The Greek community of Newcastle are reeling after their beloved football club was a victim of the Morrison governments’ Sports Rorts scandal.
Newcastle Olympic Football Club missed out on federal funding for a new grandstand and sporting facility upgrades.
This was despite an independent assessment giving it a far higher score than projects the Morrison government hand-picked for funding.
The club applied unsuccessfully for a Community Sport Infrastructure grant – the program at the heart of the Morrison Government’s shocking ‘sports rorts’ scandal.
“Newcastle Olympic Football Club is a well-loved Newcastle institution, particularly in the Greek community who are obviously passionate about their football,” Labor MP Ms Sharon Claydon said in a statement.
“The fact that this deserving project didn’t receive funding is a slap in the face to all the hardworking volunteers who worked on the grant application for months on the mistaken understanding that it would be judged on its merit.”
The Club had applied for $500,000 in federal funding to supplement a $500,000 commitment from the City of Newcastle and $200,000 from the Club’s own fundraising efforts.
The proposed project would have taken the facilities at Darling Street Oval to the next level, with a brand-new grandstand for Olympic’s passionate fans and upgrades which would encourage more participation, particularly among the club’s four female teams.
“Once completed, this upgrade would allow community groups and players year-round use and bring the ageing facilities up to spec for National Premiere League and FFA Cup competitions,” Ms Claydon said.
Newcastle Olympic has since learnt that the Darling Street project scored 76/100 in the independent analysis undertaken by Sports Australia.
“It’s simply not right that Olympic missed out while the Morrison Government gave grants to projects with scores as low as 39/100,” Ms Claydon said.
“The Morrison Government shamelessly used this publicly funded grants program as its own personal election slush fund, ignoring independent advice and awarding grants to Coalition-targeted seats rather than projects based on merit.
“This is a government that repeatedly thumbs its nose at due process, fairness and integrity.”
When interviewed about the rejected application, Newcastle Olympic Secretary Con Gounis said he had initially thought the club was in with a good chance of securing funding.
“We thought we did our due diligence and we thought we were a pretty good chance. When you find out why we’ve missed out – you just think that’s not the Australian way, it’s just not right,” Mr Gounis said.
“We just wanted a level playing field, that’s all we wanted, to be judged on merit – if you’re successful, great, if not we’ll try again – well it doesn’t look like that has happened and that’s disappointing.”
When asked about his faith in the grants process, Mr Gounis said: “It’s certainly put a big question mark on it. You just expect that everyone is equal, and whoever decides, it will be decided fairly and equitably – obviously it hasn’t been.”
“At least let us put it in again and be judged on our merits – that’s all we ever wanted, to be judged on our merits – and obviously that didn’t happen. “
Ms Claydon has written to the Prime Minister to request that the Government deliver the Darling Street project funding in line with its obvious merit.