Women’s football has taken off across Australia, but in many regional areas, including in Tasmania, there is one big issue — a lack of facilities.
- A women’s football pioneer warns a lack of proper facilities will result in potential future players not wanting to participate
- Female players often have to deal with male urinals, communal showers and poor lighting
- The Tasmanian Government has promised money to help clubs improve their facilities
At the Queenborough Oval in the Hobart suburb of Sandy Bay, there is only one toilet and a men’s urinal in both the home and away team changerooms.
With the Sandy Bay Lions Junior Football Club now catering to about 130 girls, the toilet situation is “challenging”, club president Fiona Sims said.
“It’s actually been a little bit embarrassing to be honest,” Sims said.
Sims said the girls could rarely access the changerooms as they were usually locked, and mainly used the public toilets and had to get changed outside.
“The toilets for the girls are horrible, the council are supposed to clean them everyday and they’re not cleaned everyday,” she said.
“Girls at that age don’t really want to stand under the outside of the building and get changed.
Fiona Sims said there was much that could be done with the ground and facilities.
“Obviously improving the changerooms for girls is one of our biggest priorities for girls. But it comes back to, we don’t own the building the council does, so anything that we do to the building as a club doesn’t belong to us anyway.”
The Hobart City Council has released a $6.2 million concept plan to upgrade the Queenborough Oval, but there is no funding allocated for the project or no timeline of when it will be developed.
“That’s years off and in the meantime it is incredibly difficult,” Sims said.
‘They put up with it’
At a club at the other end of the state, the change rooms only have a urinal, open communal showers, and limited toilets.
East Devonport Football Club president Justin Delanty said the facilities at the ground in Tasmania’s north-west were built more than 50 years ago.
“So even for men, they’re not that great,” he said.
“We’ve got to remember that female footy has really taken off in a growth spurt over the past few years, and of course the infrastructure that a lot of our councils and governments have provided were never set up for female footy.”
“They [the girls and women] put up with our facilities, but if the growth continues in women’s footy, there definitely needs to be some council and some government input into improving facilities,” Mr Delanty said.
Justin Delanty said the Liberal and Labor parties promised the club $300,000 for new ground lights and change room improvements during this year’s federal election.
The club has also worked with the Devonport City Council to apply for state government funding for purpose-built demountable women’s change room facilities. It hopes to find out soon if it was successful.
Men have 150-year head start: Alberti
AFLW pioneer Susan Alberti, who is also the former vice-president of the Western Bulldogs Football Club, said if Australia wanted to keep growing female participation in football and improve the talent pool, clubs needed to have the right coaches and facilities
“We’ve got a fair bit of catching up to do to the men; they’ve got a head start on us of about 150 years,” Alberti told the ABC in Launceston this week.
“At the end of the day, if you don’t have the infrastructure for kids or the girls to go to, they’re not going to want to go there, so that could be a problem facing the people in the country.
“I’m not asking for gold-plated taps; I’m just asking for hot and cold water and rooms where the women can change and then be able to participate.”
She said a good way to boost both male and female participation in football was to combine a sporting club.
“I know where they’ve had a lot of success is where netball and football have combined at the same venue, and the infrastructure is provided that enables the girls to play the sport as well,” she said.
Funding rolling out to clubs
Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman said 21 sporting facilities had received a combined $5 million of funding in the 2018-19 state budget through the “Levelling the Playing Field” grant program.
“With so many more women participating in sport, we need to make that significant investment,” Mr Hodgman said.
“There will be a lot more work to do, but we have already had significant engagement right across the state.”
Some of the grants included $235,000 for female facility improvements at Lauderdale Football Club, $438,100 for Westbury Recreation Ground change room redevelopments, and $250,000 for North Hobart Oval amenity refurbishments.
The South Launceston Football Club, which recently won the Northern Tasmanian Football Association women’s competition premiership, has also received around $455,000 from the State and local governments in the past year for improvements.
Club vice-president Wayne Mitchell said the club had modified meeting spaces to make temporary change rooms for women, but it was planning to build a permanent structure ahead of next season.
“It’s probably been a breath of fresh air for our footy club [having a women’s team],” Mr Mitchell said.
“It’s certainly brought more people to our club, more ladies contributing, and it’s fitted in well with our senior men’s teams.”
The Tasmanian Government has said the next round of funding grants has closed and successful applicants will be informed soon.