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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Newcastle State MP calls for overhaul of grant programs

The grandstand at Newcastle Olympic Football Club’s home ground in Hamilton is one step away from being demolished.

But, in three years, it’s meant to host some of the world’s best female footballers as part of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The Select Committee on Administration of Sports Grants is investigating whether money that should have been allocated to fix the grandstand was stripped from the club as part of the sports grants scandal that ended former Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie’s career.

It followed claims that grants were allocated to marginal seats.

“Our fear is that over the next two years it will be condemned and bulldozed and women coming from around the world for the biggest ever sporting event to be held in Newcastle, will be training in 51-year-old sheds and no grandstand at all what are we going to do put them up in tents?” Director of Newcastle Olympic Football Club, Kosta Patsan, said.

The other problem the club has faced with securing the necessary finding, is that Newcastle and Woolongong are not considered as metropolitan or regional.

“Essentially we cannot apply for any state funding and when we apply for federal we get ripped off,” he said.

Newcastle Labor MP Tim Crakanthorp is fighting back against what he claims are inconsistencies with New South Wales government grant programs, that exclude Newcastle.

The MP is calling on the Public Accountability Committee to hold a hearing in Newcastle, noting that the city is not eligible for metropolitan or regional sports funding programs.

Mr Crakanthorp wants several NSW Government grant programs to be examined, including the efficacy of their administration and transparency of decision-making.

He says that Newcastle’s eligibility status for grant programs is inconsistent and exclusionary.

“Sometimes we’re metropolitan, sometimes we’re regional and other times we’re neither,” he said.

“Sports funding is particularly bad – we have grassroots clubs crying out for help but they’re not eligible for any of the dedicated sports grants programs.”

Examples listed by the state member include:

–       Regional Seniors Travel Card where Newcastle is considered ‘metropolitan’ and is ineligible;

–       The Metropolitan Greenspace Program where Newcastle is considered regional and is ineligible;

–       Greater Sydney Sports Facility Fund and the Regional Sports Infrastructure Fund, both worth $100m each, where Newcastle is not eligible for either;

–       Regional Cultural Fund excluded Newcastle from applying.

“There is $200 million on the table for sporting organisations in NSW, but Newcastle clubs can’t access a cent,” he said.

“Once again, Newcastle misses out.”

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