Women’s sport the loser amid park lands clubrooms debate

Adelaide City Council has been told that old and inadequate park lands facilities discourage female players and have forced teams to be cut, amid ongoing debate over council costs and responsibility for community sport infrastructure. 

Apr 03, 2024, updated Apr 03, 2024
This sports facility in the southern park lands has long been slated for an upgrade. Photo: Brett Hartwig/InDaily

This sports facility in the southern park lands has long been slated for an upgrade. Photo: Brett Hartwig/InDaily

The council is reviewing the future of sports buildings on park lands, after community consultation found the standards of facilities haven’t kept up with increased women and junior participation in sports. 

Last month, the City Community Services and Culture Committee heard from sporting clubs concerned that the Draft Park Lands Community Buildings (Sport and Recreation) Policy didn’t factor in increased participation in female sports. 

The SANFL is one stakeholder, telling the council that participation in female football in SA had tripled since the beginning of the 2017 season, with more than 400 female teams in 2023.

The number of girls aged five and up participating in AFL Auskick programs had also doubled in SA since 2016, with growth expected to continue. 

West Adelaide women celebrating Kelly Barltrop’s 50th SANFLW League game in 2023. This picture: Cory Sutton via SANFL

The Adelaide Lutheran Sports Club (ALSC) said in its submission that most other governments recognised years ago that increased women’s participation in sport was a positive trend, but the Adelaide City Council was “a clear laggard in this area”. 

The ALSC said inadequate facilities were a factor in the senior women’s side disbanding three years ago. It also said their senior netball code used to have 17 teams but that had dropped to 14 due to facilities which had no showers or toilets and one hand basin.

Last night, the committee debated how buildings on the park lands could maintain an appropriate size while also meeting the need to improve facilities and have gender-specific changerooms.

The community consultation found that it was “unrealistic” to achieve fit-for-purpose facilities with safe and inclusive change rooms without increasing the size of buildings on the park lands. 

Councillor Philip Martin said it was known that at least 26 community buildings on the park lands had substandard facilities, and the way forward was to determine how many showers and toilets were classified as fit for purpose and to prioritise buildings in need. 

“It’s unacceptable for us to be talking about Rolls Royce facilities when there are young women… forced to change in facilities that are substandard,” he said.

Councillor Henry Davis said clubs needed solutions and used as an example Park 21 West, leased to the Adelaide Community Sport and Recreation Association (ACSARA). 

The Adelaide Lutheran Sports Club wants to upgrade its southern park lands facility. Photo: Brett Hartwig/InDaily

ACSARA has been pushing for more than five years to redevelop their football/cricket grounds, with a two-story proposal floated last year

“The entire first floor is just changing rooms, we talk about a Rolls Royce design, we talk about cashed-up clubs with these overwhelming massive designs – literally just changing rooms and then a small common room and a kitchen, that’s all they’re asking for,” Davis said. 

“So I think the rhetoric around this idea of gold-plated Rolls Royce design, I think is really misleading.”

Should ratepayers fund sports on the park lands?

Lord Mayor Jane-Lomax Smith doesn’t think so. 

“Everyone here loves to give money away – I hate it,” she said. 

“I see no reason why the ratepayers of the Adelaide City Council should be funding sports for the entire of the metropolitan area and that’s effectively what we’re being asked to do.” 

Lomax-Smith raised concerns about the unintended consequences of supporting some clubs’ facilities, such as using club rooms and bars for commercial activities. 

She said that if the council had to invest in sports facilities on park lands, it should be a fixed quota of one per cent of rates per year to pay for lavatories and changing rooms. 

“Why should the deli owner in Pirie Street be paying for the people in Burnside to play sport? It mystifies me,” she said.

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