7 July 2021

Liberal Democrats Member for Northern Victoria Tim Quilty listens to Nattalie Joinbee, Business Development Manager at Valley Sport, describe how regional sport is struggling to stay alive because of COVID restrictions.

Tim Quilty says COVID restrictions threaten to kill off grass-roots sport, impacting pro level

Liberal Democrats Member for Northern Victoria Tim Quilty says the Andrews Government’s COVID restrictions are threatening Victorian sport at all levels.

Restrictions placed on sporting organisations are threatening their existence, which will leave a vacuum for professional teams with no grass-roots player development being fed into the VFL, which feeds to the AFL.

Mr Quilty met members of Goulburn Valley Sports Assembly and learned of the work they are doing to keep community sport in the region alive.

“Sport is such a fundamental part of the fabric of any community and it brings so many benefits to so many people,” Mr Quilty said.

“Valley Sport looks after a region spanning Mitchell Shire, to the border to Benella. Sport in the communities is vital, and unfortunately the restrictions brought in by the Andrews Government’s overreaction to the COVID crisis has had a damaging effect on sport everywhere.

“One of the biggest problems is the requirement for volunteers at sporting events to act as COVID marshals and administrators, costing time and money. For small community sporting events that run on minimal funding, the COVID restrictions bring things to a sudden stop.

“And a lot of the Government’s requirements - like QR codes - depend on using connected tech, and in many areas of regional Victoria there are poor connections and phone black spots.”

Mr Quilty said the AFL has cut back on regional development staff, having put them on JobKeeper and not replaced them since last year.

“Gate money is falling because of caps on spectators, admin costs are rising because of the bureaucratic hoops clubs have to jump through, and this is pushing clubs to the brink,” Mr Quilty said.

“At the same time, the top end is being forced to ease back its recruiting efforts, which means professional footy will be looking at a dry spell when it comes to bringing on new players.

“Everyone is losing vital money needed to remain viable, because without spectators there is no revenue. No revenue means no clubs – the feeder pipeline is being turned off by the Andrews Government’s ridiculously strict rules.”

Mr Quilty said the demand to play sport is there, but participation is falling because of crisis restrictions.

“I learned there has been an enormous response to the Government’s $200 Get Active Kids voucher scheme, but it is simply too hard to get kids to sporting events,” Mr Quilty said.

“Shepparton is seeing the demand, but they’re also seeing a lack of participation due to COVID.

“Clubs along the borders rely on players from NSW but the discrepancy between the two states has led to confusion and cancellation, and in many cases people simply weren’t allowed to cross over to play sport.

“It’s time the Government recognised the need to balance virus control and keeping communities healthy, both mentally and physically.”