After a long hiatus, the 'Rant' has returned for 2012. Since the time away there have been many imitators around the league, but the original is back and ready to go!
A lot has happened over the course of the season, so expect a few more rants in the coming months. The first for the year is focused on the lack of footy fields in the city.
While the population of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) climbs steadily, it could be said that the city is having a hard time issuing permits and simply maintaining outdoor fields. In some cases, fields are taken out of circulation for repair by their owners and, in other, fields are permitted by groups that are not using them. Often field permits don't change hands from year-to-year because the owners prefer to let incumbents renew their permits.
Seeing as AFL Ontario rents it main field from the City of Toronto, this is potentially a serious concern for the league. Australian football, whilst being in Ontario for 23 years, is a relatively new and growing sport in direct competition for space with soccer, rugby, field hockey, baseball, football, and other organized user groups.
With the increase in members and teams, AFL Ontario is potentially facing a growing crisis over fields in the city.
With around 65% of the leagues members living in Central Toronto the past two seasons permit issues have caused quite a problem in regards to fixturing. Many of you are aware that last year the league lost the use of Humber North for games. Many would also remember the trips to Guelph last year for the first few rounds, due to having only one ground in the city and not being allowed to use it.
The league is experiencing some of the same issues this year, as they only have one ground in the GTA for the first month of the season. This is an issue as a majority of teams are situated in the Toronto. Trying to fit four games on one ground every week is a painstaking task, imaging trying to fit six or seven.
So how do we solve this issue? Well some would say to make the effort and search out new fields around the GTA. Unfortunately it’s not that easy. Every year the league and clubs must compete for a limited number of public field spaces with an increasing number of large and politically powerful sports groups. Some clubs are even losing field permits they previously held for a number of years. This is the case for my own club as the city is trying to force us of a ground we have trained on for 10 years.
Some initiatives would include:
This is not just an issue for AFL Ontario, as other sports are also facing these challenges. These organisations are working on creating ways to protect their sport. For instance, the Toronto Ultimate Club (TUC) uses a portion of all individual membership fees and allocates it to a capital fund called “The Field Fund.”
The purpose of the Fund is to accumulate capital for future use to acquire, develop, maintain, improve, and otherwise support the Club’s ability to obtain playing fields. A precedent exists for large Ultimate organizations to build their own fields – Ottawa Carleton Ultimate Association successfully built its own Ultimate field complex. The TUC Field Fund is steadily growing and the Club is actively looking for suitable public or private field development opportunities. In 2012, their Field Fund stands at approximately $600,000.
As always, there is more that can be done to leverage new field opportunities in Toronto. But the league cannot do it without the help of its associated clubs. Big or small, your contributions can help! So what could you do to help? Well possibly more than you think. If you hear of new developments, find unclaimed field space, or have ideas for a business plan you should let the league know! If you want to be directly involved I’d encourage you to volunteer.
AFL Ontario is a non-profit community organization that plays most of its games on public fields, so it helps us a great deal to maintain a good profile in our community. Contact the AFL Ontario at email@example.com if you have any ideas, contributions or would simply like to volunteer.
On a lighter note, I thought I'd finish up the article with a fantastic quote from footy legend, Dermott Brereton.
'Strangely, in slow motion replay, the ball seemed to hang in the air for even longer.' (Dermott Brereton).
Until next time!