A reduced salary cap for the 2021 Wimmera league and Horsham District league seasons has raised eyebrows, as the salary cap remains unchanged in the neighbouring Mininera and District football league.
AFL Wimmera-Mallee reduced every club's salary cap by 20 per cent, as the region adjusts to the financial consequences of a 2020 without football.
All Wimmera league clubs will have a salary cap of between $120,000 - $96,000 next year, down from between $150,000 - $120,000 in 2020.
Horsham District league clubs meanwhile will have their salary caps reduced from between $130,000 - $100,000 to between $104,000 - $80,000 next season.
Clubs have different salary caps based primarily on their geographic location.
Clubs in more populated areas - such as Ararat or Horsham - receive a smaller cap than clubs based in smaller and more isolated communities.
AFL Wimmera-Mallee area manager Jason Muldoon said the decision to slash salary caps was due to the "uncertain economic period we are in".
AFL Western District announced plans for the Mininera league salary cap to remain steady across the next three seasons, while the other three leagues it governs - including the Hampden Football League - will steadily decrease each year.
The decision was made primarily due to the distance clubs have to travel in the Mininera league and the associated costs.
An AFL Western District report said clubs had to travel an average of 139 kilometres per round, for an "assumed travel remuneration" of $100 per player.
Ararat Rats president David Hosking said the discrepancy in salary cap cuts between his club and neighbouring Mininera league clubs could make retaining players more difficult.
Mininera league clubs the Ararat Eagles, Tatyoon, Moyston-Willaura and SWM Rovers are all situated close to Ararat.
"It doesn't help us at all," Mr Hosking said.
"I would have thought that if it was an AFL decision, then it should have been one in, all in for the leagues across Victoria.
"You can't have one league in our area reducing the salary cap and one not.
"I would imagine clubs from Stawell and Ararat would not be overly thrilled with that situation."
Mr Muldoon agreed that the Mininera league not reducing its cap was "not ideal".
"I can understand where the Ararat Football Club is coming from," he said.
"It would be better if we all followed a similar line, but the sub-committee and the working parties have all approved the decision for next year.
"(The Ararat Rats) have got avenues where they can seek an amendment for the salary cap if they would like."
Stawell Warriors football operations manager Shane Field said he would have preferred to see a state-wide salary cap reduction.
"We're happy enough for the whole league to do it, but I'm not sure the rest of Victoria is in the same boat," he said.
"We do have players that swap in and out from those leagues (Mininera and Wimmera league).
"But their salary cap is pretty low as it is, so it doesn't affect us too much."
Field however said he hoped the salary cap reduction was just a one-off for 2021.
"It doesn't worry me - I played back in the 90s where salary caps weren't an issue and there wasn't too much money floating around," he said.
"It would make my job easier if that's the case. But I can't see it going that way.
"A lot of younger guys seem to rely on the extra cash to keep them afloat, especially if they're doing an apprenticeship or something like that.
"But in a nutshell, we've put plans into place for next season so hopefully it doesn't affect us too much."
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