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Is Leichhardt Oval equipped to host professional sport?




The recent incident that luckily avoided serious injury at Leichhardt Oval proved one thing: local government are incapable of maintaining stadiums for their communities.

Inner west Labor Councillor Cr Philippa Scott put it this way in a statement on Facebook: “This is infrastructure that has been neglected to the point of injurious collapse.”

The chair of the Wests Tigers Lee Hagipantelis described it this way: “What happened on Saturday is indicative of the potential of what can occur throughout the entire venue.

“It is very concerning. I’ve spoken about the facilities at Leichhardt being substandard, I have described them as third world and borderline dangerous.”

Yet he still wants to play at the venue and is demanding an upgrade.

This, despite over $1 billion being spent to modernise two nearby stadia, the Sydney Football Stadium at Moore Park and CommBank Stadium at Parramatta.

There is not an endless money pit to fund nostalgia.

Leichhardt Oval is in a terrible position, poked away on a peninsula, surrounded by residential neighbours. Access is via narrow suburban streets punctuated with parked cars from houses without garages.

The closest rail access is Leichhardt North light rail station, approximately ten minutes walk away.

Light rail patrons have to negotiate crossing one of Sydney’s busiest roads, the City West Link, to get to and from the stadium.

In short, access is awful.

There is a future for Leichhardt Oval. It’s just not as a venue for professional sport.

Leichhardt

(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

In recent years the number of events at Leichhardt has swelled from the rebuild of the SFS.

Temporary tenants have included Sydney FC and the NSW Waratahs. But with the imminent opening of the SFS both teams have probably played their last games at Leichhardt.

Wests Tigers only play three competition games and one trial match a year at the venue.

Do four games of professional sport per year qualify for a $50m upgrade?

Instead, Leichhardt Oval should be returned to the community. Open the gates 365 days a year!

Let the dog walkers, local school children, junior sport and emerging talent, train and play at the venue.

The state and local government should both contribute to making the venue safe by decommissioning the grandstand and make it a true community asset.

After all, if a local government the size of Inner West Council can’t maintain it currently, how would Leichhardt Council if the proposed de-amalgamation goes through?





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