Even AFL Clubs work hard on developing relationships with local councils. Derwent Valley Council Mayor Martin Evans (L) poses for a photo with Hawthorn Captain Sam Mitchell.

Developing Relationships with Local Council

One of the keys to success for Australian Football clubs at local or country level is maintaining a strong, healthy relationship with the local council.

Most sporting grounds are on council property and are managed by the local council. As a result local councils are generally responsible for areas such as ground maintenance, pavilions, rubbish removal and car parking, however, this is not always the case. All football clubs should ensure they clearly understand what the council is responsible for and, therefore, what the club’s responsibility is in relation to their allocated sporting ground and facilities.

When looking to form relationships with the local council, your club should:

  • Ensure its needs are at the forefront of local council plans and strategies.
  • Get to know the local council through councillors, senior officers and recreation and maintenance staff. Make sure they are invited to and acknowledged at club functions, get them involved in events (by presenting trophies, for example) and offer help for council activities such as school holiday programs.
  • Insist on high standards of behaviour on and off the field (particularly in relation to language) to help build the club’s reputation and standing within local council circles and the wider community.
  • Maintain positive relationships with neighbours next to your facilities to avoid complaints to council. Be considerate and always notify neighbours of any functions and activities that have the potential to be a nuisance. A letterbox drop works well and it also assists with positive promotion of activities happening at the club.
  • Ensure the local council is part of the club’s strategic public relations campaign. Always update key personnel for all aspects of club operations.
  • Always seek win-win solutions for problems.

Using council facilities

When applying to local council for allocation of a ground each season, make sure you provide:

  • A list of the grounds and recreational facilities or pavilions required for the season.
  • Fixtures, training times and pavilion usage times.
  • A copy of the club’s public liability insurance policy that meets the council’s specific requirements.
  • A copy of the club’s liquor license (if applicable).
  • Any changes to the liquor license or other documents.
  • A copy of the club or league’s audited financial statement.
  • A contact list of club committee members.
  • The name of the person who is the council liaison officer.
  • A description of membership demographics (if requested).

Once your club has been allocated a ground or facility, it is important that you:

  • Ensure pavilions and facilities (if applicable) are properly used and kept neat and tidy at all times.
  • Inform the council immediately of any maintenance issues that are not the club’s responsibility.
  • Contact the council if there are changes to your club’s committee (always keep the council up-to-date on current
    contact details for the club’s council liaison officer).
  • Stay informed about community issues by attending council workshops or seminars.
  • Report any theft or vandalism as early as possible.

Each local council will have a different policy relating to seasonal allocations. It is important to ensure that you provide the local council with all the information requested for numerous reasons:

  • Casual bookings may be made in the times that you have indicated you will not be using either the ground or the pavilion.
  • Details about the club’s programs will provide the council with an understanding of what the club offers – i.e. often new residents to the area will contact the council for information about sporting clubs for their children.
    If the council knows that you have an AFL Auskick centre, they can direct new enquiries to your club.
  • A council officer needs to know who the main contact for the club is (council liaison officer) to ensure communication is maintained at all times with the same person and not with four different people. If four people are ringing the council over the same issue, the council officer’s time is also being wasted.

Most local councils will have a formalised seasonal tenancy agreement that sets out the expectations of the council, as well as the conditions relating to club tenancy. It is important that all club committee members are familiar with this document and the issues relating to the club’s rights and responsibilities.

Information that is contained in these agreements includes:

  • Fees for use of sports fields and pavilions.
  • Maintenance issues relating to sports fields. i.e. line marking, rubbish removal, cleaning of pavilions.
  • Use of sports fields for pre-season training, practice matches and finals.
  • Infrastructure. i.e. goal posts, scoreboards, fencing and coaches’ boxes.
  • Usage issues relating to liquor licensing, car parks and canteens (food registration).
  • Maintenance responsibilities – club responsibilities and council responsibilities. i.e. who is responsible for mowing the ground?
  • Capital works developments and pavilion alterations.

Many municipalities do not have spare grounds; if they do, they use them as overflow grounds when permanent grounds are being renovated.  If a ground does become vacant, most councils will look to extend the offerings in the community and will grant the facilities to a club that is proactive, offers a broad target market and is willing to cater for the whole community, including minority groups.  Clubs wishing to secure new facilities should consider how they could present their case to council through showing their community appeal and focus.

Leases and contracts

If a facility is used solely by a football club (not seasonally allocated), the club may have a lease agreement in place.  This may also be the case where football clubs have social facilities/buildings leased through the council. In this case, the community does not have direct access to the facilities and, as a result, it is reasonable for the council to have little or no involvement in the maintenance of the facilities.

Clubs should seek advice when developing lease agreements if they are not familiar with the legal terminology and conditions outlined in a lease. Most councils will work with the club to ensure all parties understand the lease and the specific requirements for both parties.

All states and local council authorities have different policies relating to leasing, social facilities and maintenance. Although various suggestions and considerations have been outlined, it is important to stress that these situations may not be applicable to your club’s local council.

Regardless of the differences, it is crucial that your club is familiar with the council recreation/leisure staff and the various policies, seasonal tenancy agreements or leases that are available for sporting clubs. Football clubs are not the only sporting clubs that councils need to look after – remember that other clubs and the general public need to use the council facilities as well. Respect their wishes and work towards developing a favourable relationship with local council officers, other sporting clubs and the general public. They are all important to the future of your club.


Council policies
Each local council will have other policies and procedures that clubs will need to be familiar with and ultimately abide by, as part of their seasonal agreement or lease. Ignorance of these policies will only result in causing friction between the club and the council, ruin any favourable relationship developed and jeopardise the agreement for future seasons.

Some examples of these policies may include:

  • Smoke-free policy – Council buildings must be smoke-free.
  • Advertising/signage policy – Check what the restrictions may be around the ground on the fence or on the building.
  • Food safety/food handling requirements – Running a canteen makes clubs a food provider under the Australian New Zealand Food Authority standards.
    Clubs will need to check what they are required to do to comply with the standards.
  • Capital works policies – Each council will have a process by which clubs should apply for capital works requests. Generally, clubs will be required to
    show planning towards various requests and inform council officers well in advance (sometimes a few years) before council capital works budgets are set for each financial year.

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