Murray Bombers determined to not play away from Echuca on Easter Saturday and have requested a meeting with the league.By Zach Hubber
Echuca Football Netball Club has advised the Goulburn Valley Football League it will not travel to play Rochester on Easter Saturday.
In a letter to the league sent on Wednesday, the club requested a meeting to discuss the development of the 2013 draw.
The club is furious it was drawn to play away against Rochester on Easter Saturday and has requested to play the match at Rochester the following week.
The Riv understands Echuca is hoping to host a practice match against a VFL team at Victoria Park on Easter Saturday to capitalise on the influx of tourists in the area.
By refusing to play on the league’s terms, Echuca was last week ‘‘reminded’’ it could face possible expulsion from the GVFL.
The league issued a letter to Echuca last week mentioning 9.1 of the league constitution, which states the league may by resolution expel or suspend a club from the league.
The league’s Easter Saturday matches fall on March 30, outside the official season dates of April, to the final weekend of September.
Before the letter was sent, Echuca informed the league it had not been consulted as to whether it wanted to play outside of the official round one weekend.
The Riv understands both clubs must agree to play outside the official season.
The Murray Bombers argued they were not consulted by the league or Rochester regarding the match and invoked its right to an appeal.
Echuca also notified Rochester of its decision in writing on Wednesday, stating it had no issue with the Tigers hosting a match on Easter Saturday, just not against the Murray Bombers.
The league and Echuca must meet to discuss the dispute within 14 days as of yesterday in adherence with rule 25.2 of the constitution.
An Echuca spokesperson said the club did not wish to comment until the league had responded to its requests.
Echuca’s dismay started when the draw was officially released in November, which saw it miss out on hosting a match on the Easter and the Queen’s Birthday long weekends, its two requests to the league before the draw was finalised.
The Murray Bombers wrote to the league before Christmas detailing the financial impact the draw would have on the club and small businesses in Echuca, supported with letters from Campaspe Shire and Echuca-Moama Tourism.
Echuca recorded a loss in 2011 and for the period of October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012.
A season without at least one marquee match could financially cripple the club.
GVFL general manager Keith Wellman said Echuca was within its right to invoke section 25 of the constitution and the league would meet and listen to its requests.
‘‘Given I’d written to them a couple of weeks ago pointing out a few things to them, I thought it (Echuca’s stance) might have died a natural death and they might have decided to play Rochester on Easter,’’ he said.
‘‘I pointed out the draw had been adopted for quite some time and that Rochester had made quite a few arrangements to play Echuca on Easter Saturday.
‘‘I pointed out the penalties that could apply, but it wasn’t a threat. We don’t make threats.’’
Mr Wellman said it was a ‘‘pity’’ the issue was still ongoing and argued not all club requests could be met.
‘‘Rochester requested a game early in the piece and Seymour requested a match early in the piece,’’ he said.
‘‘Mansfield had to give away their Easter commitment which they were quite happy to do.’’
However, Mansfield president Quentin Thomson refuted Mr Wellman’s claim, saying that ‘‘was simply not the case’’.
‘‘We weren’t happy to lose Easter at all,’’ he said.
‘‘Easter is the biggest day in our year financially and we’re very upset not to receive it this year and can’t understand why the league wouldn’t want to showcase themselves to thousands of spectators up here.’’
Mr Wellman said he did not think Echuca had made a request to host matches on the Easter and Queen’s Birthday weekends and that the club had taken the matches for granted.
In comments made to the Shepparton News on July 14, 2012, Mr Wellman said: ‘‘We don’t want to deny opportunities for clubs to be able to play on the Easter weekend.
‘‘Particularly for Echuca and Mansfield, who draw massive crowds up there over the weekend.
‘‘We certainly don’t want to deny them of that.’’
Mr Wellman did not back down from the comments and admitted the league would suffer by not hosting matches in Echuca and Mansfield at Easter, but insisted he had no say in the decision.
He said the league was governed by club delegates and the board did not have overriding power and could only make recommendations.
If Echuca’s request was upheld and it did not play Rochester on Easter Saturday the board would expect the other 11 football clubs to voice their displeasure, Mr Wellman said.
The league requested Echuca meet with the board on Monday, February 11 at 7.30pm at league headquarters in Shepparton.
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