The league believes the Ford Park location is too far from many of its teams and its heartland and wants to be re-located to Seed Farm at Birrarung Park in Bulleen instead but the government says Seed Park already has a long-term tenant.
“I’m asking Premier Daniel Andrews to use his political authority to follow our commonsense recommendations for a new home [at Seed Farm] as a result of being relocated due to the [North East Link],” the league’s president Jeff Hooper said.
“The alternative ‘choice’ provided by [North East Link] is to remain at Bulleen Park while this 10-year construction proceeds around it.
“In anyone’s view, that is not a realistic option. So [the league] is being told in effect that it must relocate to Ford Park before the inquiry and advisory committee report has been finalised and reviewed by the minister and in particular before the minister has made a decision as to the long-term location for the [league’s] headquarters and playing fields.
“There is no choice. It is a direction or order.”
As well as being geographically inappropriate, league officials argue the Ford Park proposal is one oval short of what they need.
Bulleen Park is home to a 12-person office where the league and its welfare programs are run from and hosts more that 400 umpires for weekly training sessions. There are also elite and non-elite development programs, including a Collingwood academy program.
“We want the [league’s new home] to be at Seed Farm because we can get two ovals and it gives us an ability to better manage the growth in our game, and in particular women’s footy,” Mr Hooper said.
“Our 33 clubs are under huge pressure to be the new church or welfare bases for communities.
A spokeswoman for Mr Andrews did not address the calls for the Premier to step in on the matter. She said $14 million had been promised to develop facilities at Ford Park by the government and the North East Link.
“We’re continuing to work with Yarra Junior Football League to ensure it can continue to thrive during construction and operation of the North East Link,” the spokeswoman said.
North East Link chief executive Duncan Elliott said in a statement that they had been working with the leaguefor 18 months.
“The new pavilion proposed for Yarra Junior Football League at Ford Park will be bigger and more modern, with double the number of change rooms and facilities that meet AFL standards,” Mr Elliott said.
Anthony is a reporter at The Age.