Maribyrnong’s leading women’s soccer team has lashed out at Maribyrnong Council for ditching the club from the community advisory panel for the Footscray Park Masterplan.
Maribyrnong Swifts Football Club was one of a number of local sporting and community organisations slated for inclusion in the panel in the draft terms of reference adopted by the council in late August.
The panel is being assembled as part of the process of considering the suitability of Melbourne Victory Football Club’s proposal to build a new soccer academy on public space at Footscray Park, following a backlash by residents against the plan.
It will include five community members voted onto the panel as well as representatives from groups and bodies including Footscray Historical Society, Maribyrnong College, Footscray Edgewater Cricket Club and the Footscray Boat Club.
Swifts technical director Henrik Steenberg said council chief executive Stephen Wall told the club it won’t be on the panel despite being in the initial terms of reference because council officers believe it had a conflict of interest due to signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Melbourne Victory.
Victory announced the partnership with the Swifts would open training and playing opportunities as well as closer professional coaching and mentoring ties.
Mr Steenberg said the agreement was signed to make clearer to the council the community benefits of the project.
He said the club had been left completely in the dark about the decision to ditch it from the panel until this week.
He said local residents aligned with the club would have sought representation as one of the five community members, but had not done so on the understanding the club would have a voice on the panel.
“We find it rather insulting that they didn’t even talk to us or ask us about what was involved in the agreement,” he said.
“I would have thought five weeks ago was when they would discuss this, it seems like every day they change what is happening.”
Mr Steenberg said there appeared to be double standards operating as groups like Footscray Historical Society had made submissions arguing against the academy proposal.
“My personal view is that if we have a conflict of interest then everybody who engaged in this has a conflict.”
He said the decision leaves the council in the unusual position of having no football club involved in a panel advising on a football related proposal.
The club is challenging its exclusion as procedurally invalid given its participation was endorsed by councillors via the draft terms of reference.
It is seeking legal advice and considering a complaint to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.
Maribyrnong Council has been contacted for comment.