Grant of $275,000 to Crows AFLW team draws fire from grassroots sport advocates
The Crows women’s team has helped inspire a rise in female player numbers. (AAP: Roy Vandervegt)
Sports SA is seeking answers after $275,000 was granted to the Adelaide Crows women’s team just days after the State Government rejected the idea of propping up the women’s state basketball team.
The Adelaide Lightning needs $500,000 to stay afloat or it risks dissolving at the end of the season.
Sports SA chief executive Leah Cassidy told ABC Radio Adelaide’s Breakfast program that the Crows AFLW team, on the other hand, was already supported by a “giant corporation in the AFL” and was unlikely to need additional funding.
“We had the [Sport] Minister come out and say he wouldn’t support the Adelaide Lightning because if he supported one elite team, he’d have to support them all,” she said.
“A few days later we’ve got the Premier coming out providing $275,000 to the Crows.
“And then we’ve got mum-and-dad volunteer sports who can’t afford their fees, and we know we have clubs on the Yorke Peninsula who are struggling to keep the doors open because they can’t pay electricity costs.
“I support investment in sport, particularly growing women’s sport … but I think we need a bit of balance here.”
The Adelaide Lightning basketball team has been in financial strife for several years. (Supplied: Craig Wasley)
Sport Minister Corey Wingard was not available for comment but last week said the Lightning already received $150,000 a year through a sponsorship with the Motor Accident Commission (MAC).
“Half a million dollars of recurrent fees every year is quite an expensive proposition,” he said.
“There are a number of teams in the national competition. If you start doing it for one, you’ll have them all knocking on your door and that could get quite cumbersome.”
Today, a spokesperson for Mr Wingard said the Minister was scheduled to meet with the Lightning on December 10.
Crows AFLW funding ‘does not filter down’
Former sport minister Leon Bignell said the money given to the Crows women’s team was not filtering down to the grassroots level.
“If you talk to some of the women playing football in the SANFL, you’ll hear that women are having to urinate in urinals because there are no women’s changerooms and facilities there at that SANFL level,” he said.
“I just don’t think this money should be going to a club at an elite level that makes millions of dollars a year and has the resources smaller clubs don’t.
“The fact they’ve still got their hand out at that corporate level is a disgrace.”
But Premier Steven Marshall said the AFLW Crows funding, which the ABC understands is in its third year, would help grow female participation in football “through pathways and development programs for young women across the state”.
He said the Crows Cup Carnival had been delivered to more than 10,000 female students in schools across SA.
Mr Marshall added that the number of registered junior female teams across the state had increased from eight to 110 in two years.
However, Ms Cassidy said the sporting association responsible for grassroots club and growth development was the SANFL.
“I think it’s interesting they [SANFL] also don’t have a role to play in developing sport through this amount of funding that the Premier’s provided [to the Crows],” she said.
Crows chief executive Andrew Fagan said the club had also launched a unique Indigenous Girls Academy.
Soccer pitch passed over
Aldinga Soccer Club president Michael Treen told ABC Radio Adelaide Mornings program that $2 million promised by the former state government for a new soccer pitch near a school being constructed appeared to have disappeared.
Mr Bignell, who is also the local MP for Mawson, said the money was in the mid-year budget review this time last year and the community was “devastated” the project had stalled.
“Unfortunately, this soccer ball keeps getting passed around,” he said.
Mr Wingard’s spokesperson said the Government had opened up new grants for football, netball and cricket worth $24 million.
She said the Government also had an arrangement with MAC to fund Adelaide United with $55,000 per season.
“Additionally, MAC provides $70,000 to the Power Community Limited [the community arm of Port Adelaide FC] to support the Aboriginal Power Cub and Will Power programs,” she said.
“These programs use football as a mechanism to engage male and female Indigenous students in their education and provide pathways to workforce participation.”
Ms Cassidy said the $24 million figure was “misleading” because it was funding matched dollar-for-dollar by local councils or businesses.
“That funding is $10 million that has been diverted from what was the female changerooms program,” she said.
“I don’t want to pit sports against smaller sports, but what we’re concerned about is equality in funding and there’s a grant process that all clubs have to go through.
“Then there seems to be this additional funding allocated to the bigger sports that probably have the resources behind them to manage that anyway.”