Australia's richest footrace will have a new governing body, as the Stawell Athletic Club joins forces with the state's professional running body, the Northern Grampians Shire Council and independent members to safeguard the future of the Stawell Gift.
Victorian Athletic League president Stephanie Spence will head the new-look management committee tasked with governing the 142-year-old race.
The Stawell Athletic Club will still oversee the running of the carnival itself, with the new independent body instead focusing on the Gift's long-term sustainability.
SAC president Neil Blizzard will sit on the management committee alongside club members Robert Irvine and Wendy Hopwood.
Its inaugural chair, Ms Spence, is a former national league track athlete who has won the 800 metre event at Stawell. She is joined from the ranks of the state's top athletics body by Tim Mason.
Northern Grampians mayor Cr Murray Emerson and chief executive Liana Thompson will represent the council.
The independent members are media personality and 1993 Stawell Gift winner Jason Richardson, marketing manager Sally Tucker and Dustin Lockett, a senior commercial and media executive who was a finalist in the 1997 Gift.
Mr Emerson said the new committee was important for the Gift's survival in Stawell.
"The Northern Grampians shire as a financial supporter is very pleased with the outcome and the quality of people assembled to take the Stawell Gift into the future," he said. "The (new committee) will be helping wherever we can, taking advice and giving advice about what is best for the health and wellbeing of the Gift."
The future of the Gift was thrown into doubt last year when it was reported the SAC rejected government funding over a disagreement about changes to the race's management structure.
The state government committed $280,000 to the 2020 Stawell Gift on the condition changes would be made to the commercial, governance and non-racing elements to the event.
At the time, SAC president Neil Blizzard contested reports of the rejection and said while there were initial concerns, the club never stopped working with the government towards an agreement.
Despite healthy government funding, a steady loss of sponsors has impacted the Stawell Gift's financial sustainability.
The Gift has been without a naming partner since 2017, with previous title sponsors Australia Post and Woolworths changing their alignment with the event.
In 2019, the lack of sponsors had its biggest impact on the running of the event, where prize money for the drawcard men's and women's events threatened to be slashed by $15,000.
A late agreement between the state government, the Northern Grampians Shire Council and the SAC ensured the prize levels would be restored.
The new committee is expected to provide expertise to build sponsorship and tourism and better promote the event and region.
"The Stawell Gift is an iconic event and being entrusted to be a part of the group that will guide its evolution and growth is an honour," Ms Spence said.
The 2020 Stawell Gift was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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