Working with Local Government

Your local government authority is a key stakeholder for your club.

A positive relationship can be established with the local council by understanding the role of local government as well as putting a few simple strategies in place to keep them informed about your club and its needs.

The role of local government

Your local council:

  • can provide ongoing advice and support for your organisation. Some councils have a Recreation Officer or Community Services Officer appointed for this purpose.
  • May have funds available to assist in developing sport and recreation facilities and projects;
  • may have a Sport and Recreation Council or Committee that provides opportunities for input from sporting and community groups into council sport and recreation policies and issues;
  • May have a club development program to assist clubs with their management and administration.

It may be helpful for your club to nominate a local government contact person who is responsible for liaising with the council. In the first instance, this person could set up an initial meeting to discuss how your organisation and local council could work effectively together. 

Management agreements

The type of agreement your club has with council often reflects the relationship or philosophy council has with regards to its relationship with community organisations such as your club.

Common agreements may be: 

  • Leases – provide a right to exclude everyone including the landlord from a facility. Generally exclusive occupation.    
  • Licenses – Less than exclusive access and can involve shared use agreements. May be entered into for a specific time/day during a season. 
  • Permits – Normally for a 'one-off' event or activity.

While leases may seem the ‘best’ way to go for your organisation, you must remember that council facilities belong to the community and that councils have an obligation to manage so as to meet a broad range of community needs. Such a ‘clause’ will generally be included somewhere in most management agreements. 

While this ‘sharing’ may be difficult in the case of your clubroom, it doesn’t prevent you from entering into sub leases with other community groups to increase use of your facility, share your overheads, and ultimately increase opportunities for the broader community to participate in other sport and recreation interests. 

However, before doing so, contact your council’s property officer to seek permission, ensure you are not exposing your club to increased risk, and to help council keep a track of who is using the community facility and how your club is meeting broader community aims. 

Responsibility and ownership

Within each agreement will be varying degrees of responsibility of council and you as a club. Commonly councils accept responsibility for maintenance and request a percentage to be repaid by your club-based usage. In most instances this is heavily subsidised but varies from council to council.

Councils will normally provide you with a facility that meets your basic needs. Any improvement that you make to the facility obviously needs approval and, (depending on the works carried out) will remain the property of council once your management agreement expires. If you are unsure as to your responsibility and ownership of improvements, refer to the council’s property officer and/or your management

* Source: Working with Local Government: A guide for local and State sporting and recreation organisations. Office of Recreation and Sport, South Australia  

Ten commandments

The following are 10 rules for establishing a good relationship with your local government:

  1. Get to know your council through elected members, senior officers and recreation and maintenance staff.
  2. Invite council representatives to club functions, being hospitable, asking them to present trophies and, most importantly, show appreciation for the services they provide.
  3. Understand the problems that your council is having and help them with issues that affect your club. For example, establish a joint committee to examine your sport's development in the district.
  4. Offer to assist in coaching and recreation programs of the Council and your state association.
  5. Acknowledge your council whenever you can, particularly in any public arena.
  6. Don't complain, but rather approach problems constructively and seek "win-win" solutions.
  7. Encourage a variety of community groups to take an interest in your sport by inviting them to participate in club activities.
  8. Insist on good behaviour, both on and off the field, displaying good sportsmanship and avoiding bad language.
  9. Be good neighbours and form relationships with those who own property adjacent to your ground (complaints to the council will tarnish your image immediately).
  10. Establish a positive public relations program by appointing one of your members to carry out defined tasks, such as issuing media  releases and liaison with the council.

* Source: The Other Kit for Clubs, produced by the Victorian Cricket Association, 1994