COFFSAC: DOES IT HAVE A FUTURE?
By GREG WHITE
THE relevance of the Coffs Harbour Sports Advisory Council is back on the agenda.
But this time the question is not being asked by the sporting public, the murmurings are coming from inside the organisation itself.
"Are we needed in this region?" COFFSAC chairman Phil Crofts continually asks himself.
He answers his own question with a resounding 'yes', but it's obvious his faith is sometimes shaken.
Crofts is first to admit his high profile within COFFSAC can prove a handicap.
"People still think this is my personal toy," he said.
"The idea is totally wrong, still, I know it persists."
Critics of COFFSAC accuse it of being unrepresentative of the majority of sporting bodies.
"It's true, some sports tend to drift in and out of COFFSAC," Crofts said.
"They come to us when something that concerns them is identified as one of our concerns as well.
"But you'd be amazed how many sports are members without taking an active day-to-day role, which means we do make representations on their behalf."
Others accuse COFFSAC of being a city council mouthpiece, unwilling to ruffle feathers or rock the boat.
That argument evaporates when examining the events of COFFSAC's recent annual general meeting where secretary Lorraine Drew served it up to council in the presence of self-proclaimed sports fanatic, mayor Keith Rhoades.
Drew claimed council had failed to answer correspondence and ignored requests to become part of various working parties, including one considering the Jetty precinct.
"Maybe some can argue that indicates council has a patronising attitude towards us," Crofts said of his secretary's plea.
"But I think we are more a victim of history rather than there being any blatant intent to disregard our opinions."
When COFFSAC was born in 1986 as the 'Sports Council', it was designated a city council sub-committee with delegated duties under the Local Government Act.
Generally, the job was to check ground conditions and
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liaise with interested parties.
But a command to 'advise' council of the needs of sport is too hazy, according to Crofts.
"How do you define the 'advise' term?" he asked. "It's too ambiguous.
"Does council accept advice and act on it, or, pay lip service while discarding it?"
There's no reluctance to tangle with council and get political if the need arises, Crofts maintains.
The future of Brelsford Park and the ongoing development of Marshall's Estate are two areas in which he believes his group has taken a political stance without provoking conflict.
"By making a rational case over both venues, we've gained a plan that sport can benefit from," he says.
For all his positive talk, there still seems an element of self-doubt in Crofts' demeanour.
"It's healthy we continue to question our relevance," he said. "We still need as many different sports as practical getting involved in COFFSAC.
"The more input, the more points of view, the better the outcomes."