Coniston Football Club defends charging Illawarra Stingrays $12k to use fields

The Illawarra Stingrays celebrating a goal earlier this year. Picture: Adam McLean
The Illawarra Stingrays celebrating a goal earlier this year. Picture: Adam McLean

The president of Coniston Football Club has defended charging more than $12,000 a year for the Illawarra Stingrays women's club to use his teams fields.

Speaking at Monday night's Wollongong council meeting, John Karayiannis addressed a number of issues which had been highlighted at the last meeting by Stingrays president Kathy McDonogh.

In her successful campaign to convince councillors to find a home ground for the premier women's team, Ms McDonogh told councillors JJ Kelly Park, where the team plays most of its "home" games, was leased out by the council for just over $600 a year.

This was then subleased, she said, to the Stingrays at a cost of about $12,000.

Mr Karayiannis confirmed that the Stingrays paid Coniston $12,454 per year, for five match days or 55 games per year.

"The executive of both clubs agree on a fee, and the fee is reviewed before November 1 each season," he said.

"The sub lease agreement fee is used entirely for ground costs associated with field management, building repairs, electricity, water and rubbish removal.

He said this was "less than 50 per cent of the actual ground costs", which would be higher "if not for the hundreds of volunteer hours provided by Coniston FC members".

Illawarra Stingrays players have been without a place to call home for 13 years and Cr Jenelle Rimmer (front) wants that to change. Picture: Sylvia Liber

Illawarra Stingrays players have been without a place to call home for 13 years and Cr Jenelle Rimmer (front) wants that to change. Picture: Sylvia Liber

He also said the sub licence agreement permitted the Stingrays to use temporary signage, as well as the canteen and storage areas, and responded to Ms McDonogh's view that the changing facilities at JJ Kelly were not fit for female athletes.

"Coniston FC believes that improvements for showers are needed for privacy reasons, however we are not in a financial position to undertake those renovations yet," he said.

"Most team rooms do not have doors on showers, and this grievance has never been brought to our attention previously."

At the previous meeting, Wollongong councillors had expressed surprise about the subleasing arrangement, which is allowed within the council's lease terms, and also said it was vital that the council take action to find the Stingrays a home ground.

In particular, Greens councillor Mithra Cox said there was "a ring of sexism" about the council's inaction over more than a decade, while Janice Kershaw said she was "shocked" by the subleasing arrangement.

Mr Karayiannis was keen to ensure his club was not perceived as sexist amid this debate.

"Coniston FC is not a sexist club, and we have never charged an inappropriate fee," he said.

To back this up, Coniston Football Club Vice President Kendall Williams also spoke at Monday's meeting, detailing ways women were involved in her club.

"Coniston has had women's teams for the past five years," she said.

"We began when some of the women involved in the club, wives, mothers, sisters, wanted to be involved off the sidelines, so we entered a team in the lowest division.

"This year we have two teams... and we're looking at expanding to three teams next year.

"All of that is a reflection of the work we've been doing off the field to promote women's football, because we know that there are still a lot of barriers that prevent women from participating in football as much as some of our male colleagues."

She said women at Coniston attended the season launch and presentation night each year, wore the same jerseys as men, and had their own social media page.

There was also a "ladies" day which recognised women as players, coaches, managers and volunteers, she said.

"This year we were able to play one of our women's games before the men's fixtures to showcase women's football at our club," she said.

"We have been working on these things as a deliberate move to promote women's football within our community."

"There are barriers that stop women from participating in football, and its easy to say that sexism is the main cause but it's a lot more complicated than that.

"Resources are limited, and the truth is when they were being given out there weren't a lot of women's clubs around."

"Men's clubs have been around for a lot longer and they have established communities around their club, that means they have more income, more sponsorship and they are able to invest in those resources to maintain them, and the reality is that most women's clubs succeed because they have relationships with men's clubs.

"Hopefully in the future that won't need to be the case, but right now it is."

This story Football club defends charging women's team $12k to use fields first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.