Newcastle male-only tennis club faces eviction over sex discrimination

LOCKED OUT: Emma Pollock outside Adamstown Rosebud Tennis Club on Monday. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
LOCKED OUT: Emma Pollock outside Adamstown Rosebud Tennis Club on Monday. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

City of Newcastle has threatened to kick a male-only tennis club off its courts unless it opens up its membership to women.

The council has written to Adamstown Rosebud Tennis Club warning it will not renew its yearly agreement to use the Adamstown Park courts if it does not amend its constitution "to admit female members who have the same status, rights and obligations as male members".

The issue came to a head late last year when leading Newcastle female player Emma Pollock discovered she was not allowed to join the club because of her gender.

"I was extremely disappointed that this blatant gender inequality still exists in this day and age," the Adamstown local said on Monday, the same day Queenslander Ash Barty became the first Australian woman to reach world No.1 since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1976.

"I hope that bringing this issue to the public's attention will encourage all sporting clubs across Australia to support fairness and gender equality."

Ms Pollock said she had also found out the tennis club's members received "heavily discounted" court hire which "females would never be able to access".

Tennis Australia said on Monday that it had been working with the council and club to address "this unacceptable situation".

"This clearly breaches the national Member Protection Policy, as affiliated organisations must not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, ability, religion or any other protected characteristic," the sport's governing body said.

"Tennis has a long history as one of the most inclusive and welcoming sports."

The council owns the courts and provides them to the Adamstown club under a yearly "facility licence and management agreement".

The Newcastle Herald has seen a copy of a council letter sent on Friday which gives the club's executive 14 days to agree to "take a proposal to an EGM to amend the club's constitution".

The club must put the proposal to a members meeting within three months, and the proposal must be approved.

The Herald attempted to contact the club's executive members for comment.

Emma Pollock playing in the women's singles final at the NSW country titles at District Park in 2012.

Emma Pollock playing in the women's singles final at the NSW country titles at District Park in 2012.

"As a local tennis player and qualified coach, I am passionate about increasing participation in the sport and ensuring equal opportunities for all players," Ms Pollock said.

"Tennis is a lifelong sport and should be made available to those who want to support and be part of their local club regardless of gender, age and skill level."

The council said the club had responded to pressure on the issue by offering its discounted court hire rate to everyone but had not agreed to allow female members.

"It has been brought to the attention of CN that the Tennis Club's constitution only allows for male members and precludes female members," its letter says.

"This is not acceptable to CN as it does not accord with the values of equity and non-discrimination which CN promotes internally and in the community."

Ms Pollock said the council had "played an integral role in addressing the issue".

The council said on Monday that the club had been indirectly discriminating against women under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 NSW by providing its all-male membership with a discounted hiring fee and "refusing to extend the discount to anyone else".

"This unfair arrangement, also a breach of the 2018-19 licence agreement, was brought to the City's attention by one of Newcastle's top tennis players, Emma Pollock, in a letter to Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes, after Emma had been refused membership on account of not being a man.

"Earlier this year the Club changed its pricing structure, in response to subsequent approaches by the City, to extend the discount to casual users of the courts.

"But its refusal to date to amend its constitution to allow women to become members is considered unacceptable by the City of Newcastle on the basis that its facilities are public assets."

Cr Nelmes said she had been supporting Ms Pollock "to seek a fair resolution".

"There is no place in our city for this type of discrimination," she said.

"We are committed to addressing inequality and creating a caring and inclusive community. This includes making our city's assets available for the enjoyment of everyone."