Victorian clubs have been given seed funding to establish club-branded academies in allocated areas throughout Victoria and the Northern Territory in a radical plan to attract youngsters from non-traditional football backgrounds to the game.
Under the plan unveiled to clubs on Tuesday, they will be given the chance to invest in specific regions to attract youngsters from diverse backgrounds and indigenous heritage to play AFL and develop elite talent within those areas.
The plan is part of an AFL push to ensure the game continues to attract and foster the development of players regardless of their background or location.
For example, Carlton has been allocated the Northern Melbourne (Northern Knights) region in Melbourne.
This means the Blues will set up 'Next Generation' AFL Academies for boys and girls aged 11-18 in that area, using the club brand with the aiming of increasing the talent pool.
Clubs will identify and attract talented youngsters into regional squads to prepare them for the talent pathway program that players start at 16.
Each club's investment in the academies will sit outside the football department cap.
Football operations boss Mark Evans said the AFL was determined to make sure people who might not have been raised with a traditional football background feel welcome to play the game and are attracted to the AFL.
"We will use the expertise, resources and brand power of clubs out in regional communities to help find and attract and develop young talent, boys and girls, all cultures, all backgrounds," Evans said.
"If clubs can help attract and develop some talent that would be under-represented and not normally find its way into the AFL pathway then they will have the ability to receive some incentive for that similar to the bidding system used for the northern academies."
If a club develops a young Australian from an Asian or African background and wants to draft them, then they will receive a discount on a basis similar to the current bidding system. Clubs will be able to apply for draft discounts on other youngsters from non-English speaking backgrounds if they develop the player in a similar manner.
For indigenous players from under-represented areas such as the Pilbara, incentives will also exist for clubs to develop and nurture talent in those areas.
The AFL believes the draft bidding system will stop clubs from trying to exploit the system by enticing talent to move into their areas.
Evans said clubs intending to have team in the new national women's competition should ensure girls are part of the academy programs.
The clubs were consulted in the past 12 months and are understood to have accepted the allocation in general terms.
"The allocation of regions has been based on a range of factors – aligning to existing under-18 talent regions, minimising player travel and access issues, aligning AFL clubs to current or historical relationships with certain communities and balanced access to 5-18 year-olds from diverse backgrounds," Evans said.
The AFL will meet with South Australian and West Australian clubs regarding the allocating of regions in those states, and is in the process of finalising the allocation of regions in Tasmania.
Next generation AFL club academies – Victorian clubs region allocation
Carlton – Northern Melbourne (Northern Knights)
Western Bulldogs – Western Melbourne, Wimmera, Mallee, South West Victoria, Ballarat, (North Ballarat Rebels & Western Jets)
Essendon – North West Melbourne (Calder Cannons), West Arnhem (NT)
Melbourne – South East Melbourne (Dandenong Stingrays), Alice Springs (NT)
Collingwood – Central Melbourne (Oakleigh Chargers), Barkly (NT)
St Kilda – Inner Southern Melbourne (Sandringham Dragons), Frankston LGA
North Melbourne – Melbourne and Wyndham LGAs (Calder Cannons & Western Jets)
Hawthorn – Eastern/Whitehorse LGAs (Eastern Ranges), Gippsland (Gippsland Power), Katherine (NT)
Geelong – Geelong /Hampden (Geelong Falcons), East Arnhem (NT)
Richmond – Goulburn Murray, Bendigo, Sunraysia, North Central (Bendigo Pioneers and Murray Bushrangers)
Northern Territory allocation