‘Crisis meeting’ called at country football club after players overpaid

The future of a regional WA football club hangs in the balance in the wake of an investigation uncovering player payment breaches. 

The Brookton Pingelly Panthers Football Club (BPPFC) has been fined $20,000 and docked eight premiership points by the WA Country Football League (WACFL) for breaching paid player by-laws.

A WACFL investigation found payments were breached in the 2017, 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022 seasons.

The WACFL adopted the cap in November 2016 in a bid to put downward pressure on spiralling player payments and even out lopsided competition between smaller and wealthier clubs.

Club apologises

The BPPFC issued a statement apologising for its past.

“The Brookton Pingelly Panthers current committee wish to apologise to our members, supporters and sponsors,” it said.

“The current committee has acknowledged the issues that have occurred in the past.

“It has been a difficult time over the past four months for all the committee, some of whom have only been onboard for the current season.”

‘Crisis meeting’ called

President of the Upper Great Southern Football League Yogi Melvin said the findings were “disappointing” and “probably embarrassing” for the club and the Upper Great Southern Football League (UGSFL).

Since the findings, a number of committee members have left the club leaving its viability to compete in 2023 uncertain. 

Upper Great Southern Football League president Yogi Melvin says the club needs to “unify” or risk being unviable next season.(Supplied: Yogi Melvin)

The club has called a “crisis meeting” for next Thursday.

While Mr Melvin said he did not know rules were being broken he said there had been talk of wrongdoing.

“There have been whispers and there are always rumours … I had heard a few things, but nothing concrete,” Mr Melvin said.

“It’s probably a lot worse than I thought it would be.” 

While he had not seen official figures of overpayment, he said some players were “a thousand dollars over”.

Attracting players

BPPFC president David Hull, who took on the role earlier this year, said he was unaware of the extent of overpayment.

He said the club had struggled to stay afloat and overpayment had served as an incentive to attract players.

The club finished second to last in the UGSFL 2022 season and has won just one premiership, in 2003, since the club’s inception in 1997.

Mr Melvin said many clubs faced challenges with membership numbers. 

“With their [BPPFC’s] distance from Perth it’s not as bad as other clubs … but it’s never easy,” Mr Melvin said.

No plans to change cap

WACFL president John Shadbolt said the fine imposed should serve as a warning.

Head and shoulders photo of John Shadbolt standing in front of blue sky and green grass
WA Country Football League president John Shadbolt.(ABC News: Jessica Hayes)

“It’ll send a shudder through the rest of the country footy teams who aren’t playing by the rules,” Mr Shadbolt said.

While it was the first major breach of the payment rules since they were instated, he said there were no plans to change the cap.

“We’re quite happy to look at it if there are some changes needed,” he said.

“But at this stage, we have no intention to change them.”

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