A regional South Australian football league will be split in two, in a move the state’s peak body for the sport hopes will help strengthen local clubs.
- The Riverland Independent Football League will operate as its own entity from 2023
- The league has seen three clubs fold since 2013 and another is in recess for 2022
- The SANFL believes separate management of the independents will strengthen its clubs
The Riverland Independent Football League — known locally as the “independents” — is the second tier of football in the Riverland and features seven teams from the region’s smaller towns.
It has been running since 1972 and is administered by the Riverland Football League (RFL), which also manages the top level of the sport in the region and bears the same name.
In 2021, the RFL wrote to the South Australian Football Association, asking it to investigate the option of removing the independents from the league’s constitution, and having the league run as its own entity.
The RFL and its clubs were notified on Friday the SANFL Community Football Committee had passed motions which would allow a split.
A new working group will be established this year to aid the new league’s establishment, and a forensic accountant will assess the financial viability of a separate league.
SANFL Riverland, Murray and Mallee football operations officer Shane Uren said while the independent clubs already effectively operate as their own entities, they will need investment from the RFL to go it alone.
“The independent clubs have actually been very proactive in getting things going for even this season,” he said.
“We believe it’s probably going to breathe a bit of life into the competition. A lot of the club committees are young which is fantastic and they’ve recruited pretty well as far as players go.
Independents ‘in charge’ of destiny
With the 2022 campaign for both leagues set to start in about a month, the changes won’t come into effect until 2023.
The independent clubs have faced myriad challenges recently.
The league currently operates with only one senior division and three clubs — Lyrup, Moorook-Kingston and East Murray — have folded since 2013.
A fourth club, Cobdogla, will sit out the 2022 season due to a dearth of volunteer numbers.
Mr Uren said splitting the two leagues would be beneficial to the independent clubs, as it would allow them to make decisions in their own interests.
“With the junior football being very important to sustainability … and the growth of the women’s side of things, [the RFL] just didn’t have the resources in the league to implement any assistance to the RFL independent [clubs], which was required,” he said.
“On the flip side, the independents know they can be in charge of their own destiny.
A representative from the independent clubs declined to comment before a meeting to be held on Tuesday night.
RFL president Mark Wright has been contacted for comment.
Source: AFL NEWS ABC