AFL Goldfields will be the biggest winner from a recent funding announcement, which removes a number of fees and increases investment in regional football clubs.

The AFL and the state government last week announced an $18 million package to boost regional football across the next three seasons, and also removed affiliation fees, umpire registration fees, and reduced the cost of apparel.

The move will see AFL Goldfields – which includes the Ballarat Football Netball League and the Riddell District Football Netball League – and their clubs save $471,097, the highest amount of any regional football organisation.

The AFL made the announcement at Bacchus Marsh Football Club on September 17, with league chief executive Gillon McLachlan re-enforcing the importance of local clubs to the AFL.

“Local football clubs are often the heart of local communities, especially here in Victoria.” Mr McLachlan said.

“Community football is the cornerstone of our game and underpins all aspects of our national sport.

“We understand the challenges faced in Victorian country football communities, especially with a change in demographics and community expectations, so it’s vital we continue to invest our support into volunteers, coaches, players, facilities and umpires who are the lifeblood of regional communities.”

Funding will also be focused on growing the next generation of players, umpires and coaches with $330,000 dedicated to introducing “Village Hubs” which will be launched in select regions to align schools, clubs and AFL clubs.

Acting AFL Goldfields regional general manager Simon Dwyer was elated by the announcement.

“It’s an extremely exciting announcement from the AFL, offering clubs immediate financial relief … and also providing greater resources to assist club volunteers,” Mr Dwyer said.

“Initiatives like this will go a long way in supporting the sustainability of community football throughout our region.”