Relocation, amalgamation on cards as Falcons battle red tape

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Paul Amy – Caulfield Glen Eira Leader (Originally published as Grand mess: relocation, amalgamation on cards as VAFA club battles red tape)

The Albert Park Football and Netball Club has money in the bank, a new women’s team and a desire to improve its facilities.

It also has an uncertain future.

The Falcons are based at the Bill Woodfull Oval, the No 20 oval at the Albert Park precinct, but are so worn down by talks with Parks Victoria that they’re considering relocating and even merging with another club.

For more than two years Albert Park has been trying to clinch a long-term lease and associated improvements for its home, despite it being bumped elsewhere every year to accommodate the Grand Prix.

“We’re the club that’s on that first S-bend during the Grand Prix,’’ spokesman and former president Tyson Cattle said.

“The major stadium pretty much goes across the front half of our ground every year.’’

It’s a long and complicated story but the Falcons and Middle Park Cricket Club make up Albert Park Middle Park Sporting Clubs, which has the lease for the clubrooms at the Beaurepaire Pavilion.

Albert Park Soccer Club is also based at the ground, as a subtenant.

Tied to their bid for a lease, the Falcons are chasing funding for ground improvements, a process which has involved talks with the City of Port Phillip, Parks Victoria, and the State and Federal Governments.

But the club, an affiliate of the Victorian Amateur Football Association, has become tangled in red tape as it tries to shore up its future in the local area.

Bill Woodfull Oval is under Parks Victoria management and to gain major government funding the club needs the backing of the council.

But the City of Port Phillip is reluctant to give support because it ultimately has no control over any projects.

It’s a stalemate that makes the Falcons believe they’re always kicking against the wind.

The fact that the club comes under the sporting club banner presents another barrier.

It means the three clubs have to tick off any design work, and differing views bring more delays.

As Cattle sees it, “the government chooses other projects over APMPSC as they are ‘easier and simpler’ to deliver … moving us further down the list’’.

Albert Park Football and Netball Club suggested to the soccer and cricket clubs that it should become the head tenant, pointing out it had invested $65,000 in the community-owned Beaurepaire Pavilion in the past five years and was prepared to do the running around to secure funding.

The money was spent on fridges, bar, painting inside and outside, canteen and storage, and televisions.

The cricket club has put in $3000 worth of works. The soccer club has made no financial contribution.

Middle Park Cricket Club supported the idea of the football and netball club being the major tenant but the soccer club baulked, believing the clubs aren’t on the same page when it comes to upgrading Beaurepaire Pavilion.

The talks over the lease have dragged on for five months.

Early in July Parks Victoria offered individual leases to the three clubs.

The cricket and soccer clubs have agreed to separate leases, as have Falcons, but they say their fundamental problem of getting funds for major improvements and ensuring their sustainability remains.’’

Park Victoria has been contacted for comment.

“Particularly as our women’s team grows and our men’s team gets stronger, the need for our facilities to improve, and our oval as well, becomes paramount,’’ Cattle said.

“Our facilities are regarded as the worst in the VAFA and local community sporting network. it is crucial we position ourselves as best we can to improve the facility, to ensure we remain relevant and differentiate ourselves from our direct competitors.’’

The Falcons believe they have three options: to stay at Oval 20, to look at relocation or weigh up an amalgamation.

“It is unfortunate it has come to this, but as a club, we must assess all options which are in our control and put all options on the table,’’ Cattle said.

“We have put in a lot of work over the years and as a small player-driven club, like many clubs, we rely on volunteers to do the work to improve the facility and make it a place we all want to be at.

“We have worked to improve the facility for the benefit of the entire Albert Park community, but we have received zero support from Parks Victoria and it’s incredibly disappointing.”

The club has written to six clubs in the area to seek expressions of interest in an amalgamation.

The Falcons are looking to make a decision about their future before their AGM, normally held in October.

“It’s disappointing it has come to this,” Cattle said.

“We saw being in Albert Park part of our long-term future and we still do, but the behaviour of Parks Victoria to this point has us questioning why we would continue to invest with no support.

“It is worth noting that the club is in a good position. We have about $30,000 in the bank, another $30,000 worth of assets and solid player numbers across both men’s and women’s football, a strong netball affiliate and as a club a strong commitment from our current committee to take the club forward, that puts us in a position of deciding which of the three options we choose to go down.’’