Wollongong councillors have spoken of their shock over "sexism" that has left the Illawarra's premier women's football team without a home ground for 13 years.
At last week's meeting, councillors were also left questioning a revelation that the Illawarra Stingrays were paying $12,000 to sublease fields from another club, which the council was leasing out at just over $600.
Speaking at the meeting, where councillors voted unanimously to commit to finding the women's club a home, Illawarra Stingrays President Kathy McDonogh said it was "a shame upon the Illawarra" that the team - which has produced numerous elite football players - was still without a ground.
She also said members of the women's club were often left to play on "not good enough" fields with uneven surfaces at some grounds and had used change rooms without doors in some instances.
"I worry genuinely about what message this is sending to our young girls," Ms McDonogh said.
"More so, I worry about what message this is sending our young boys, that women are secondary."
Ms McDonogh told councillors that JJ Kelly Park, where the team plays most of its "home" games, was leased to Coniston Football Club for just over $600 a year.
This was then subleased, she said, to the Stingrays for 11 games throughout the year at a cost of $12,000.
I worry genuinely about what message this is sending to our young girls. More so, I worry about what message this is sending our young boys, that women are secondary.Kathy McDonogh, Illawarra Stingrays
Quizzed by surprised councillors, council officers said clubs with a lease agreement with the council were within their rights to sublease their grounds.
With no permanent home canteen and no ability to charge gate fees at a home ground of its own, Ms McDonogh said her club was facing a huge financial challenge.
She also said she had tried "without much success" to negotiate with council staff to find a home ground for some time.
She told councillors the team's ideal outcome would be to somehow convert BlueScope-owned oval at Centenary Park, which is currently shared with Oz Tag teams, into a women's centre of excellence for various codes of football and other sports.
Raising the motion to support the Stingrays, Labor councillor Jenelle Rimmer said the current situation was unacceptable, noting women's football was the fastest growing sport in Australia.
"[The Stingrays] represent the highest level of this sport in the Illawarra and yet they remain without a home ground," she said.
"If the Dragons, Hawks or Wolves were to become homeless tomorrow, I would like to think we could provide them with a new home ground before 2032 - in 13 years time."
Speaking in support, Greens councillor Mithra Cox said there was "no denying there is a ring of sexism about this".
"Some of it is historical, that when a lot of clubs were granted home grounds there weren't a lot of women playing sport so the women's clubs weren't there to get a ground and now have been locked out," she said.
"But that is not enough of an excuse why we can't provide grounds for women as well as men.
"There is absolutely sexism in sport. The hierarchy is men, junior boys, women and then girls. It goes all the way from female athletes not getting equal pay [at the elite level]... but it also goes to equal access to fields.
"We have a really important role in addressing this, and that means providing a home for our premier women's team."
Councillor Janice Kershaw said it had "shocked me to the core" to hear the price the Stingrays were paying to use a council ground for their home games.
"The speed of women's participation in sport has happened so quickly that the facilities and resources have not kept up," she said.
"The current circumstance that the Stingrays find themselves in is not right. The council had to assist them in finding a solution."
She said the issue about the money had opened a Pandora's Box about the rent the council was charging community groups but that was "an issue for another day".
In their unanimous motion, passed in front of a gallery full of young football players, councillors committed to finding the Stingrays a stand-alone home ground that allows them an income stream.
Staff have been asked to brief councillors on possible options by the end of November, and the council will also raise the issue - and funding - with the NSW sports minister and the CEO of Football NSW and the Football Federation of Australia.