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Keynote Speech - Campaign Launch & Presentation Evening

Presented by Luke Brailey, Back to Belmore Inc. President

Terrace Bar - Canterbury Leagues Club, Belmore

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen, tonight we are here for three reasons. Firstly, to celebrate the announcement in May of $5 million in federal government funding to upgrade Belmore Sports Ground. These funds will deliver essential upgrades to this historic sporting facility, opened in the 1930's and the site of some of the Bulldogs' greatest onfield battles for over half a century. This upgrade will mean that Belmore Sports Ground can be utilised in a way that maximises its purpose.

Whilst this is a significant amount of funds, further financial contributions will be required, which brings us to the second reason why we are gathered here together. To help secure funding in the future, it is with great excitement that we launch a series of promotional videos. It is anticipated that these ads will actively promote our movement in the wider community and spark the innovation we need for further funding.

And lastly this evening, it is with great pleasure that I will announce our Founding Goodwill Ambassadors. Our committee feels very strongly about acknowledging those who have performed meritorious service and actively promoted the cause, the ideals and the mission of Back to Belmore.

At this point in time, I think it is important to reflect on the events that have led to this momentous occasion. In 2008, the Bulldogs had made a submission to the Federal MP for Watson, the Hon. Tony Burke, regarding funding for upgrades at Belmore Sports Ground. The club was well aware of the Member for Watson's keen support for community projects and his knowledge and admiration of the role played by Belmore Sports Ground in Sydney 's sporting culture and folklore.

This outcome was essentially what we envisaged in mid-2005 when we formed Back to Belmore Incorporated. Our movement was created in the depths of winter, at a time when many stakeholders believed that Belmore Sports Ground was not a viable part of the future of the Canterbury-Bankstown district or the Bulldogs Rugby League Club. Many people in the area thought that Belmore Sports Ground's future was limited, believing that the ground had been consigned to the dustbin after it had been abandoned and neglected for so many years.

The catalyst for our movement was a series of newspaper articles that appeared in the local press between April and June 2005 outlining the Bulldogs' intentions to abandon Belmore Sports Ground completely. At the time, we believed that there needed to be greater community awareness and an informed debate on Belmore, as it became increasingly obvious to us that nobody was willing to step up and show leadership on preserving this community asset.

We were passionate about starting this movement because we felt that the Canterbury-Bankstown area and our aspiring sports players would have a bleak sporting future if Belmore had remained dilapidated and the Bulldogs walked away forever. In addition, we were inspired by the success of the Return to Kogarah (R2K) and Stop the Rot campaigns for Oki Jubilee Stadium and Leichhardt Oval, and also by an impassioned speech from Kristina Keneally in 2004 regarding Redfern Oval's future.  

Our movement was kick-started by a petition in August 2005 that managed to gain over 10,000 signatures of support in an era when many were sceptical about Belmore having any future whatsoever. The passion of our Committee and the passion of those who supported our cause led us to continue the movement even though we felt disillusioned at times when we believed the former administration had given up on Belmore altogether. We were told by the hierarchy at the time that we were delusional dreamers, that we were wasting our time, that we were flogging a dead horse, that we had no semblance of rationality and that we were not well-versed in reality.  

We saw the need to respond to the dilapidated state of Belmore Sports Ground pushed into the too-hard basket because it felt like the right thing to do at the time. It was simply easier for them to pack their bags, walk away from their home and leave the problems of deterioration and disrepair for somebody else to deal with, depriving our future sports players of a local venue to aspire to. The problem was that nobody else was going to deal with it. Their justification was that a return to Belmore was not financially feasible, it wasn't in the Clubs interests and that the Club was too big for the Canterbury-Bankstown district.  

After two and a half years of attempting to work with a recalcitrant administration and with very little progress, we realised that we needed to have a certain degree of compatibility and agreement, and clearly, that wasn't happening. Our committee then came to the conclusion that we had two choices we could either get the board better, or get a better board. Evidently, we chose the latter, as the former would've been an exercise in futility.  

We realised that only a shift in power could possibly lead to a reversal of the decision to abandon Belmore. The former administration had neither the foresight nor the interest in identifying the underlying causes of Belmore's dilapidated state, so it was time to get rid of them. Back to Belmore supported the rival ticket at the 2008 football club AGM that included Paul Dunn, Barry Ward and Ray Dib. We supported these men on the basis that they promised to show leadership on Belmore Sports Ground, and this is exactly what the current Board has done.  

I'd like to pay special tribute tonight to the inspiring leadership of Bulldogs Chairman Ray Dib and CEO Todd Greenberg who showed enormous vigour, panache and enthusiasm on this project, and on whose hard work this outcome rests. Our current CEO, who couldn't be here this evening and has asked me to convey his apologies, has been totally professional, very approachable and a credit to the Canterbury Club. May I say what a tremendous privilege and honour it has been to work with Ray and Todd over the past two years to make this project a reality.

We were able to achieve this worthwhile goal because we worked together in a positive and productive manner. Thank you for opening your door to our committee, for listening to our concerns and our ideas for Belmore, and most importantly, thank you for taking us seriously. Thank you for giving us a fair go and a fair hearing. Thank you for putting the needs of our future sports stars first. You never stopped believing and thanks to your unstinting efforts, we are now at a place where this fantastic community asset has a very bright future especially for the next generation of sports players who aspire to play there.  

It is clear that the Bulldogs and the Federal Government have responded to the initiatives that Back to Belmore put forward to address the totally unacceptable state of Belmore Sports Ground and, as a result, the next generation of sports players will be better off, and I thank the Hon. Tony Burke, Federal Member for Watson, for his pivotal role in securing the first stage of funding from the Federal Government.  

I would like to acknowledge and thank my fellow committee members for their unwavering support and commitment, who have all made a contribution to the plans and initiatives that we brought forward. You have been so dedicated to this movement and have always given 100% and my appreciation is beyond measure.

On behalf of the committee, I'd like to say thank you to our many selfless volunteers. The tireless hours put in by supporters letterboxing, doorknocking, handing out flyers on game days and getting our petitions signed never goes unnoticed and is always greatly appreciated by Back to Belmore. Over the past five years, we've had many volunteers and supporters out there in the field of battle standing for the cause of Back to Belmore . You and those selfless foot soldiers are the standard bearers of our movement. Each and every one of you has helped build up our identity in this community as a group of people who are concerned about the future of Belmore Sports Ground.  

I would like to thank Dr George Peponis, a true gentleman and champion, for telling me at the outset of our movement to never give up and for unselfishly giving me his time in assisting us with our promotional videos.

We have also been very well supported by a number of Clubs in the Canterbury Bankstown Junior Rugby League - St. Johns Eagles, Milperra Colts, St. Christophers, Greenacre Tigers, Chester Hill Hornets, Revesby Heights and the Bankstown Bulls.  

These Junior Clubs are the backbone of rugby league in the Canterbury-Bankstown district and they have produced so many players over the years that have gone on to play at Belmore Sports Ground. Long may that continue! I thank these Clubs for their support and for lending their players to Back to Belmore for the promotional videos that we're about to see.  

Also, I thank the Bulldogs for providing some of their key NRL players, and Sydney Olympic FC for providing some of their players as well. If Belmore Sports Ground is to succeed in the long-term it must be a multi-purpose facility with a focus on sports other than just rugby league. After all, this is a venue that transcends all sporting codes and teams.

There are many people who said this day would never come. For those that kept the faith, this movement is about a positive plan for the future of Belmore Sports Ground. We have always believed in the need to provide our future sports players a home that they can aspire to and be proud of. We have a moral obligation to safeguard this sporting facility for future generations.  

Ladies and gentlemen, you're here tonight because you care. You care about your future and the future of your children. You're here tonight because you're as passionate as I am about Belmore Sports Ground and you, too, want to ensure that future generations of sports players can aspire to this iconic community facility. You're here tonight because you believe in what we do and what we're trying to achieve. You recognise that sport is part of our lives and the need for a multi-purpose sporting facility is paramount to the development of our rising sports stars. All of you have contributed to Back to Belmore 's success. We are all drawn together by our passion for this amazing facility and our heartfelt desire to see the next generation of sports stars propelled towards a brighter future at Belmore.

The great news in May about Belmore Sports Ground is something that we must celebrate tonight. However, let us not lose sight of the fact that there is so much more to do to secure Belmore's future. The steps that we have taken to restore Belmore Sports Ground have started to bear fruit but we can't rest on our laurels.  

Over the past five years, we have covered a long distance on this long and winding road back to Belmore but our final destination is still far away. We must pursue state and further federal funding. Needless to say, there are challenges ahead but I truly believe that we have the people, the power and the passion to see that through, and importantly we continue to have the solid backing from the Bulldogs, Sydney Olympic FC and the Canterbury-Bankstown community.

The following series of promotional videos have been designed to engage members of the community, so that they can demonstrate their support for Belmore Sports Ground. The package that you are about to see is essentially our sales pitch to acquire further funding to revamp, restore and rebuild this iconic facility to its optimum potential. Save Belmore Sports Ground to Save Local Sport It's Too Good to Lose. Thank you.

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