FREMANTLE council has signed off on a new license giving the South Fremantle Football Club 40 years at Fremantle Oval, as well as an annual support package worth $350,000.
The package includes $50,000 in cash and about $100,000 from parking revenue, while $80,000 in rent, rates and event hire fees will be waived. The council will also take over the $100,000 job of maintaining the oval.
Fremantle mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge said the deal removed one of the hurdles to a planned redevelopment of the oval, after which the club would be expected to be more financially independent.
“The license agreement is the final piece in the process of the city taking over the management of the oval and ensuring it comes into renewed community use while also maintaining our premier WAFL club,” Ms Fitzhardinge said.
“We’ve been progressing plans for a major redevelopment of Fremantle Oval to provide better facilities for players, spectators and the local community.”
“The masterplan includes new clubrooms, grandstands, grass banks and an events space, lighting upgrades and realigning the oval closer to Victoria Pavilion.
The clubrooms would be upgraded to cater for women, and provide space for community organisations like SEDA College and the Stephen Michael Foundation.
For the Bulldogs, the license allows them to put to bed years of uncertainty about their tenure, highlighted by essentially playing second-fiddle at the ground to the Fremantle Dockers.
“It certainly does; probably it is a conclusion to a long piece of work around some arrangements here at Fremantle Oval,” Mr Britt told the Herald.
“With the Dockers moving down to Cockburn some years ago, there was still some areas and arrangements for us to confirm and consolidate. This license agreement really does that in a meaningful way.
“And one of the really important things is the redevelopment project; it’s not just about South Fremantle, it’s not just about football, it’s to create a bonafide, improved community asset for everyone in Fremantle and surrounds.
“It’s clearly a wonderful outcome for South Fremantle in terms of improving fan amenity, change rooms, facilities for our players; you know, we have a much love but tired facility and it needs renovation.”
Mr Britt said the facilities needed to cater for the growing number of women entering the sport.
“We need to improve standards so the redevelopment will allow that, but we’re talking about having potential recreation, gym facilities, potentially childcare, moonlight cinema, concert potential.”
SFFC president Peter Christie said it was an important moment for the club.
“We are a proud citizen of Fremantle, having existed at this ground for 122 years, and thus securing our next 40 years at least is a tremendous outcome for all parties.”
But the deal didn’t sail through the council with full support; councillors Marija Vujcic and Su Groome concerned the package for the club was overly generous compared to what other community sporting clubs received from the council.
“I find it quite unfair,” Cr Groome said.
“We have so many clubs who we’re unable to support that are struggling, yet we’re supporting our biggest club with a better deal that all but one other local governments in the whole Perth metropolitan area with an almost infinite agreement.
“While our aspiration is that they move towards being more independent and self-sufficient, that’s not the basis of the agreement.
“Every other club will be quite within their rights now to turn up and say ‘we’re not paying rates and we’re not paying license fees and we’re not paying this and we’re not paying that.
“That is the precedent – as much as I love the club, I can’t reconcile this level of support.”
by STEVE GRANT