Editorial: Facilities – A rolling work in progress

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Brett Connell – VAFA CEO

“Close to 3,000 grounds are currently used for Australian football. This number is increasing each year due to the strong participation growth being experienced in our game.” Shayne Ward (AFL National Venues and Community Facilities Manager).

In the VAFA we access and use approximately 150+ venues across our season, ranging from university and school facilities through to local grounds provided by Local Government Authorities (LGA’s).

The VAFA and our club’s need for facilities continues to expand to support participation growth and the changing profile of participation.

Increasing the capacity of grounds and pavilions, and the development of facilities that welcome all participants and umpires, has never been more important.

In saying this, the AFL industry is heavily focused on developing the right plans in collaboration with councils, clubs and all other stakeholders in each project.

The AFL, via AFL Victoria, recently released the 2019 AFL Preferred Facilities Guidelines which is an effective tool that assists us all in the pursuit of facility upgrades or development.

The guidelines outline the preferred requirements for facilities. They are not intended to be used as a basis for assessing the suitability of existing facilities, but rather should existing facilities be considered for upgrade the guidelines should be used to inform facility provision and act as a road map for future development.

The guidelines also recognise changing trends in the facility space.

Growing capacity: facility access demand is increasing through the growth in junior and female participation.

Schools: improving access to appropriately develop school facilities provides opportunity to address capacity issues, particularly in land locked municipalities or where ground shortages exist.

LED Lighting – Whilst LED lighting is currently an additional capital cost compared to traditional metal halogen lights, use of this type of lighting has the capacity to reduce lighting maintenance and operational costs, increases lighting life span and improve lighting uniformity.

Synthetic and Hybrid Turf – AFL endorsed synthetic fields can offer the equivalent usage of three natural turf fields and can cater for growing demand for sports fields in both football and partner sports like cricket. Synthetic turf also relieves pressure on natural turf fields and can assist in alleviating the impact of overuse, particularly as a shared training venue option and in high wear areas of playing fields. Location or co-location of synthetic fields adjacent to schools can also promote shared use of space and increase capacity for both school and community football use.

Reinforced natural turf (hybrid turf) combines the positive properties of natural grass with the strength of synthetic turf to create a consistent, higher quality year-round playing surface. Hybrid turf is able to sustain wear, has an increased carrying capacity from approximately 25 to 45 hours per week, has multiple uses and can be installed at approximately half the cost of a full synthetic field.

The VAFA encourages all of our clubs considering facility upgrades or re-development to begin with the AFL Preferred Facility Guidelines which can be found on the VAFA website – vafa.com.au

While discussing facility upgrades and improvements, it is timely to reflect upon the safety of all of our players, spectators, supporters and the like in light of the recent tragic events. With over 3000 women players and countless female volunteers, umpires and spectators, please let’s all be reminded of our role in keeping our environments and their surrounds not only inclusive but safe for all.

See you at the footy.