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Victoria Park Football Club to benefit from multi-million dollar facility upgrades

Victoria Park Football Club have received significant funding for facility upgrades in recent months, at the club’s home ground in Military Drive.

The Ballarat based club has received resurfacing and lighting works through funding from the local Ballarat City Council, as well as a $500,000 grant for a new female-friendly pavilion through the Victorian Government’s World Game Facilities Fund.

Whilst the $1.3 million ground and lighting upgrades are close to fully completed, construction on the pavilion is set to commence in the coming weeks.

Victoria Park Football Club president, Sean O’Meara, explained to Soccerscene the urgent need for the new and improved pavilion.

“It’s very important for us to receive these upgrades, O’Meara said.

“We’ve been in the same building since the 80’s basically, so this upgrade will provide us with a social area, kitchen, canteen and other areas for us to use so we can build on our community.

“There will be two sets of changerooms in the new facility, which will provide a more welcoming environment for female participants and hopefully help us regain some of the female participants that we have lost.

“We can also now hold events there, where previously we would have had to hire out an outside venue which cost us more money as a club.”

The club and the wider community are currently reaping the rewards of the new field and lighting upgrades which have been implemented at Military Drive.

“At the moment, the wider community are seeing the benefits of the upgraded field,” O’Meara said.

“They use it for general activity, exercise and young families use it a lot.

“For us as a club, the new surfaces will play a major part in drawing in new players which will help the club in the future.”

The club at once stage had over 200 players registered at the club, across three senior and nine junior teams.

Speaking at the time of the announcement of the World Game Facilities funding grant, City of Ballarat Mayor Daniel Moloney, welcomed the investment.

“We’re really grateful for the state’s support of this important project. Soccer is one of our strongest participation sports and Victoria Park is at the gateway to our fast-growing western suburbs, so this upgrade will have a significant impact for hundreds of players at senior and junior levels,” Councillor Moloney said.

“This supports the $1.3 million resurfacing and lighting works completed and underway at the facility, which together will enhance the status of Victoria Park as one of city’s most important community spaces.”

Member for Wendouree, Juliana Addison MP, added at the announcement: “As we know from similar projects across Ballarat, upgraded facilities make it much easier for our community clubs to attract and retain players, and female friendly facilities help to level the playing field when comes to participation in sport. I’m confident this project, with the support of $500,000 from the Victorian Government, will help make that happen here too.”

Since 2018, the World Game Facilities Fund has invested $13.2 million in 48 football infrastructure projects across Victoria, with an overall value of more than $41 million.

“Better sport and recreation facilities make it easier for Victorians to get active and lead healthy lifestyles,” said Minister for Community Sport, Ros Spence.

“We’re providing clubs with support for really important projects that will make the world of difference for local communities.”

Football Victoria CEO, Kimon Taliadoros, said of the fund: “Football breaks down barriers and brings communities together – we’re delighted to see even more clubs being able to meet community demand through the latest round of the World Game Facilities Fund.”

The next round of applications for the World Game Facilities Fund are now open, for more information visit the link here.

Philip Panas is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

Major events return to NSW with Matildas match series

Matildas fans

Football Australia have announced that the Commonwealth Bank Matildas will host Brazil in a two-match series next month.

The matches are set to be held at the newly named CommBank Stadium in Western Sydney, on October 23 and October 26, 2021.

October will mark 19 months since the Matildas last played on home soil in a 2-1 win against Vietnam in a Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Play-Off match in March 2020.

Since then, Football Australia has made it a key priority to bring the Socceroos and Matildas home following the significant impact of COVID-19 on the world.

The plan to stage a Matildas double header marks the first of its kind for any sporting code in Australia and opens up opportunities for other international sports and the broader entertainment industry to consider similar arrangements.

This is a symbolic announcement as Australia begins to grapple with a COVID normal roadmap internationally, as the Matildas prepare for a busy international schedule ahead including the much-anticipated FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023.

Behind the scenes, Football Australia has worked tirelessly to develop an innovative Quarantine Management Plan to meet the requirements of Government, taking a leadership role in being a COVID-19 responsible sport and offering solutions that work within Government frameworks, protocols, and vaccination roadmaps.

This announcement also coincides with New South Wales being on target to reach a double vaccination rate of 70 per cent of all people aged 16 and over in advance of these fixtures, with crowd capacities to be determined by the Public Health Order at the time of the matches.

Football Australia Chief Executive Officer James Johnson was delighted with this announcement that will see the Commonwealth Bank Matildas play on home soil for the first time in over 18 months.

“We have made it our priority to bring our national teams home for international football so this is a phenomenal outcome for Australian football and one which we have been working tirelessly towards behind the scenes with both the Federal and NSW Government for a considerable amount of time now and appreciate the efforts of the NSW Government in particular,” Johnson said.

“International football is unique in that players are only made available during an international window of nine (9) days.  With many of our Commonwealth Bank Matildas and Socceroos based overseas, the 14-day compulsory quarantine period for international arrivals effectively rendered any international football in Australia impossible.

“Our team at Football Australia put together a submission based on global best practice, focused on ensuring the safety and wellbeing of players and staff, which has been accepted by the NSW Government and aligns nicely with its roadmap to opening up.

“We are excited that the first matches will be the Commonwealth Bank Matildas against Brazil on 23 and 26 October to be held at CommBank Stadium and can’t wait to welcome fans back into Stadiums.”

With confirmation of theses matches, Football Australia is now in the process of locking in the proposed fixtures between the Matildas and the current FIFA Women’s World Cup Champions, the United States Women’s National Team, in a two-match series earmarked for November 27 and November 30, 2021, both of which are to be hosted in Australia, subject to Government discussions and Public Health Orders.

NSW Sports Minister puts plan forward for return of community sport

Junior football

NSW grassroots clubs and associations have received a major boost in the road towards returning to a COVID-safe community sport setup.

Whilst roadmap plans had been provided for the hospitality and education sectors in recent weeks, the community sporting sector had been left in the dark in the path to return to normality.

Speaking with Chris Smith at 2GB, NSW Sports Minister Natalie Ward outlined the future for community sporting clubs and associations going forward.

“I’ve put a plan forward. I have been a really strong advocate for a return to community sport. I’ve spoken to [NSW Health Minister] Brad Hazzard as recently as yesterday, and I’ve spoken with all of the sporting organisations to put a plan to him to say that we need a clear pathway out of here,” she said.

“Double vax is the key of course, and that is so that we can provide that clarity. The government’s announced that at 70% double-dosed groups of 20 can gather, so why can’t they gather and train together? Why can’t they be out there training and kicking a ball around?”

When probed about the potential attendance of parents at community sporting events, Ward was empathetic to the challenges NSW sporting families have faced whilst remaining cautious.

“We know that last time in lockdown that parents were restricted in what they could do. Now we know with the double dose that people are very aware that they need to comply with those orders [and] to do so safely so that everyone attending can do it in a very COVID-safe way,” she said.

“The last thing we want is to be able to open up the season and then have to shut it down.”

In support of the clubs and associations, Ward added: “I’ve got such faith in them [the clubs and associations], because they know their players; they know their members; they know their registrations; and they’re really good at implementing these plans.”

“So, I’ve put to [NSW] Health that there’s no better organisations than these sporting clubs [and] community clubs who have these volunteers that take this really seriously. They know this better than anyone.

“I’ve got confidence in them and I’ve said they’re ready, willing and able to implement this plan to give us a clear green light to get going.”

For grassroots clubs who have unfortunately had to shut down due to the impact of the extensive lockdown, Ward stressed the importance of providing a lifeline.

“It’s been really distressing. My family has been involved in a grassroots club [and] they run on nothing – the smell of an oily rag and volunteers,” she said.

“I have said to the treasurer that he needs to consider that they’re really clinging on. And the sooner that we can open the season up, even late as it is, as soon as we can get out there that’s throwing them a lifeline.”

A recent survey of Australia’s 70,000 community sport clubs has found almost all have lost money, with thousands of them facing the risk of going under.

It is found that 83 per cent of respondents reported their earnings were down by an average of $18,500 and 13 per cent feared they could go to the wall. The foundation’s CEO, Patrick Walker, revealed that amounted to about 9,000 clubs nationally.

The full survey, which was commissioned by the Australian Sport Foundation, can be accessed here.

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