Sporting future in council hands

COUNCILLORS will decide on Tuesday if Griffith will team up with the national organisation that promises to drag the city out of the sporting dark ages – or if the opportunity will fall into Albury’s lap.

Representatives from Sports Marketing Australia (SMA) will return to Griffith for the second time in the space of two months to address councillors who were last week divided over the merits of a partnership with the group.

The Griffith City Sports Council (GCSC) has appealed for a council grant to link up with SMA, the body which decentralises sporting events across the country by taking them away from big cities and relocates them into suitable regional areas.

SMA has standing links with more than 30 councils nationwide but requires a $30,000 fee to complete a “capacity and capability assessment” before any events are brought to Griffith.

The assessment will strategically analyse what facilities and infrastructure the city currently has and what events it could successfully host.

However, the fee is unbudgeted for 2013/14 and council would be required to forward-fund or source the amount from savings identified in the quarterly review.

GCSC president Lou Testoni said the opportunity was “too good” for council to pass up – especially since SMA, who are on the hunt for a new southern NSW partner, are in talks with the Albury council.

“It’s either us or them. Albury has also shown interest as well,” he said.

“If we miss out, Albury gets it basically. 

“To get this study done, (council is) worried about these costs but if we’re investing in our community, I can’t see where the cost will disadvantage anyone.

“All we’re committing to is getting a report done – we then have the right to say yes or no if we want something here.”

Testoni said he was disappointed council has sought further information given SMA chief Rick Sleeman came to Griffith last month to address a special GCSC meeting, to which all councillors were invited.

“It’s going to cost to bring these guys down again,” he said. “I really don’t know, but now we’ve got to do it all again and get these guys back to present it to council, to put it straight in their mind what it’s really all about.

“I thought we answered all the questions in full and correctly. Hopefully they see it in the same manner as we do – the whole community benefits.”

Councillors were last week suspicious of “grey areas” in SMA’s proposal which could see costs escalate with events.

Councillor Pat Cox questioned whether all sports at all levels would be represented by the proposal.

However, tourism manager Greg Lawrence said the benefits of the partnership are already clear.

SMA brought the Football NSW Under 13 State Titles to Griffith in July as a test case, and the tournament put more than $600,000 into the local economy and boosted occupancy rates to 98 per cent during a traditionally flat period, Lawrence said.

“But what you can’t put a number on is what happens when those families go home and think ‘wow, wasn’t that a great place?’ We only need an average of four of those events a year and that’s $2.5 million directly into Griffith – on top of the indirect benefits,” he said.

“In fairness, councils are in charge of the public purse and I always believe they need to make the make the best decision with as much information available to them. 

“They’ve asked for additional information, which I’m quite happy to supply, and we’re working very hard to make sure we can bring this opportunity to fruition. This is an unbudgeted item so we need to tread carefully, but I’m looking forward to what is hopefully a positive outcome.”

Lawrence said the matter was so important to Griffith he will return from annual leave specifically for Tuesday’s meeting.

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