Controversy has erupted over the live site for the FIFA Women’s World Cup semi-final match.

Northern Beaches Council has announced a live site for tomorrow’s FIFA Women’s World Cup semi-final match.

The FIFA Women’s World Cup semi-final match between Australia and England will be held tomorrow evening (Wednesday, 16 August) at 8.00pm. The match to be held at Stadium Australia long ago sold out, leaving eager fans scrambling for venues to watch the game.

Northern Beaches Council has announced that Cromer Park (main image) at South Creek Road, Cromer, will be a live broadcast site with gates open from 7.00pm for the 8.00pm kick off.

Sue Heins at Sargood on Collaroy

Northern Beaches Mayor Sue Heins (image above) said the live site would be a wonderful opportunity to watch the game at the home of football on the Northern Beaches.

“This is a truly unique experience that we all want to share together, so I encourage everyone to come along to Cromer Park with their picnic rug for a night we will never forget.

“The match is already a sell out and this site will give our community a chance to come together to support our amazing Matildas,” said Mayor Heins.

James Griffin

The decision to host the match at Cromer Park, in the electorate of former Mayor Michael Regan, is being seen as a snub to Manly MP James Griffin (image above), who secured the public broadcast rights after Council had previously declined to show matches at live sites due to reported cost and licensing difficulties.

Mr Griffin confirmed to the Northern Beaches Advocate he had looked into the licensing issue after learning that small regional councils had been able to set up live sites.

Mr Griffin confirmed that he had secured the rights for free, and asked for Manly Oval to be considered as a live site location by Council. He accepted the decision by Council to host the live site venue at Cromer Park however, acknowledging it was the home of the Manly Warringah Football Association and said it was ‘a fine venue’ for the live site.

The Far Post - Cromer Park

Cromer Park and the associated licensed venue ‘The Far Post’ (image above) has been the venue Mr Regan has hosted political events, including his election night victory party when he was elected the Member for Wakehurst.

There is no suggestion Mr Regan was involved in the decision to host only one live site, or for that site to be located in his electorate rather than that of Mr Griffin, who secured the rights.

Only a day before the announcement by Council, Mr Regan appeared to be unaware of the plan, saying on social media that Council was investigating options but it was complex, expensive and involved FIFA licensing.

Questions have been raised about the decision-making process at Council however, with one Councillor who did not wish to go on record questioning whether there was a ‘reflexive instinct’ within Council management to act in the political interests of the former Mayor and Member for Wakehurst.

Candy Bingham

Former Deputy Mayor and Manly Ward Councillor Candy Bingham (image above) defended Council’s decision-making process, saying Cromer Park was the most suitable venue given a range of factors, including the notice period, location and crowd capacity.

“As someone with professional experience running large events, this is a very difficult thing for Council to put on. We don’t know until a few days before the game it is happening. It could get rained out, and it’s very expensive to run.

“Manly Oval can only hold five thousand people, so the choice of Cromer Park is more appropriate. It is the home of football and a central location for the Northern Beaches,” said Cr Bingham.

Northern Beaches Deputy Mayor David Walton

Deputy Mayor David Walton (image above) expressed some disappointment at the opportunities missed to date, with Council foregoing the opportunity to show the Matilda’s previous two finals matches. He produced an email demonstrating he had asked Council on 01 August 2023 to broadcast all the finals at a live fan site.

Deputy Mayor Walton did not wish to get drawn into the controversy around political considerations for the selection of the live site, instead saying he wished to deal with the matter internally. He did however say that he would be requesting a review into the culture of transparency and accountability in Council management.

Georgia Ryburn

Manly Ward Councillor Georgia Ryburn (image above), who had also been pushing for a live fan site, avoided the controversy of site selection, but is known to have been advocating for an option at Manly. Cr Ryburn said it was pleasing to see Council would now offer a venue.

“When so many other Sydney Councils were putting on live sites, it was only fair we provided one. Community sentiment was loud and clear: locals wanted a family-friendly option to support our Matildas as a community, together.

“I don’t think anyone expected the support and traction we’re seeing at this World Cup. So it was great to see Council jump into action and come up with innovative ways to put on this event, especially as community sentiment was so overwhelming strong,” said Cr Ryburn.

Cromer Park

None of the Councillors or other people spoken with by the Northern Beaches Advocate wished to go on record to criticise the selection of Cromer Park as the live site. There was unanimous support for a live venue, and satisfaction the home of football on the Northern Beaches would be it, if there could be only one.

Questions remained however, as to why Mr Griffin’s electorate was snubbed, when he secured the rights. One Councillor wryly suggested it might be ‘payback’ for embarrassing Council by showing it was not so hard after all to do the thing they said could not be done.

Manly Oval

While the case for Cromer Park as a live fan site has appeal, given it is the home of the Manly Warringah Football Association, some pointed out the shortcomings of the sportsground as a live venue, when compared to Manly (image above) or Brookvale Oval.

The food and beverage options are limited, with only on-ground options as opposed to supporting nearby small businesses. There will also be little prospect of people travelling to the ground without cars because of limited public transport options.

Leaving aside the political intrigue, for those who can attend it is sure to be an enjoyable evening.

Council have issued the following event guidelines:

  • Gates open at 7.00pm and the match starts at 8.00pm
  • Free entry, non-ticketed event, with no reserved seating
  • BYO picnic rugs and low lying chairs (no camping chairs)
  • Pack a picnic. Although no food was initially to be sold, Council today said the canteen will be open and some food trucks will be available.
  • No glass allowed
  • Flat shoes only permitted
  • Pets not permitted (assistance animals excepted)
  • All ages welcome, but minors must be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian
  • Those with small children are reminded the synthetic surface contains loose pulverised rubber, so a watchful eye should be kept on what goes into little mouths
  • This is a professional sporting field with finals taking place across the coming days, so ensure you take your rubbish with you

Images: Northern Beaches Advocate

Matt Cross - upgrade Davidson High hall

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