cards until we can look at these other avenues. We haven't left anything off the table.
"In the meantime I can say whatever our option is moving forward, we'll put something back into the community."
The league said all parties had been "respectful and diligent".
"All stakeholders met earlier in the year and agreed upon a set of criteria that was to be achieved by the EWFNC, which would allow the EWFNC to recommence competition in season 2023," it said in a statement.
"The EWFNC informed the WDFNL that the club would not be able to achieve the criteria that was agreed upon by all parties previously.
"Under AFL Victoria Rule 6.3, EWFNC was granted a 12-month extension due to the COVID-19 interruption to season 2020.
"As such, if the EWFNC was unable to resume competition in the WDFNL by the 4th November 2022, the EWFNC would be deemed to have disbanded."
AFL Western District region manager Jason Muldoon said returning from a recess was a difficult ask.
"At the end of the day, it is their decision," he told The Standard.
"They're the ones that would've had to do the hard work.
"We don't want to see clubs disbanded but the simple fact is they've been in recess for three years and it's really hard to come back from that.
"The three years we've had with COVID has compounded this to a point where they've decided they can't come out of recess.
"It's disappointing, the club has made that decision and AFL Western District will respect that."
Muldoon said it was an open and thorough process.
"There was open dialogue, I sat in on a few meetings between the two parties, East Warrnambool and the league, every possibility has been made for two parties to come to a decision," he said.
"In retrospect East were presented with a criteria in which they agreed upon and all the stakeholders agreed this criteria needed to be met."
A council spokesperson told The Standard on Wednesday night East Warrnambool was advised in writing in June "if they had teams in place, they would be able to play home games at Reid Oval".
The spokesperson confirmed the council arranged formal seasonal tenancy agreements early in the year.
They said the club had requested a tenancy agreement from the council for next season but was told they "needed to demonstrate they would be able to field teams before council could consider a tenancy agreement".
"The club received the commitment that they would be able to use Reid Oval if they returned to the WDFNL," the spokesperson said.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.