Australian News

Footy in Queensland reaping the benefits of a season as the AFL’s home

The sight of hundreds of schoolchildren in the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens would not normally be cause for celebration.

After all, it is a beautifully landscaped garden setting with plenty of open space ideal for children to run around in.

But for the AFL, the yelling, screaming and laughing mass was evidence of just how far Australian football has come in its northern outpost.

As part of AFL grand final week, the Botanic Gardens has hosted a Footy Festival site featuring multiple Auskick clinics.

The Festival runs for three days and registration numbers have been so strong, three more clinics have been added to meet demand on Saturday.

It only gets better for Australian football.

AFL Queensland (AFLQ) has reported participants at Auskick centres across the state are up 10-15 per cent, and that is with a significant number of the more than 900 centres unable to operate in the early part of the season because of COVID restrictions.

The growth in junior numbers has defied the bleak outlook when the coronavirus pandemic first hit in early autumn.

Children playing Aussie rules in the rain.
AFLQ kids from Alexandra Hills Bombers and Morningside Panthers chase the ball.(Highflyer Images: Deion Menzies)

“We now have 13,000 juniors, and that’s the biggest competition in the country,” AFLQ state manager of game development Mark Ensor said.

“And across the state we’re up 3 per cent on female numbers.”

He cited two contributing factors to the overall rise in playing stocks.

Firstly, the success of the Brisbane Lions in 2020 — the Lions only dropped out of the premiership race with a preliminary final loss to Geelong.

Secondly, of course, was the COVID-enforced relocation of Victorian clubs to the Sunshine State.

A back view of a modern flood light at a sports stadium on a dark night.
The Gabba will host the 2020 AFL grand final.(ABC News: Christopher Gillette)

“Playing 140-odd AFL matches in Queensland has made us incredibly happy with the year,” Ensor said.

“We’re expecting a 7-10 per cent increase in participation next year if we don’t have any COVID problems.”

Female participation on the up

Former SANFL player David Sanders has witnessed the game’s growth in Queensland from close quarters.

Sanders, who played 305 SANFL games for North Adelaide, has lived in Brisbane for 25 years and his son Van,13, plays for Wilston-Grange.

“As a parent, it’s hard to quantify the increase given it’s been such a different year with COVID,” Sanders said.

The Gorillas are a small club in an inner suburb but have about 400 junior players, around 25 per cent of whom are female.

“There’s no doubt the AFL being largely resident in Queensland has increased the interest for kids,” Sanders observed.

“One thing the AFL has done is show a lot of parents what the game is about and get them thinking it’s not bad for kids.”

A junior Aussie rules player gets a kick off as another player gives chase in the rain.
A Morningside Panthers junior Aussie rules player kicks a ball while being chased by an Alexandra Hills Bombers kid.(Highflyer Images: Deion Menzies)

Television ratings firmly indicate the attraction of the game with free-to-air numbers up 25 per cent this year.

Despite finishing outside the top eight, the Gold Coast Suns television audience grew 84 per cent and club membership jumped 16 per cent.

Matthew Argus, the football operations coordinator for the Aspley Hornets, a club on the northside of Brisbane, said his AFL 9s program was a good indicator of how the sport has grown.

AFL 9s is a non-contact hybrid version of the sport, similar to the relationship between touch football and rugby league.

“We’ve gone from 12 teams to 18 signed up to play across the summer and the openings filled up within a week of registrations being opened,” Argus said.

Women’s football is also on the move, aided by the establishment of the AFLW competition as well as the presence of so many AFL clubs in the south-east corner of the state across the past few months.

“The growth in girls playing juniors has been excellent in the last three or four years and now girls make up 25 per cent of our players,” Argus said.

A young Brisbane Lions fan waves a flag as he smiles in the stands at the Gabba next to two adults.
Brisbane has been treated to more AFL footy this year than ever.(AAP: Darren England)

He said he was confident the club’s presence in schools would grow once the coronavirus crisis ended.

“It would’ve been great if you could have the AFL here and you could go helter-skelter with schoolkids,” he said.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan, who championed the establishment of the AFL and has been an important part of driving the competition’s expansion north of the Murray River, was clearly happy to talk about the progression of the code in Queensland when he launched grand final week.

“I’m not saying we’re the number one sport now in Queensland but it’s certainly nice to be in the conversation,” McLachlan commented with a smile.

When the AFL caravan closes down after the grand final and moves back to Melbourne, it will leave a legacy and it is increasingly likely it will be a large and growing one.

No wonder it is celebrating.

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TPG brings benefits to Vodafone users on day one

Vodafone customers can expect an increase in their mobile network speeds as the $15 billion merger with TPG Telecom completes and forms Australia’s third major telco player.

The two providers, which first announced plans to merge in August 2018, will operate as a single entity for the first time today, marking an end to a lengthy process riddled with regulatory hurdles.

TPG boss Inaki Berroeta says Vodafone mobile customers can expect an immediate boost in user experience.

TPG boss Inaki Berroeta says Vodafone mobile customers can expect an immediate boost in user experience.Credit:Renee Nowytarger

Vodafone customers in Melbourne and Canberra will be the first to benefit from the integration of TPG’s spectrum and small cell equipment, which the company says will increase mobile speeds, provide consistent mobile coverage in busy areas and improve overall network performance.

“We’ve been working on a lot of the technology integration,” TPG Telecom chief executive Iñaki Berroeta told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. “We’re putting the spectrum on our network, and that is going to give a lot of capacity. Capacity in a mobile phone is higher speeds…and use more data.

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Assessing the societal and economic benefits of satellites

Resources for the Future (RFF) announced today the winners of three grants, totaling $300,000, to quantify the benefits of using satellite data in decisions that improve socioeconomic outcomes for people and the environment.

These awards advance the work of the Consortium for the Valuation of Applications Benefits Linked to Earth Science (VALUABLES), a partnership between NASA and environmental and natural resource think tank RFF.

The three winning teams are led by researchers from Moravian College, Salisbury University, and the University of Wyoming, with transdisciplinary personnel drawn from eleven more academic institutions and organizations.

The award winners will conduct impact assessments that quantify the societal benefits of using Earth observations in health, ecosystem, and water quality applications.

We are so appreciative of the 41 teams that competed for the grants, the 12 teams that submitted full proposals, our anonymous external reviewers, and feedback from our NASA partners.”

Alan Krupnick, Senior Fellow , Research for the Future

Krupnick is also a VALUABLES team member who led the Grants for Assessing the Benefits of Satellites (GABS) competition.

“Each of the winning projects features an interdisciplinary team, is on a compelling topic, and is being handled creatively and with state-of-the-art methods.

The results of this research and demonstration of research methods to estimate the value of information from satellites should redound to benefit all of society, both in the areas targeted for research and to the improved generation and use of satellite information.”

The winning projects address diverse topics with important practical applications:

  • Sonia Aziz (Moravian College) leads a field experiment that provides a satellite data-driven early warning system for cholera in Bangladesh through access to a cell phone app for a “treatment” community. Cholera rates and other outcome metrics will be compared to those of a “control” community without the app.
  • The project team includes Emily Pakhtigian (Penn State University), Ali Akanda (University of Rhode Island), and Kevin J. Boyle (Virginia Tech).

    “We expect to provide estimates of potential societal benefits of satellite data as well as necessary inputs for policymakers to design and implement effective policies to limit the incidence and spread of cholera,” say Aziz and her colleagues. “Providing households with satellite-aided information regarding the nature of cholera risk should improve their averting decisions.”

  • Jill Caviglia-Harris (Salisbury University) leads a project to explore how the Brazilian Forest Code is enforced through the use of satellite data that monitors deforestation. Satellite data already are being used for management and enforcement; this project will estimate how much deforestation would have happened without the satellite data and compare that to deforestation and its consequences with the satellite data.
  • The project team includes Andrew Bell (New York University), Trent Biggs (San Diego State University), Katrina Mullan and Thaís Ottoni Santiago (University of Montana), Erin Sills (North Carolina State University), and Thales West (New Zealand Forest Research Institute).

    “This will be the first study to estimate the amount of avoided deforestation resulting from the use of satellite images to support the Forest Code,” say Caviglia-Harris and colleagues. “Our contributions will add to the limited evidence on whether and how the availability of satellite imagery has helped protect designated areas, and the even thinner literature on the benefits of monitoring deforestation to inform climate change policy and commitments.”

  • Stephen Newbold (University of Wyoming) leads the development of a model that describes how lake visitors in California adjust their recreation choices when outbreaks of harmful algal blooms are announced.
  • This will improve our current understanding of how early warning systems supported by satellite data allow recreators to divert their visits away from water bodies currently experiencing a bloom, and instead visit un-impacted sites, thereby increasing the overall enjoyment of water-based recreation activities, reducing the risks of adverse health effects, and mitigating the regional economic impacts associated with lost visitation days.
  • The project team includes Sarah Lindley and Shannon Albeke (University of Wyoming), Joshua Viers (University of California, Merced), Robert Johnston (Clark University), and George Parsons (University of Delaware).

    “Predicting where and when these events will occur is an ongoing challenge, and early prediction is important because it allows steps to be taken to reduce the damage caused by harmful algal blooms,” Newbold and colleagues say. “The case study should shed light on the value of satellite-based early warning systems in other regions of the United States and beyond.”

“These projects will generate much-needed quantitative evidence on how satellite data improve societal outcomes,” says Yusuke Kuwayama, an RFF fellow and the VALUABLES Consortium director. “But more importantly, they will help grow the community of Earth scientists and social scientists working together to demonstrate the return on investment in scientific information.”

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Australian News

AFL clubs risk misleading fans, breaking law by mixing membership benefits with charity

AFL clubs trying to convert membership payments into tax-deductible gifts are at risk of breaching federal consumer and tax law, and supporters could be left bearing the cost, experts have warned.

With the likelihood that members will be locked out of attending games for the foreseeable future, clubs have begun pleading with members not to seek refunds, instead urging them to convert some or all of their membership payment into a tax-deductible donation.

Several clubs are seeking the donations via a third party — the Australian Sports Foundation — because sporting clubs are not charities and cannot offer tax-deductible status themselves.

In some instances, members who choose to convert their payments to donations are being offered benefits in return including store vouchers, discounts and entries to competitions to win houses and cars.

But legal experts say the clubs are walking a fine line, because tax law requires tax-deductible gifts or donations to be made out of the kindness of the donor’s heart, and cannot be in return for material benefits.

A yellow Australian rules ball sitting on the grass.
The benefits of 2020 AFL club membership cannot flow from a tax-deductible “donation” under Australian law.(AAP: Joe Castro)

“By blurring the proposals on membership with several benefits and tax deductibility, it is likely that members may assume they can get both the benefits and the tax deduction — that is not the case,” said Murray Baird, a not-for-profits law expert and former Assistant Commissioner to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.

“This risks breaches of both consumer law and tax law.”

Dr Natalie Silver, a Sydney University expert in not-for-profits regulation, said prospective members should carefully read their clubs’ terms and conditions before signing on for a 2020 membership, adding that some of the clubs’ 2020 membership promotional material seems misleading.

“Those members who have not read the fine print may be unhappy when they become aware that the entire amount is not tax deductible,” Dr Silver said.

Club approaches differ

Some clubs have been careful to draw the distinction.

Essendon has told its supporters that they will receive no material benefit whatsoever from their membership, if they convert it to a fully tax-deductible donation.

The West Coast Eagles have warned supporters that choosing to donate part of their membership “may preclude match access without further payment” if governments decide to ease coronavirus restrictions later in the year to allow attendance at AFL games.

But others are less clear.

The Adelaide Crows, which are offering donors a chance to win a car, have advised members that $40 of their pledge will not be tax deductible because it represents the value of the benefits they will receive.

Port Adelaide fans at Adelaide Oval
The Power initially said pledges would be tax-deductible donations.(Getty Images: Morne de Klerk)

Last week, Port Adelaide advised members they could “pledge the full amount [of their membership] to the club, with the option to make it a tax-deductible donation”.

But after being contacted for comment on this story, the club changed the wording to make clear that only “a portion of their pledge” would be treated as a tax-deductible donation.

Both clubs listed tax deductibility alongside material benefits in promotional material they sent to supporters last month, although the Crows applied an asterisk: “*if applicable”.

A Port Adelaide spokesperson said the club’s priority had been to provide its members with “options to suit their circumstances” and it had worked with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to ensure it complied with all laws.

An Adelaide Crows spokesperson said the club had “sought and received relevant approvals and legal advice” and consulted with the Australian Sports Foundation on its “pledge” campaign.

The AFL and the ACCC both confirmed they had engaged in dialogue with clubs about the campaigns.

West Coast Eagles fans celebrate in the stands waving blue and yellow flags and pom poms.
The AFL and ACCC have spoken to clubs about the campaigns.(AAP: Julian Smith)

The ACCC said it had been engaging with clubs and was “continuing to monitor issues relating to sport club membership refunds, credit and ongoing charges and encourages all clubs to treat members fairly in these exceptional circumstances”.

“Clubs may take different approaches to addressing consumers’ requests,” an ACCC spokesperson said.

Declarations ‘appropriately clear’

The Australian Tax Office said it could not comment on the affairs of individual entities, but a spokesperson confirmed that under Australian law, “there must not be any benefit provided to the [club] member for the donation made”.

Australian Sports Foundation CEO Partick Walker told ABC News he believed the clubs’ declarations about 2020 membership had been “appropriately clear”.

“[And] we are not responsible for drafting or reviewing those communications.”

The foundation raised $18.9 million for elite sporting teams last financial year, as well as $12.4 million for grassroots sport.

Mr Walker said the Australian Sports Foundation was helping keep clubs sustainable as they endure the crippling financial impact of coronavirus.

“Our role is to raise money for sport … we’re happy to help with that [so] they can survive this crisis,” he said.

“We want to play our role as we were set up to do to help them survive and grow, as part of Australian life, and that’s what we hope to do.

“We’ll endeavour to do that through this crisis … [because] sport is a huge part of Australian life.”

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Australian News

Benefits of eating in ‘weird’ half-empty restaurants

Australians heading out again for dinner and cocktails are finding there’s a very different atmosphere in restaurants.

Sydney resident Imogen Sheridan went out with three of her friends for dinner on Saturday night.

They booked a table at Eastside Bar and Grill in Chippendale and said they were limited to a 90-minute seating. There was one other table of four there at the same time.

“We were booted out all the dot which is fair enough because they have to manage it,” she told

“It was kind of weird because the restaurant was half empty but it was a very small restaurant so didn’t feel as weird as I imagine being in one of those big Circular Quay restaurants would be.”

The 34-year-old said dining out did feel a bit different as everyone was very cautious about touching each other’s food and sharing food. The waiters were also cautious about being close.

“But for me personally I was just over the moon excited as it just felt so nice to be out and to feel a bit normal,” she said.

There were also some advantages.

“You didn’t wait for anything … everything was very quick.”

She said that restaurants and cafes also seemed to be much more open to split bills and waiving minimum limits on the use of credit cards.

“I would definitely do it again … it was fun.”

NSW eased some of its coronavirus restrictions on Friday, allowing restaurants and cafes to seat up to 10 customers.

NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Joe Cassar said police would continue to work with venues as patrons return to their local haunts.

He said rain in Sydney on Friday night impacted the number of people seeking tables, making 10-person limits and distancing requirements easier to implement.

“We’ve got early feedback from our police on the ground there’s an acceptance conditions have been relaxed and there’s been compliance with the new conditions,” Mr Cassar told reporters on Saturday.

“We’re in a very positive situation with low numbers being recorded and just ask members of the community to continue to comply with those conditions.”

On Sunday, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said the state had recorded just one new case of COVID-19.

Under eased restrictions, outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people are now permitted and up to five people, including children, can visit another NSW household.

Religious gatherings and places of worship can welcome up to 10 people, and 10 guests are also allowed at weddings, 20 at indoor funerals and 30 at outdoor funerals from Friday.

Outdoor equipment including gyms and playgrounds can be used with caution, with people encouraged to wipe down equipment, while outdoor pools are open with restrictions.

NSW Health’s Dr Jeremy McAnulty on Saturday warned the virus was still “bubbling underneath the surface” and urged people to get tested if they had any symptoms at all.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard it was important to remember COVID-19 was still “extremely dangerous”, with vigilance needed.

— With AAP

Continue the conversation @charischang2 |

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