26 February 2019

Would you pay $500 to play football in Canberra?

| Lachlan Roberts
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To play in any division of state league in 2019 is going to cost nearly half a grand. File Photo

When a friend told me she would have to pay $495 plus processing if she wanted to play with her team this season in Capital Football’s Women’s State League 3, I was astounded.

The fact that amateur football players are forced to pay nearly half a grand to play in a state league competition is extraordinary.

The considerable registration fee will stop her from signing up this season, which is a shame. It made me wonder how many other Canberrans baulk at the sizeable fee and what people are actually paying for when they fork out that kind of money.

The registration fee is broken down into three parts: club fee, Capital Football fee and Football Federation Australia (FFA) fee. Capital Football’s fee to register to play in state league and masters competitions is $192.75 on top of the FFA fee of $33.00.

Capital Football’s registration fee contributes to the administration of the game, which includes digital services, administration and inclusion programs along with referee programs that do not generate revenue of their own.

The clubs fee varies between each clubs. O’Connor Knights charge $270, Tuggeranong United $294, Lanyon United $224, Belnorth $184, Belsouth $164 and Woden Valley $179. The registration fee covers ground hire for match day and training, lights to train at night, referee fees, uniforms and equipment.

When I spoke to Lanyon United vice-president Grant McFadden this week, he said his club members had accepted the rising cost to play football in the ACT.

“We are a seniors-only club and we are a not a performance club so our costs are relatively low in comparison to others,” he shared. “Part of it comes down to how much fundraising and sponsorship each club can acquire.

“We do a lot of fundraising events throughout the year which helps with costs. We discuss this with our members, that if we want to keep our fees as low as possible we need our members to volunteer to raise the money for the club.

“So instead of paying out of their pocket, our members are paying with their time.”

Capital Football chief Phil Brown said the growing costs to play football is an issue for all clubs in the ACT. But despite how expensive it is becoming to play football, Brown said fees is not the main reason people are choosing to play other sports.

“All leisure activities cost money to deliver, and football is no exception. Field hire, uniforms, equipment and coaches all have a financial impact on clubs that cannot be covered by canteen revenue and sponsors alone,” Brown said.

“All of our clubs are not for profit, volunteer organisations who invest a great amount of their time in providing opportunities for young boys and girls to have fun playing football.

“National surveys indicate the main motivators for people leaving football are the quality of coaches and availability of referees,” Brown told Region Media.

“Capital Football’s focus is to help volunteer clubs in delivering an experience that is fun for the player and parent, supported by coaches and referees who have access to education that provides them knowledge and confidence.”

Regardless of which club amateur footballers choose to play for, it will still cost them at least $400 to play. For state league divisions that rarely have a referee to officiate and play on fields filled with potholes, I can only see the ridiculous registration fee turning more people away from the sport they love.

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Rugby league team I have been involved with trains twice a week and books the field to train on for two hours.

It’s 26 weeks over winter so we need lights. $48 ph ground hire, $21ph lights and suddenly our 20 man squad has to pay $240 each per year to the ACT government just to cover training hire.

Plus lots of other costs and charges.

To be fair to Football clubs across the country, not just Canberra, you need to look at the subsidies coming from the National bodies to the grassroots. Have a look at the FFA figures including TV rights against those of NRL, AFL & Rugby & what flows to the kids who aspire to these levels and those that play football coz they love it.

The bottom of football pays for the privileges of the Senior National teams. The same players on mega $$$ to play football.

The balance is well out of kilter in football.

What could CF do with the nearly $3M that they have in their accounts before we kick off season 2019?

The opportunity is there now before we lose more players to other codes. Eg ACT NSW AFL female numbers DOUBLED in 2018. Cost may not be the main driver but continued football fees isn’t helping.

Break down the $500 to a per match and it’s $30/week for 16 rounds. How much is gym membership, AFL, rugby, NRL, basketball, netball, touch, oztag & so the list goes on? You can’t blame ground hire & insurance coz every sport suffers under those playing conditions.

Canberra is a relatively finite pool of talent that we share around codes as players might choose to consume sport or club offerings.

What could make football that code of choice for players & parents & what is CF doing to lead the strategic charge hand in hand with clubs?

I’ve been involved in a variety of sporting clubs and the first thing I tell people to do is volunteer and help out or nominate and get on the the clubs committee. Then they’ll realise why these fees are as much as they are. I agree its outrageous and insurance is a big part of fees these days. I know the ACT government charges $1 an hour for juniors sports ground hire (or at least they used to). Seniors sports were are lot more depending on the field etc. The cost of living has gone up across Australia and its ridiculous. That said fees for sports have not gone up that much, they were often around $200-300 a season twenty years ago. Some sports also provide free equipment for kids (and sometimes adults) to use. Most community sporting clubs are run on razor thin margins and the volunteer administrators usually do their best to keep fees down.

watto23 not sure where you get your information but I have been involved with sport in Canberra for 15+ years. I have never known the ACT government to only charge $1 per hour for juniors. I know clubs that spend upwards of $20000 a year to hire grounds to play and train. break that down by 250 kids and you can see why rego is so high. not to mention insurance etc. if the ACT government are serious about getting kids active and healthy then they need to drop the prices way down to hire the grass. teams in Queanbeyan are charged $50 per year for the key hire and that’s it. so why cant the ACT do the same thing.

A true comparison would encompass more than just 6 State League clubs and it would be useful to compare all sports registration fees – relative to the split between the respective national/association fees relative to the club portion. I am interested in what evidence you have that matches are played on fields ‘ filled with potholes’…. if that were the case there would a lot more injuries, leading to sports insurance claims, leading to higher fees anyway.

Just paid $1,500 registration plus $400 uniform fees for my 13 year old to play soccer in Canberra !

It’s a rip off! Men’s state league get stuff all for the money we spend. Refs not turning up, c@#p fields, byes, equipment not up to standard and fixtures etc not updated on the Capital Football website. It’s a joke.

Cost me $400 ish annually > 5 years ago at a big club. Thought that was exy but standard. Would love to see a breakdown of where the money goes

Ground hire fees and government mandated insurance are too big a component of the cost.

I don’t know how low income households can afford to play sport anymore?

Lachlan, I don’t think that’s particula;ry unusual for a sport at all – club hockey is at least that, and I reckon if you were to survey other majors local sports you’d be on a par. Ground hire is not cheap, plus insurances. Be interested to see an actual survey across say the 20 most poular sports (in terms of participant numbers) in Canberra if one could be conducted.

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