Marion council backflips on decision to evict Cove Cobras over sexual harassment allegations

The City of Marion has backflipped on a decision to evict the Cove Cobras Football Club from its Hallett Cove premises over sexual harassment and intimidation allegations.

The council will instead renegotiate the club’s lease with strict conditions to improve club culture.

The decision follows a campaign to stay from long-time Cobras members and comes just nine days before the club would have had to vacate its premises.

The Cobras’ lease was ripped-up last month following a council investigation which found a culture of “inappropriate and intimidating” behaviour from some of its members and associates.

Last week the club issued an apology over the conduct, but also presented the City of Marion with apetition of more than 6,600 signatures in support of the team remaining in its clubrooms.

The new 12-month license to use the clubrooms includes strict conditions around the use of the bar, reporting and investigating complaints and a plan around the responsible consumption of alcohol.

The club said it was in the process of expelling two members for poor behaviour, in addition to one member who had already been asked to leave earlier in the year.

The council will review the license in July 2020, and reserves the right to terminate it at any time.

Cove Football Club president Tony Kernahan broke down in tears when reflecting on the difficult process leading up to the decision.

“It’s been tough, we love the club, it’s a family so we’ve just gotta deal with it, I appreciate that,” he said.

“I think both the Marion council and the Cove Football Club have shown a great deal of respect to each other and that’s how we’ve come to this outcome.

“The council trusts the Cove Football Club to make these changes.”

Marion Council CEO Adrian Skull said the decision to rescind the eviction was unanimous, given the club’s acknowledgement of issues and willingness to work with the council.

“A new management agreement will restrict the service of alcohol around football games, there’ll be a code of conduct, a code of behaviour such that if there are any issues that are reported to the club, they’ll be investigated.

“There are some tough conditions, but we want to work with the club to move the community forward.”

The Cove Sports and Community Club comprises of six sporting clubs with 1,500 members, 400 of which are from the Cobras.

Probe into club found other clubs had stopped using the facilities

During its two-month probe, the council found other clubs had stopped using the council-owned facility “because they felt unwelcome or unsafe”.

It also revealed that female netball players who share the club’s facilities had been sexually harassed.

The council maintained the club was aware of the sexual harassment allegations against some of its players, despite claims by the club it was left in the dark.

Last week women’s team captain Dana O’Brien said while the southern suburbs club was committed to reforming itself, it wanted the council to provide more details.