Grounds for complaint
By STEVE SPINKS
A RUN-AROUND is usually a move reserved for the football field.
But Lismore City Council have proved just as adept at the move as any footballer.
As reported in The Northern Star on Tuesday, Marist Brothers Rugby League Club was left bewildered after being told by the council they wouldn't be able to use Oakes Oval as a venue for their NRRRL minor semi-final against Cudgen tomorrow.
The council had offered the booking to Soccer Far North Coast earlier in the year for their six Under-10 and Under-11 grand finals, in accordance with the 'right of way' policy.
The right of way policy means a sport usually played on a particular day has first right to the venue on that day. Soccer, a Saturday sport, had right of way.
However, Brothers mentioned the possible clash with their semi-final as far back as April, even though the date could not be confirmed until the conclusion of the home-and-away season on August 21 and the first round of the semi-finals last weekend.
With soccer booked on Oakes Oval, it means Brothers will have to play at the smaller Crozier Field next door, which may struggle to hold the large crowd expected tomorrow.
It also means it will break a 60-year tradition of the Rams playing their finals at Oakes Oval.
All along, Brothers had been told by a council officer that the decision was out of the council's hands and that is was a policy matter and not an operational issue.
Policy matters are handled by the new Sport and Recreation Policy Advisory Group, formerly known as the Lismore District Sports Association, which sat for the first time under its new name on Wednesday night.
Brothers tried to have the clash of dates and the policy raised at the meeting by Cr Frank Swientek.
But Cr Swientek was then informed by a council representative that the matter was an operational and not a policy issue and that it could not be discussed at the meeting.
News of this somersault in council thinking was obviously not well received by Brothers.
Further, Cr Swientek found out that the right of way policy could be over-ridden by the council if a priority match coincided with previous bookings.
Marist Brothers president Steve Campbell didn't think the decision would be overturned at the meeting on Wednesday night, but he was upset the issue wasn't allowed to be raised at all.
"We had an obligation to follow through our complaint to make sure we'd exhausted every avenue," he said.
"We wanted to set it up so the situation didn't occur next year.
"But we keep getting the run-around with whether it's an operational or policy issue."
Mr Campbell stressed that he had no problem with Soccer FNC using Oakes Oval for their junior grand finals.
"I would like to wish all the young players the best with their soccer grand finals this weekend and I realise how exciting playing at Oakes Oval can be," he said.
Council spokesman Russell Kelly said the position of the council at the Sport and Recreation meeting on Wednesday night was correct.
He said the policy advisory groups were there to steer the ship and offer direction, while operational matters and disputes should be handled by the council.
He said the new groups were not designed to deny anyone an opportunity to voice their disapproval of council procedures and that questions could always be directed to the relevant manager.
However, Marist Brothers did approach the correct manager and they were given incorrect information.
Mr Kelly did point out the council's unenviable situation.
"The council is in an invidious position," he said.
"We said 'yes' to one sports group and then another comes along. Council must honour its promise to the first group, otherwise the players and families and spectators of the soccer grand finals would be just as upset as Brothers are now."
However, Mr Kelly agreed that refinement of the hiring procedures may be necessary.
"As far as council are concerned we want to make sure that the best use of the sporting grounds are achieved every time," he said.
"It (the procedure) can certainly be reviewed to make sure all sporting groups have access to the grounds that best suit them as often as they can get them."