soccer ball in the net.

Soccer players left on the bench by council planners

Wannabe soccer players are being short-changed when it comes to places to play, says a city councillor, while millions of dollars are spent on facilities residents barely use.

Cllr Joseph Haweil (Aitken ward) says Hume City Council spent $12m on a softball court at Craigeiburn that’s used by just 140 players, while at the same time making little provision for the growing demand of people wanting to play soccer.

He told fellow council members at a 12 February meeting that decisions on where sporting facilities are built, and the sports they cater for, do not take into account what people want.

“They do not incorporate demographic analysis, or surveying of residents to determine what their likely preferences are,” he said.

The former mayor says soccer is a growth sport that requires little in the way of complex facilities.

“Soccer is huge,” he said. “It is growing exponentially. It doesn’t have the top heavy investment of tennis or cricket.”

Joseph Haweil, mayor of Hume City.
Cllr Joseph Haweil.

Hume City Council data shows that:

  • By 2041 soccer will be the second-most played sport in Hume, after Australian football
  • Participation in soccer increased 13% from 2018-2023 across the city (Australian football declined 0.3% in the same period)

“As a council we are not obligated to provide all things to all men and women,” said Cllr Haweil. “We are not obligated to cater for every sport.

“And I am really sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but we are not obligated to build multimillion dollar facilities for sport in Hume which residents are not playing.”

Sunbury Cllr Jack Medcraft said: “The predominant sports in Sunbury are football, cricket, basketball, and golf.

“Soccer is not the most in-demand sport in Sunbury. In Meadow Heights and Roxburgh Park…I’ll probably see that football will be the last of the four, soccer would probably be number one.

Hume City Councillor Jack Medcraft.
Cllr Jack Medcraft.

“You [Cllr Haweil] are trying to paint a picture here of the whole of Hume being soccer centric and the most growth is in soccer. It might be the most growth in parts of Hume, but it isn’t in the parts that I come from.”

Cllr Medcraft spoke of an over-60s group wanting to play cricket.

“They have 85 players wanting to play cricket,” he said. “I said ‘you got no hope of playing in Sunbury because we don’t have any grounds’.”

Cllr Haweil said: “Soccer is, along with cricket, along with basketball, along with tennis, one of our largest sports and is growing exponentially.”

Aitken ward Cllr Jim Overend said more money should be spent on art and culture, not sport.

Council officers have been asked to prepare a report on the development of a city-wide strategy for soccer.

Sunbury cricket details are here.