While Australia is slowly starting to return to normality following a harrowing few months, local sporting clubs are still facing numerous challenges in getting their teams back onto the field.
Not only are sponsors pulling out of grassroots clubs because they themselves have suffered financially, but players are also opting not to return this season because they sadly can’t afford to.
To make matters worse, when community sport does eventually return, clubs will have additional costs through having to implement new cleaning and sanitising practices.
One sport on the road to recovery is Aussie Rules. Last week AFL NSW/ACT gave footy clubs the green light to return to training in groups of up to 10 people.
However with no competition start date locked in and Greygums Oval still shut by Penrith Council, the Penrith Rams are struggling to find many positives out of the announcement.
“Yes it’s good news in theory but I think the league should be working back the other way,” Rams Chairman John Rix said.
“We should have a competition start date first so the players have something to train towards. To say to the players ‘you can go and train’ without something to train for is probably a bit tough. Plus, even if we wanted to run a small training session we can’t because Council haven’t re-opened the grounds yet.”
The Rams will also take another hit this season financially with some sponsors set to pull the pin and canteens – a huge revenue stream for community sporting clubs – to be greatly affected by COVID-19 restrictions.
“We haven’t invoiced our sponsors but we are not expecting some of them, like the pubs and clubs, to be in the position to help fund us this season,” Rix said.
“The likelihood of us being allowed to run a full canteen is also in doubt with new health and safety regulations.
“60 per cent of our money comes out of our canteen sales and sponsorship is another 40 per cent. If we can’t get the 40 and can’t get the 60 then that’s where it hurts us financially.”
On top of expensive affiliation fees to AFL Sydney, ground hire as well as umpire costs, the Rams will also have to foot the bill implementing new cleaning and sanitising regimes.
Rix said it’s going to be a very difficult few months but the club is determined to make it work.
“It’s not just the AFL experiencing this, it’ll be a mess for every sporting organisation,” he said.
“Yes, it’s going to be a tough slog in many ways, but we’ll find a way to play.”
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for nearly a decade.