AFL and Community Clubs Not So Far Apart

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Queensland’s community clubs have a unique challenge, to grow themselves and promote AFL in their region.

Collingwood CEO, Gary Pert watched on as Noosa clinched a narrow win over Maroochydore, and said community clubs played a crucial role in the growth and continued promotion of the game.

“They’ve got to put on an event here that everyone who turns up, walks away going, ‘what a fantastic experience. You’ve got great, young men that are really well trained and are really playing to the best of their abilities, you’ve got nice facilities like this and that means that they want to come back again and hopefully bring some other people with them. So, you are promoting your club but critically important…you are promoting the game.” 

With almost 80,000 members and more than a million supporters, Collingwood Football Club might not seem to have much in common with the Queensland community footy, but Magpies CEO, Gary Pert, believes they face similar battles.

Pert said while clubs like Collingwood are more resourced than community clubs, they face essentially the same fundamental challenges when it comes to growth.

“I think with all football clubs is you’ve got to be able to financially provide the experience for the players but also the supporters,” he said. “At a game like this, and chatting with people in the crowd here, this is so important in their lives, this game and this experience.”

Pert watched on as Noosa clinched a narrow win over Maroochydore at Weyba Rd on Saturday, and said community clubs had a two-fold challenge in the unique Queensland sporting landscape.

“They’ve got to put on an event here that everyone who turns up, walks away going, ‘what a fantastic experience'. You’ve got great, young men that are really well trained and are really playing to the best of their abilities, you’ve got nice facilities like this and that means that they want to come back again and hopefully bring some other people with them. So, you are promoting your club but critically important…you are promoting the game.”

Pert said the bottom line was all about people and their connection to the club, a mentality that he said Collingwood has tried to maintain as it grows towards an ultimate goal of 100,000 members.

“I think one of the things that we’ve invested in a lot over the years, is about how we’re impacting the community and making sure the supporters want to be members,” he said. “What that does not only financially, but emotionally, it means that those supporters of the club want to feel connected and want to contribute by attending the games and barracking for the players. But also, they buy the membership, they buy the merchandise and that financially keeps the club going.”

Community clubs live and die by their volunteers and in Queensland, where AFL is competing against two rugby codes and soccer, they are an even more valuable commodity than in traditional footy states, Pert said.

“Everything that I hear about AFL footy in Queensland  is just about growth potential, but it also sits on a requirement to have so many good people having to put in such hard work because of this battle with the other codes. Luckily, we’ve got so many good people up here wanting to take on the challenge.”

Pert said the development of strong relationships between AFL clubs and their communities was also crucial in helping clubs at all levels.

“Almost every AFL club was started as a local suburban club, representing a local suburban area and they’ve all grown over time, but that’s our roots and there’s no doubt that that foundation continues,” he said.

“No matter how big we get, we’ve got to keep on bringing it back to the individual experience that every single supporter has - is it positive, how can we  make it better?. And on a whole different scale, (community footy) is exactly the same.

People are going to walk away from today’s experience and promote how great this club and the experience is and should come along next week. If you come along, you could be a sponsor and put money in or if you’re a talented young athlete, you could be the next player coming in so that’s how the momentum is generated.”

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