Australian NPL clubs persevere through COVID restrictions

The Covid-19 pandemic has put an immense strain on football clubs worldwide, and Australia is no exception. From stop-start seasons, stifling player development, and putting clubs under financial stress, local clubs have faced some of their biggest challenges.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put an immense strain on football clubs worldwide, and Australia is no exception. From stop-start seasons, stifled player development, and clubs being put under financial stress, National Premier League (NPL) clubs have faced some of their biggest challenges.

Bentleigh Greens are one of many clubs hit by lockdowns and postponements, as they have seen the second NPL Victoria season in a row disrupted by the pandemic. Bentleigh Greens President Trifon Rellos has seen his team heavily affected by this.

“Financially game takings are gone, canteens are gone. Now with the junior programs, we have with the mini roos and NPL kids we don’t know the parents are going to ask for, whether they want their money back,” he said.

“The impact has been massive, but not just financially.”

Not every club and league has been heavily impacted. Edgeworth Eagles Football Director and Treasurer, Warren Mills, explains that the Further Northern New South Wales region has managed to avoid the worst of the pandemic.

“Newcastle has been a lot less impacted than others. Last year was pretty horrendous obviously, we started later but we managed to get in a competition, playing our competition plus finals,” he said.

“This year we’ve got two rounds to go. To be fair we’ve been much luckier than others.”

In contrast with other clubs in New South Wales and Victoria, Warren believes that the amateur status of the Newcastle clubs has helped weather financial strain.

“Financially it hasn’t been a massive drain on us. We are more amateur than Sydney or Melbourne, in terms of wages paid out. Its smashed those clubs a lot more.” he said.

The season will be completed once restrictions in the Hunter region are eased, with one advantage they have over other areas being that they rarely share grounds with summer sports.

“I don’t think there is anybody who doesn’t have their own ground in Newcastle,” he said.

“We have the potential to host the grand final this year, and we’ve just got a new 1.1 million dollar clubhouse. Newcastle is very lucky that way.”

Football Victoria recently agreed to a ground-sharing agreement with Cricket Victoria, in an attempt to alleviate this issue if the season is restarted.

For regional NPL clubs in Victoria, they have been in and out of lockdown more than anywhere in the country. For the Goulburn Valley Suns, their season has been disrupted by not only state-wide lockdowns, but also a major outbreak within the city of Shepparton.

Goulburn Valley head coach Craig Carley believes that players at the club are uniting together through the hardship.

“We don’t know what’s going on at the moment, but we need to try to tick over. Previously we were able to do that as a team because the metropolitan area was in lockdown, the last couple of weeks it’s been individual training,” he said.

“We’ve got players posting times on runs and activities that they are doing. It’s been good from a team point of view with players pushing each other and staying connected, even though everyone is in lockdown. The longer that goes on the hard that is going to get.”

Rellos fears that these disruptions could cause setbacks for some of the most talented players at Bentleigh Greens.

“It’s a sad situation that we are in for our children, and our young senior soccer players. We need to remember that the boys that are playing under 16s and 18s and talented, and they are just about to break into that senior team,” he said.

“I think this year is worse than last year. Those boys and their careers have been cut short by coronavirus. These kids need to break into the senior team, god knows if they will. Some might lose interest and not come back as football players.”

For others, they can only appreciate that their seasons and clubs have only had minor disruptions.

“In Newcastle, we’ve been so blessed. I don’t know how we’ve hardly had a case while we are so close to Sydney. It hasn’t the impact on us that a lot of areas have.” Warren said.

Every state has had different challenges they have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. For NPL clubs in New South Wales and Victoria, some are facing the biggest in their history. Most are looking forward to next season, hoping for the light at the end of the tunnel following these hard times.

Nepean Football Association celebrates new synthetic pitches

Synthetic fields

The Nepean Football Association are elated following the construction of their first-ever synthetic fields in the area, thanks to Penrith City Council and the NSW Government.

Jamison Park is now the proud home of two synthetic rectangular football fields, which also incorporates a cricket wicket and an AFL field.

The $4 million project has delivered two full size FIFA Quality synthetic fields, featuring 100 lux smart technology LED floodlights for the Nepean FA.

The project was jointly funded by Penrith City Council and the NSW Government, through the Greater Sydney Sports Facility Fund and a contribution from the Nepean Football Association.

Jamison Park is the most used sporting facility in the Penrith City Council area, attracting approximately 300,000 visitors a year.

“Synthetic fields provide a raft of benefits to the community, including significantly higher usage tolerance, consistency, and quality of play and most applicable to football the ability to play in the rain or post significant rainfall,” Football NSW Manager – Government Relations, Funding and Infrastructure, Daniel Ristic said.

Nepean Football Association Chief Executive Officer Linda Cerone was full of praise to Penrith City Council and the NSW Government.

“Nepean Football Association and the residents of Penrith City Council now have a multi-use facility for everyone,” she said.

“On behalf of the Nepean FA Board and the 12,500 registered players thank you to Minister Ayres, the NSW State Government and Penrith City Council for making this project possible.

“Nepean FA has a venue that can be used play seven days a week regardless of the weather conditions.”

Jamison Park is now well on its way in becoming the Home of Football for the Nepean Football Association.

The upgrade at Jamison Park forms part of the NSW Football Infrastructure Strategy, specifically the key pillars of Improving Existing Venue Capacity, Homes of Football and Planning for Growth and Demand.

In the next 10 years, the Penrith LGA is expected to see an additional 61,000 residents. The potential market for new participants (if the current 3.8% state average participation rate is applied) will see an additional 2,300 participants in Penrith.

The introduction of the inaugural synthetic fields in Penrith will capture the predicted growth in the area.

This growth is further highlighted by the number of registered players in the Nepean FA over the last three years. Despite two affected years due to COVID-19, the association has seen a growth of 12% – an additional 1,400 participants in just three years.

The FIFA Women’s World Cup is now just 18 months away, where the best female football athletes will be plying their craft in our backyard. The World Cup will no doubt bring further interest in the world game and an increase in female participants across NSW.

Jamison Park will be used for football competition in the summer months, with the site being used by the Nepean FA in the winter season for training, competition games, coaching, referees’ courses, plus more.

Mulgoa Rise Playing Fields expand with Stage 2 of development

Glenmore Park FC

Glenmore Park FC have seen the club amenity building of their home ground, Mulgoa Rise Playing Fields, expanded as part of Stage 2 development at the park.

Known to the locals as “The Nest”, Mulgoa Rise Playing Fields houses the side which is the largest club in the Nepean Football Association, with 1,196 registered participants recorded in the 2021 winter season.

In the shortened 2021 winter campaign, almost 7,800 Penrith LGA residents participated in football.

Active Kids Voucher redemption in the Penrith LGA also emphasised the popularity of football in the area, with over 5,000 children claiming the Active Kids Voucher in 2021 – making it the largest sport in the Penrith LGA.

Stage 2 of the development included the addition of two more change rooms to service the three full size fields at The Nest.

Extra toilets, further landscaping throughout the site and the expansion of the club’s BBQ facility are featured in the recent works.

Football NSW’s Manager Government Relations, Funding and Infrastructure – Daniel Ristic:

“BBQ facilities are a vital aspect of any community club. Canteen and BBQ revenue provides much needed funding for local grassroots clubs.

“A key objective from the NSW Football Infrastructure Strategy over the next 10 years is to increase and improve gender neutral player and match official change room provision.”

Penrith City Council were successful in gaining the majority of the funding ($649,600) from the NSW Government’s Greater Sydney Sport Facility Fund.

The NSW Government Community Building Partnership program provided $20,000, as well as Glenmore Park FC contributing $3,000 to the upgrades.

Penrith City Council has been identified as one of the top 10 NSW LGA future demand hot spots in the next 10 years. The Council is predicted to experience population growth of approximately 60,000 in the next 10 years.

With the current 3.8% state average participation rate applied, the Penrith area is expected to see an additional 2,300 participants between 2021 and 2031.

The increase in participation will require upgraded and renewed facilities across Penrith to ensure the city can cope with the upcoming demand for football.

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