Sporting clubs asks council for financial support

By Alex Mitchell

Sporting clubs and leagues have banded together to ask Greater Shepparton City Council for financial assistance as COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc with community clubs.

At Tuesday night's special council meeting for submissions ahead of the 2020-21 Draft Budget, Kialla Park Recreation Reserve president Paul Uniacke presented on behalf of governing bodies, leagues and clubs to suggest a Greater Shepparton sporting clubs support package.

Central to that package would be the waiving of all this year's winter season council fees for training and match-day facility usage; while fees have already been waived until June 30, the submission asks for that to be backdated to include the pre-COVID-19 pre-season, as well as the remainder of this season.

Uniacke presented the submission on behalf of AFL Goulburn Murray region general manager Jamie Macri and commission chairman Peter Foott, and it is backed by letters from Football Victoria chief executive Peter Filopoulos and facilities development manager Kevin O'Byrne, Basketball Victoria Country general manager David Huxtable and Macri himself.

It is also backed by 18 clubs as well as Goulburn Valley Hockey Association, Shepparton Netball Association and Shepparton Basketball Association.

Uniacke said supporting the clubs financially was one clear way council could assist in helping bring back the community engagement sport allows for.

"COVID-19 has obviously had a massive impact on sporting clubs; we haven’t been able to take to the field, take the pitch or take to the courts since March 16, and that is just starting to be relaxed now,” Uniacke said.

"This has brought a lack of community engagement for all winter sports not being able to get together, it’s had a massive financial effect, sponsors are understandably wary about spending additional money as well, and this is wreaking havoc among the volunteers who are the ones that have to raise the money and also support the clubs.

"I have conservatively estimated that I have over 6000 people represented based in the Shepparton area; seniors, juniors, men, women, boys, girls, of all ages.”

Along with rent, fees clubs incur include for changeroom and clubroom usage, toilet facilities and lighting, with the blanket submission intended to support the region's clubs of all sizes.

"This is quite an extensive ask of council, but bearing in mind from March 16 all fields, all community spaces have been closed, so that loss has already been incurred by council, and council has graciously offered to not charge until the 30th of June,” Uniacke said.

"Some seasons will be extended, some will be run on a shorter basis, and if we take into account (the SNA), they’ve cancelled their season, the Kyabram District League has been cancelled. This is a horrific thing for these sports clubs.”

A council statement released yesterday thanked all parties that made a submission at the meeting, and said more would be revealed in a fortnight.

“Greater Shepparton City Council’s 2020-2021 Draft Budget was open for public submissions from 1 May 2020 to 29 May 2020,” it read.

“At the council meeting held on Tuesday night, council received and noted all submissions received in that period, and also heard from those who wished to support their written submission.

“Council thanks those who took the time to enter a submission.

“Council will formally consider all received submissions at the council meeting on Tuesday, 16 June, and adopt the 2020-2021 Budget.”