It’s an exciting but challenging time ahead for the Essendon District Football League according to incoming chief executive Craig Armstead.
Armstead was this week announced as the league’s new boss, to replace Marc Turri who stepped away from the role late last year.
Armstead comes to the EDFL with an extensive sporting professional background, having being involved at Geelong Football Club, Melbourne Tigers, the National Basketball League, Baseball Victoria and Greyhounds Racing Victoria.
He will begin in his new role in early February.
Armstead said he was looking forward to the challenge of taking on the CEO role.
He’s no stranger to the league.
“I have a real passion for football and a familiarity with the EDFL,” he said.
“I played juniors at Hadfield and my father is a life member. My son played at Maribyrnong Park and my nephew plays at Pascoe Vale.
“I have a deep understanding of the league.”
One of Armstead’s key areas of expertise is in growth on and off the field, which he says will be one of the biggest challenges ahead for the league.
The league continues to grow with more players, teams and clubs than ever before.
“There’s good participation and growth,” he said. “There is clearly population growth in the north-west.
“The challenge is for us to make sure they are aware of AFL and the EDFL and keep the sport on the radar with kids and families.
“You’ve got the areas like Burnside Heights, Sydenham, Roxburgh Park and Sunbury which are growing.
“And you’ve also got the traditional clubs like Maribynrong Park, Keilor, Strathmore and Aberfeldie that are getting strong growth.
“We also need to keep growing commercially, increasing memberships and sponsorships.”
One area Armstead said was important going forward was the increased female participation across the league.
The women’s and girl’s competitions continue to grow, while a netball competition is being established.
“I was president of the Melbourne Tigers female club and I have a real passion for female sport to be successful,” he said.
“I played football in Albury Wodonga and saw how the football netball competition works.
“We need to negotiate female growth. One of the challenges is players who are multi sport players.”
He said increased participation also presented challenges with facilities and being able to accommodate those who want to play.
“The challenge with growth is making sure both new and existing clubs have the facilities,” he said.
“Making sure clubs have girls changes rooms and access to different facilities than before.
“Quite often it’s the established clubs which struggle the most as there’s no vacant land to expand.”