Rules and regulations stifling sporting growth

14/11/2014 - 15:22
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Getting people away from their televisions and into stadiums is the biggest challenge facing the state’s top sporting teams, but Western Australia’s strict legislative requirements, especially around

Perth Wildcats boss Nick Marvin (left), Perth Stadium project director Ronnie Hurst and Fremantle Dockers chief Steve Rosich at the panel discussion.

Getting people away from their televisions and into stadiums is the biggest challenge facing the state’s top sporting teams, but Western Australia’s strict legislative requirements, especially around responsible service of alcohol, are making it difficult for clubs to provide the experience fans are after.

Television coverage and the proliferation of sports on the internet were identified as the biggest barrier to attracting fans by a panel of the state’s elite sporting organisations assembled by Perth Racing earlier this week at the offices of prominent law firm Lavan Legal.

Executives from the Perth Wildcats, Netball WA, West Coast Eagles, Fremantle Dockers, Western Australian Cricket Association and Perth Racing all agreed that enhancing the fan experience was looming as a key priority for clubs facing the digital challenge.

But the Department of Sport and Recreation’s Perth Stadium project director, Ronnie Hurst, said the layers of legislation put on sporting clubs, from professional to amateur ranks, were “never-ending”.

“Drugs in sport, sports betting, working with children, responsible service of alcohol, the list goes on and on,” Mr Hurst said.

“Someone gets involved in a club and before you know it you have to get all these clearances.”

Perth Racing chief executive Stephen Wicks said the state government’s blanket approach to responsible service of alcohol at sporting venues was a detriment to attracting new fans.

“Each venue should be judged on its merits,” Mr Wicks said. “That’s a policy I’d like to see adopted, so if you do a good job, you are rewarded in different restrictions and requirements, rather than a standardised process of one shoe fits all.”

Mr Wicks said sporting tourism was clearly suffering from the strict restrictions of what can and can’t be served at sporting events.

“If we want to utilise and make the most of our venues as event venues and for tourism, it’s really important that everything else comes along with it,” he said.

“You can’t turn up and then find out it’s a mid-strength venue. It’s a difficulty and it’s a challenge.”

Mr Wicks said Perth Racing had placed an increased focus on providing more sophisticated food and beverage options at the refurbished Ascot Racecourse, which had paid dividends.

“Food and beverage turnover is up 50 per cent,” Mr Wicks said. “We’ll be going out for awards next year for our restaurant and bar.

“We’re a longer day, so that social part is very important, so we work very hard to ensure that when people come out they have a good afternoon, not just in a box, but throughout the whole course.”

West Coast Eagles chief executive Trevor Nisbett agreed that alcohol serving requirements in WA needed to move with the times.

“The more restrictions you place on people, the harder they go at it,” Mr Nisbett said.

“Most people are reasonably responsible. You always get people that aren’t, but most people are responsible.”

Netball WA chief executive Simon Taylor said the state’s legislative requirements were particularly restrictive on the army of volunteers needed to keep the sport running, especially at a grassroots level.

Mr Taylor said there were more than 10,000 volunteers involved with netball in WA.

“Trying to make sure all those volunteers have the skills to deal with the legislative requirements that are placed on their clubs, it definitely puts another layer of responsibility onto the sport to make sure it’s educating people properly, but it doesn’t come with a wad of cash to make it happen,” Mr Taylor said.

At the Perth Wildcats, managing director Nick Marvin said the club focused on getting its spectators involved wherever possible to ensure they couldn’t replicate the experience in their lounge rooms.

“We call it the sixth-man experience,” Mr Marvin said.

“Everything we do is about the interaction, we have dancers, we have a dunk team, there’s always got to be something for us to get them out of their lounge.”

WACA chief executive Christina Matthews said cricket was the ultimate sport for people saying it drags on, but the Twenty20 format had been a boon to attracting fresh audiences.

But Ms Matthews said there was still a focus on extracurricular activities at Twenty20 matches.

“Even though there is not a lot of time in T20 to relax, people still have the idea you can walk around,” Ms Matthews said.

“So we have a kids zone, and this year we are having a petting zoo.

“You can do things that are slightly weird, and people will want to go and look at them.” 

For more coverage of the panel discussion, look out for Monday's print edition of Business News.

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