Games Over: Failing Facilities an Obstacle to Community Sport
Despite the Liberal Party claiming that the refurbishment of Allianz Stadium is a ‘gamechanger’ for sport in Sydney, local sporting associations feel as if the government has ‘dropped the ball’ for local talent, with their outdated facilities.
Shadow Minister for Sport and Veteran Affairs The Hon. Lynda Jane Holtz, critizes the Liberal budget dedicated to the Allianz stadium refurbishment, arguing that the money should go rather go to grassroots sports.
“When sports organisations are crying out for funds and the government in charge isn’t giving it to them. You have to ask, where are your priorities?” said Holtz.
Uneven pitches, waterlogged fields, lack of storage facilities, insufficient lighting, lack of changerooms for women and disabled people and overcrowded pitches are just some of the many problems facing local sporting communities, particularly in the growing Hills and Blacktown districts.
Long-time player and referee in the Hills district Paul Carollo is frustrated at the lack of maintenance of his local fields.
“When we played at McCoy park last season, I hadn’t been there in about six years and I forgot how bad it was.
“The ground was uneven and one side of the pitch was higher than the other, meaning we were basically running uphill for half of the game”, said Carollo.
Carollo explains that the standard of local games would be much higher, if they simply levelled the pitches and properly maintained the grounds.
In recent years, the Hills Football Association (HFA) has seen rapid growth with 21 established clubs within the district. This year, with population expansion in areas such as Kellyville, the HFA is expected to field roughly 12,500 players.
According to the General Manager of Hills Football, Kurt Johnson, growth is their biggest asset but also their biggest issue.
“In a recent Football NSW audit of the state, Hills was ranked second worst for the entire country in terms of players to pitch ratio.
“We currently have 277 players to one pitch, the national average is 155 players to one pitch, which is nearly double,” said Johnson.
The incommensurate player to pitch ratio is just one of the many problems the HFA has to deal with, they are also concerned with inadequate and dangerous facilities.
“The facilities we currently have are dilapidated, they’re old and some are unsafe.
“Facilities don’t include female or disabled changerooms, they don’t cater for the storage of three to four goals. They also don’t cater for the storage of balls and equipment.
“In short the fields are not up to standard, at all and there’s no serious funding from the government,” said Johnson.
The HFA are not the only one’s voicing their concerns as local Hills player, Lachlan Schuster, is frustrated that at the start of the season, the cricket pitch from the previous summer, isn’t always covered up.
“I sometimes get ankle pains after playing and when the cricket pitch isn’t covered I often slip on it”, said Schuster.
Schuster says that despite paying so much money each season, not only is the pitch not up to scratch but often games are cancelled due to slight wet weather.
“It is very frustrating when you pay hundreds, sometimes thousands in fees to play on a pitch that gets washed out. It’s definitely not worth it sometimes”, said Schuster.
The HFA isn’t the only district in Sydney in need of facility upgrades.
The rapidly expanding Blacktown & Districts Soccer Football Association Incorporated (BDSFA), are also in desperate need of sporting field development.
Just as round one of the Blacktown Premier League kicked off, the audit from Football NSW was released, showing alarming results for the Blacktown district.
“The recent Football NSW audit found that around 60% of our grounds are in need of improvements”, said BDSFA CEO Bill Kostandas.
Kostandas also says that the lack of changeroom facilities is an obstacle to the expanding presence of women in the BDSFA.
“Not all our fields have lights, so people can’t train and then we can’t have night games”, said Kostandas.
While Kostandas is a supporter of the refurbishment of Allianz Stadium in Moore Park, he hopes that some funds go towards local sporting communities.
“I personally think we need Allianz Stadium because Sydney is a huge area, but, whatever money they are putting into that, they should put an equivalent to grassroots sporting facilities as well,” said Kostandas.
Though applications for new fields, changerooms, bathrooms and equipment storage facilities is recognised by councils and governments, the process is extremely arduous.
“It’s easy to get funding for very small amounts of money, you just apply, you have a reasonable case forward, such as equipment or facilities upgrades and you’ll generally get it.
“But $5,000 or $10,000 isn’t going to do much for your facilities, you need $50,000 to 100,000 and getting that is extremely hard,” said Johnson.
When applying for a significant grant, before you can do any work you need approval from council and according to Johnson that approval can take years.
“If you want a simple new barbeque area for your canteen, the process of you applying, getting the funding and actually building could take 18 months to 2 years,“ said Johnson.
Whilst the proposed cost of the refurbishment of Allianz stadium is set to cost around $800 million, local players, coaches and spectators in grassroots sporting, feel stumped with their inadequate and outdated facilities.
In response to rampant community outrage, the Labor party has promised a budget of $95 million dedicated to grassroots sporting communities.