PROPOSAL FOR A VAFA CUP

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At the recent VAFA Members Meeting and in his editorial column in the Amateur Footballer, VAFA CEO Michael Sholly presented to all the Club Presidents the idea that the VAFA could stage an knock out cup tournament that would involve clubs playing against each other from different sections. To simplify the idea, you could think of it as the VAFA’s very own FA Cup competition. 
The news reports in the papers today confirm suspicions that the AFL’s NAB Cup will cease to exist from next year. However with the different make up of the VAFA, a Cup competition has real legs. We look at the idea and break down the pros and cons below.  We encourage you to vote in the poll and to enter your comments via our Facebook page. 
The idea
The VAFA Cup would consist of two cup competitions; a Premier Sections Cup (Premier Cup) and a Division Sections Cup (Division Cup). 
Why two cups? The main reason is with 74 clubs, there would be too many rounds required to knock out all teams to get to a winner. Another key reason is the Association would want to avoid any blowout in scores should a lower Division club meet a Premier club. 
Whilst some clubs might fancy themselves and indeed could produce an upset here or there against a Premier Section club the reality suggests that for a lower Division to go all the way they would need to defeat more than one Premier club. 
The format
It would be a knock out competition with the Premier Cup to be played over 5 rounds and the Division Cup over 6 rounds including the final.  The Cup would commence in pre-season, with the finals to be played during the main home and away season. The finals for both Cups would be played in the week before the Queen’s Birthday. 
The Grand Finals would be played under lights at Sportscover Arena, most likely on the Wednesday and Thursday nights. 
Working backwards from there the semi and quarterfinals would be played on Tuesday and Wednesday nights at Sportscover Arena or other suitable venues with lights.
This would mean all the preliminary knock out rounds for both cups would be completed prior to round 1. These early Cup matches would then become a club’s practice matches. 
The requirement
There would be no reserves matches in for the VAFA Cup. Therefore the matches would be just 22 selected players (or possibly more if an increased bench were permitted) from each club. 
The Cup provides and opportunity for clubs competition as a chance to blood U19 players or trial a player at senior level. 
When midweek finals matches take place in season, a club may choose to use an experimental side rather than their senior 22 from Saturday’s home and away fixture. 
The pros
Football: One of the VAFA’s key strategic goals is to provide opportunities to footballers to play football in a friendly community environment at the highest possible level. 
As previously highlighted the Cups would provide further opportunities for players to play in the VAFA. Clubs might be able to secure high profile players to play on short releases. Furthermore, star players in lower sections would have the chance to test themselves against clubs from higher sections. 
As well as an avenue to recruit players from elsewhere, the Cups could provide an opportunity for players that might have been considering retirement to continue to play in the shorter competition. 
The Cup competition is likely to present openings for players to play in a senior team that will have the whole club’s attention. The Cup also offers chances to players who work on Saturdays to play football. 
Many clubs have country players train with them midweek before they head home on Saturday to play. Now, these country players could sign to play for their VAFA team midweek and pull on the boots in the VAFA Cup. 
The Cup competitions might also be a chance for the competition to trial new rules. 
Media: The VAFA media team endeavours to gain as much exposure for the competition as possible; however with multiple community competitions, plus the AFL playing on Saturday’s it is often hard to get breathing space in mainstream media. 
By having quality football played mid-week there is the possibility of wider mainstream media coverage that we are currently not guaranteed. People that are not Amateur followers may be enticed to come and watch football midweek in their local community. 
The VAFA would hope to have live radio broadcasts of cup matches from the quarter final stage – again each club would be given the opportunity to promote their sponsors via these broadcasts, something that currently is for the most part only available to Premier Section. 
Earlier this year we saw the huge interest and massive crowds that two Premier B matches created when played as catch up games on the Wednesday and Thursday night. With just one team of 22 playing it provides clubs a chance to make an event of cup fixtures. 
These two games under lights were well received by spectators, but most importantly the players loved it too. The chance to play under lights is a real attraction for community footballers. 
Finance: The VAFA have already reached out to their commercial partners to find a sponsor for the competition. The intention would be that clubs would be playing in the Cup to win from a pool of prize money. 
Clubs able to host matches in the preliminary rounds would be able to run their canteen or host functions. Matches played in daylight saving time in the warmer months could create a buzz about the club leading into the season proper. 
The more people that see and hear about the VAFA the better it is for the competition and for any potential commercial arrangements the Association might be able to secure. The VAFA are keen to continue to minimise the costs of playing for clubs and players alike, with extra product to push through the media in an uncluttered football timeslot, great opportunities exist. 
Extras: A VAFA Cup would add another point of difference to the VAFA from other competitions. It will assist in arranging designated pre-season matches and it will provide another piece of silverware for clubs to strive for. 
The cons
Ground availability: The VAFA are aware that finding grounds in pre-season to host practice matches can be difficult and the need to have played two rounds of the Premier Cup and three rounds of the Division Cup before round 1 of the home and away season would be difficult for some clubs. 
However most clubs manage to play practice matches before round 1 and this would hopefully provide incentive and structure in doing this. 
Playing multiple games in in the space of the week. In reality this would only happen for the 16 clubs from the two Cups that made the quarterfinal stage. As previously mentioned, the Cup competition would provide opportunities for players that are missing game time and there are possibilities that the VAFA would allow a larger bench for Cup matches
Grounds not having suitable lights. With most of the matches to be completed before round 1, daylight savings should allow clubs to host matches in the early evening and the light would be good enough. Matches from the quarterfinal stage could be hosted at Sportscover Arena or other suitable venues. 
Extra burden on volunteers: This is an unavoidable one, however as we know, most if not clubs play practice matches so there would likely be this dependency anyway. If your club made it to the quarterfinals then it is only one team that would be playing, so players and other club people would be excited by the team’s chances. Plus there is the lure of prize money. 
Interruption to practice match schedule: Clubs organise their practice matches from a while out and should your club lose first round they would then need to reschedule. Also some VAFA clubs have annual matches against a country club. The VAFA believe these scenarios could be worked around. There will be an even number of teams that would be knocked out at once, allowing clubs to be scheduled against a fellow knocked out team. On country matches, perhaps a Cup match could be played in the country. 
Next Steps
The idea has been presented to clubs with a more formal proposal to be sent to all VAFA Member clubs and Life Members during September. Everyone will be encouraged to submit comments or suggestions. This is the same process and period when any draft rule changes are presented for comment. 
Then all club submissions and comments would be taken into consideration at the Board Seminar that takes place in October. All feedback is required to be in written format and the more detail the better. The Board will discuss the merits or detractions of the VAFA Cup at the Board Seminar and make a decision on whether the VAFA Cup would proceed. If given the go ahead the VAFA Cup would commence in March 2014.