A struggle for control of football in the region has started after member zones sent a letter to Northern NSW Football calling for a special meeting to sack five of their six directors and replace them with their own nominations.
The Newcastle Herald understands the NNSWF board received the letter last week, around the same time the federation released reform recommendations to the zones and premier competition standing committees.
The Herald was told the letter called for NNSWF to convene a meeting to table the motion to remove chair Helene O'Neill, deputy Bill Moncrieff and directors Mansell Laidler, Peter Dimovski and Sarah Gray but not remaining director, Mark Trenter. The zones nominated five replacements.
It is understood the zones believed the directors, who are unpaid volunteers, were not acting in the best interests of football.
The letter was signed by representatives from Macquarie, Hunter Valley and Newcastle Football - which sit under NNSWF and administer grassroots competitions. Northern Inland is run by NNSWF after that zone body became insolvent last year.
The challenge comes as NNSWF follow principle VII of Football Australia's XI Principles for the Future of Australian Football. The principle "identifies transitioning towards a modern, fit for purpose governance framework for football in line with global standards and best-practice sports governance in Australia as one of the key challenges facing the game".
An independent review of NNSW football was carried out by Sports Business Partners through 10 months of consultation with member zones, standing committees, clubs, volunteers, coaches, referees, players and staff. It focused on the "effectiveness and efficiency of the governance and administration structures".
NNSWF released a statement on August 22, saying it had endorsed all recommendations from the review and they had been passed onto the zones and premier competition committees. They have two weeks to provide a response before recommendations are released to clubs and other stakeholders, who will then be invited to information sessions.
It is believed the recommendations include presenting clubs with the option to dissolve the zone bodies in order to create a streamlined and more cost effective system for participants under the direct administration of NNSWF. If approved, that move could lead to proceeds from the sale of assets, believed to be worth several millions of dollars, being given back to clubs. Northern Inland clubs received funds last year when their zone body became defunct.
Football Queensland completed their principle VII revamp late last year, taking over administration of grassroots competitions from their zones after a messy 14-month struggle. That caused great concern among the NNSW zones which have their own employees and assets.
In a statement with the report release last week, NNSWF chief executive David Eland said: "Today is an important milestone and one step closer to a future with more tangible support for clubs, volunteers, coaches, referees and players.
"This implementation plan positions clubs as the agents of change. The speed at which reform occurs will ultimately be determined by clubs. NNSWF is committed to investing in the plan and building the trust and credibility required to drive change which benefits all stakeholders."
O'Neill said in the release: "This process has been about listening to the concerns, needs and wants of a wide range of stakeholders across our member federation.
"We know there are opportunities to do things better and we want to do this together with clubs and colleagues in member zones. This report is the blueprint to do it."
The attempt to oust NNSWF directors is not unprecedented. The zones rose up against the NNSWF board in late 2011 when they sacked Eland. The zone presidents then effectively took over the board and Eland was reinstated.
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