Home » In remote Central Australia, football is like religion. But crime rates have put this year’s season in jeopardy

In remote Central Australia, football is like religion. But crime rates have put this year’s season in jeopardy

Central Australia’s remote football competition has been dealt a major blow after the Alice Springs council withdrew its support for this season amid concerns about crime rates and social issues in the town. 

Alice Springs town councillor Michael Liddle brought forward the motion in a meeting yesterday, which passed despite strong opposition by two other councillors.

The community competition, which runs every year, sees teams from remote communities around Central Australia travel to Alice Springs for games each week.

It was set to begin in May. 

Mr Liddle, an Alyawarre man, described the move as a “pause” on the competition for one year because of the current crime crisis engulfing the town

“This pausing is so all Aboriginal organisations can take a step back and just have a look at what’s going on here,” he said. 

“It’s only going to be for one year, and then we’ll re-address the problems after that.”

The decision means players and spectators of the community competition will not be allowed access to any council-owned sporting fields in Alice Springs. 

Mr Liddle says the decision puts a “pause” on the competition for one year. (ABC News: Oliver Gordon)

In a letter written to the council before its meeting and obtained by the ABC, AFL Northern Territory (AFLNT) chairman Sean Bowden and head Sam Gibson said the decision would make it very difficult for the competition to proceed due to the “significant deficit” in remote sporting infrastructure. 

“The infrastructure deficit ranges from unsafe playing surfaces to having no access to drinking water, to non-existent change rooms for men, women and umpires, amongst other things,” the letter reads. 

Mr Bowden and Mr Gibson said AFLNT had been working with the federal and Northern Territory governments, as well as the Central Land Council, to invest in facilities for remote communities. 

A crowd standing behind a fence watching a football game.
The competition can attract thousands of people to Alice Springs. (ABC Alice Springs: Xavier Martin)

In a statement released yesterday, AFLNT said it was “deeply disappointed” in the decision and would “consider its position” concerning it. 

‘Of course it’s not fair’

Mr Bowden and Mr Gibson also said in the letter that the move unfairly placed blame on people involved in the community competition for the town’s social issues.