Community Football League games should be held in remote communities, says NT sports minister

Moving community football competition from central Australia back to remote communities will boost their economic development and help the sport grow, says Northern Territory Sport Minister Kate Worden.

The competition has been in turmoil since Alice Springs City Council banned players and spectators from its sports grounds, effectively forcing the 2023 season to be played outside of Alice Springs.

AFLNT has opposed the decision and called for an “urgent summit” with stakeholders to chart a path for the contest, which is set to begin in May.

Speaking to ABC Radio Alice Springs on Monday, Ms Worden joined calls for the competition to be staged in remote communities, like other football leagues across the country.

“It’s community football from its name… and community football is played across Australia,” she said.

“I’ve been saying this myself for over 12 months: Community football should be played in community.

a middle-aged woman with silvery blonde hair, squinting
Kate Worden believes the 2023 community competition can go ahead as planned despite concerns about the sports pitches.(ABC News: Michael Franchi)

“It contributes to true localized economies at a distance [communities]and there are cost savings for participants in transportation, and it means communities can host games and show their communities to others.”

Ms Worden said it was important to develop additional hubs outside of Alice Springs, where infrastructure such as sports fields and changing rooms can support an influx of visitors from other communities.

She said holding the competition in remote communities would lay the groundwork for the development of additional games, including a women’s league and children’s games.

“It’s a lot more than just kicking a foot,” she said.

“We also have to make sure that this gives a path to the football players who want that [make it professionally] – the Liam Jurrahs of the world – we need to make sure that competition is there.

“We shouldn’t wait for perfection, we shouldn’t wait for every community to have an oval and fitting room that’s up to standard for this to take off.”

In Santa Teresa (Ltyentye Apurte), 80 kilometers southeast of Alice Springs, the community’s oval was recently greened as part of a four-year project supported by Melbourne Football Club.

People on a green foot oval in Santa Teresa, with houses and a mountain range in the background.
Mr. Hayes says Santa Teresa will need support if it is to host games in the upcoming community football competition.(ABC Alice Springs: Mitchell Abram)

Ltyentye Apurte Football Club manager Graham “Scrubby” Hayes said it was difficult but not impossible for the community to host any part of the community competition.

“If we take on the competition here, it could cause a lot of problems in terms of referees and transport,” he said.

“But if we host sometimes and we get help from the CAFL (Central Australian Football League) with night patrols and police then I think we could run it.”

Mr Hayes suggested that the City Council host a meeting with coaches to set the terms for community competition games to be played at Alice Springs.

“If players run amok, they could get a strike, and if they keep playing it up, their whole team could get banned,” he said.

Footy team celebrates in NT AFL competition
Alice Springs Council will not allow the community competition to be played on Council owned fields.(ABC Alice Springs: Xavier Martin)

“The council could also require teams to have a bus waiting for them at the end of games so they don’t get stuck in town.”

Over the weekend, AFLNT released another statement, again urging the council to reconsider its position.

“AFLNT remains committed to exploring all possible options to seek a solution to allow the community competition to be completed in 2023,” a spokesman said.

“We think taking football away from the young men and women of central Australia is the wrong outcome.

“Football is an important part of the culture and an integral part of the lives of so many people in Central Australia.”

AFLNT also said it remains committed to addressing “significant infrastructure deficiencies” in remote communities that will support the game of football in those communities going forward. Community Football League games should be held in remote communities, says NT sports minister

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