Capital Football will stop paying fees for Wellington City Council sport grounds until an independent review into the fairness of the costs.
“It sends a very strong message to our members that we are taking this issue seriously. It should never have got to this stage,” said chief executive Richard Reid.
Instead of paying ground hire charges directly to Wellington City Council, the organisation – which runs football leagues in Wellington and Wairarapa – will ring-fence those fees and release them once the independent review is complete.
Reid was concerned that football was becoming unaffordable for players because of council fees, which make up more than half of the $171 annual player subs. Capital Football has raised the issue with the council many times, but has not seen movement until now.
“Some people will stop paying subs, and others will stop playing,” he said on Saturday. The cost was “really hurting players and parents”.
The charges paid to the council for the use of sports grounds make up about $300,000 each year, Reid estimated.
After initially rejecting the pleas for a review into the cost of sports, the council has had a total change of heart. Football-mad councillor Nureddin Abdurahman led the charge.
His two children play football for Island Bay and Seatoun, and he has seen player subs create a barrier for families who are struggling financially.
“Sport is a very important thing to me, and I know a lot of kids are missing out because of the cost. I see how much my kids enjoy sports and think we should give everyone access to that opportunity.”
Along with seconder and Labour council colleague Teri O’Neill, Abdurahman drummed up support from the whole council for a motion supporting the independent review demanded by the sports codes.
O’Neill said the mayor and councillors “know [the review is] the right thing to do”. “We’ve talked the talk, we are now walking the walk.”
The review will investigate how the council’s hire fees are set, where the money goes, and how sports facilities are funded.
Mayor Tory Whanau said public feedback had driven the council to change its position. “Thousands of adults and children are impacted by these fees and they deserve to have clarity on how they are set and whether they’re set at a fair level,” she said.
She hoped that the review would encourage “trust and understanding” between the council and the sports organisations. They would need to wait for the findings of the review to see whether it would impact the level of fees charged by the council.
It was a total backflip from the council’s position on Friday, when Whanau said she had nothing further to add to a letter rejecting the review.
The Affordable Sports campaign thought they’d won a victory after the election last year, with 14 of the 16 successful city council candidates, including the mayor, signed up to the pledge.
They were left outraged and betrayed after receiving the letter from Whanau at the end of March saying the review would not go ahead.
The letter said the council would not support a review and there were “some practical realities with shifting the cost of what is paid now for the services and facilities that the city provides to your sports to ratepayers”.
The council could not support that further burden on ratepayers, the letter said.
Reid was pleased the council changed its tune and would now support the review. The focus for Capital Football was the speed of the review, which could not come soon enough.
“We have a duty to players and parents to ensure council fees are the lowest possible and can be substantiated and justified.
“Times are too tough, so although we appreciate the efforts of councillors, this review must happen quickly.”
The motion to start an independent review will not appear before the council until June, and a review could take months after that to report back.
Erin Gourley | Reporter
The football code felt the need to take further action to show how serious they are about the need for affordable sports fees. If the independent review looked like it was on track after the June meeting, they might change their mind and start paying the fees again.
All football games and competitions will go ahead as normal whether or not they’re on council grounds.
Reid encouraged anyone playing sport to show their support “by getting out there and enjoying their games”.
- The Post
Article added: Wednesday 03 May 2023
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Capital Football, The Home Of Football, Bracken St, Petone, Lower Hutt, Wellington, New Zealand, 5012Postal Address: PO Box 33 283, Wellington Mail Centre, Lower Hutt 5045Email: email@example.comPhone: +64 4 586 5814