Women's Sport: A rugby club is caught up in Australia's sport funding controversy

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An Australian rugby union club is caught up in a funding scandal after it has been revealed that they received funding for a female changing room among other facilities, weeks before the country's 2019 election, even though they don't have a women's team. 

The Guardian has reported that the Old Collegians Rugby Union Club, located in a marginal seat in an Adelaide suburb, won a $500,000 grant from the community sport infrastructure fund. A women's team hasn't played for the club since the team quit in 2018 due to alleged sexism and mistreatment.  

This was not the only grant that the Nationals minister Bridget McKenzie awarded to recipients in marginal seats that were held by the government.

A report from the Australian National Audit Office found that these grants ignored Sport Australia's merit-based assessment process. In fact, it found that 73 per cent of the third round grants had not been recommended by Sport Australia based on their process which took into account community need and participation increases. 

Whether this club's grant was recommended by Sport Australia is unknown.

The seat where Old Collegians Rugby Club is based, Sturt, was ultimately held by the country's coalition government with a margin of 5.85 per cent in the May 2019 election.

The fact that the grant was for unneeded women's changing facilities emerged after concerned former members of the club reached out to Guardian Australia. 

The club's website states the grant is " in support of the refurbishment of our club rooms and adding additional changing rooms". It also claims they plan to "reinvigorate" the women's team over the coming year, although they currently aren't registered.

According to documents obtained by Guardian Australia in 2018, the women's team and club committee had clashed over alleged sexist behaviour. A reported 30 supporters and 20 female players left the club. 

This development comes as Scott Morrison, Australia's Prime Minister, is under pressure for the wider community sport infrastructure program and has announced an investigation into McKenzie's handling of the fund.

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