A Department of Health spokesperson has said all projects that received funding through the Community Sport Infrastructure Grant Program were assessed as eligible to receive it by Sports Australia in accordance with the published guidelines as confirmed in the ANAO report.
An Auditor General's report found that the award of grant funding was not informed by an appropriate assessment process and sound advice.
The report stated the successful applicants were not those that had been assessed as the most meritorious in terms of the published program guidelines.
The spokesperson did not address a question about whether the government had plans to award funds to eligible clubs who missed funds during the third round of the grant program.
MEMBERS of a central Victorian sports club are devastated they missed out on sports infrastructure funding, after discovering they were among the most in-need applicants.
Kyneton District Soccer Club president Ron Cole said it was disappointing to find out the club scored 87 on the grant eligibility criteria, well above the cut off of 74.
The auditor general has criticised the Sports Infrastructure Grant Program for targeting Coalition held and marginal electorates with funding announced shortly before the 2019 election. Then sports Minister Bridget McKenzie ran the project.
Mr Cole called on the government to stop using sporting clubs as political pawns to win popularity at election time.
Members put in a grant application in 2018 for $500,000 to resurface the club's field, which floods during winter.
Mr Cole said the condition of the field made training and playing extremely difficult, forcing the club to reschedule home games towards the end of the season.
We're all out there, we're all volunteers trying to do the best for the communities, and provide the infrastructure that everybody can enjoy. To find out you're not successful just because of a political agenda is very disheartening for the people involved.Ron Cole, Kyneton District Soccer Club president
He said the club was forced to cancel training and re-locate home games from the middle of June on, because the ground was too wet. To fix it, the club needs to fully upgrade the playing field, draining the ground and resurfacing.
Transferring home games doesn't go down well with parents, players or supporters, and takes away from the club's canteen revenue, Mr Cole said.
Mr Cole said the government should stop using sporting clubs and the like to increase their popularity at election-time.
He said a volunteers working group had put in hundreds of hours of work to make sure the application was correct. They found out in April 2019 that the club had missed funding.
Mr Cole said it was disappointing to find out how eligible the club was.
"I was just devastated for [the working group] in particular, because I know how much work they did, how much work they put in. How am I going to explain to them that they should have received the funding?" he said.
"We're all out there, we're all volunteers trying to do the best for the communities, and provide the infrastructure that everybody can enjoy. To find out you're not successful just because of a political agenda is very disheartening for the people involved."
Mr Cole said the government should stop using the sporting clubs as ways to increase their popularity at election time.
"That's all it was basically used for, it was an election tool, and part of the political game," he said.
"We shouldn't be used as political pawns."
Scores have been revealed by the ABC, showing a number of clubs with high eligibility that were denied funding.
The ABC reports that a City of Greater Bendigo project was among the projects that scored highly for eligibility, but were not funded.
The city put in an application for the Garden Gully Hockey Pavilion which was unsuccessful.
Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters is calling for the federal government to award funds to the clubs who missed funding during the third round of the controversial Sports Infrastructure Grant Program.
Ms Chesters described the allocation of funding by Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie as "an absolute frustration" for sports clubs.
"It's been an unfair allocation," she said. 'Never before have we seen a minister's office run a parallel (section) process and cherry pick their own projects.
"It's gone to a level now where we might as well say why bother asking clubs to put in the effort of putting their own projects forward.
"It's a waste of the department's time in assessing grants and coming up with criteria.
"It stinks and the government should make this right and find the money to fund all these clubs."
Her comments come after it was revealed that the Kyneton District Soccer Club missed out on a grant to improve their playing surface and install lights.
Ms Chesters said she met with club officials after they failed to receive a grant.
"They came to speak to us when had a mobile office in Kyneton and the first thing they said is 'we don't know why we were rejected'," Ms Chesters said.
"Knowing their issues, I was shocked. I know they scored 86 out of 100, which means they are a priority by Sports Australia.
"They were seeking funding and had done their own fundraising to their upgrade pitch and install lights. They want to to introduce a women's team and expand the club.
"It's an absolute frustration and outrageous to know clubs made this effort, got their grant applications together, fundraised and were shortlised only to be knocked off the list by the minister."
Ms Chesters said she has requested a list to review other clubs that may have also unfairly missed out funding.
"I believe other clubs have scored highly only to be knocked off the list," she said. "There are a lot of other grounds and infrastructure in a similar position to Kyneton."
The Bendigo Advertiser has contacted the office of former Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie.
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