Iconic sport deserts 'most expensive beach in the country'

''We're just taking it as a change and a positive thing'' … Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Alice Rohkamper practise on Manly Beach.
''We're just taking it as a change and a positive thing'' … Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Alice Rohkamper practise on Manly Beach.

ONE of Sydney's iconic summer sporting events is caught in a sandstorm.

The National Beach Volleyball Series is set to desert what organisers have dubbed the ''most expensive beach in the country'' over daily fees starting at $7100 and a disputed bill involving a new general manager of NRL club the Melbourne Storm.

A director with the Australian Volleyball Federation, Craig Carracher, said it was cheaper to truck in sand to a North Cronulla park than to pay Manly Council's ''opportunistic'' event fees to hold the opening three-day round at the North Steyne volleyball courts next week.

Complicating matters is an outstanding council fee of about $24,000 from last year's inaugural series round at Manly, known as the ''spiritual home'' of beach volleyball since the 1980s.

Mr Carracher said the federation was not responsible for the debt, which he counted among a ''litany of liabilities'' left by the sports sponsorship agency NexusMG, which was sanctioned to run last year's series.

But Beth Lawsen, Manly Council's deputy general manager for People Place & Infrastructure, said organisers were told the series was not welcome to return until the amount was paid.

''We have said to them, 'Until you pay our community for the use of our beach, then we don't want the national tour back here in Manly','' she said.

NexusMG's director, Luke Jenkinson, who recently joined Melbourne Storm as a general manager, blamed ''incompetent contractors'' for some of last season's woes and said ''bad blood'' with the federation was being handled legally. But he also disputed the council's version of events.

''We do not owe Manly Council this amount of [money],'' he said in an email. ''There has been no urgency, no dispute and absolutely no [communications] from the council regarding this.''

Mr Carracher said the federation was addressing the fallout of last year's event - such as covering the winnings owed to players - but it could not afford Manly's fees regardless.

He said although the series relied on commercial sponsors, the federation was not a commercial operator. ''We're a not-for-profit designed to promote the sport of beach volleyball,'' he said.

''It's fiscally irresponsible for us to pay $25,000 to a local council to use an area of beach that would otherwise be used for beach volleyball anyway.''

Ms Lawsen will meet the federation's chief executive, Judy Flanagan, to talk about resolving the matter, but said if there was a commercial presence, fees of up to $23,000 a day for a national event would stand.

''If they want to be sponsored by commercial people, then it's a commercial activity,'' she said.

She said council had a responsibility to look after Manly, an area that attracted up to 8 million people a year but had a ratepayer base of 41,000 people.

''Everyone wants to be on Manly beach and the premium to be here is quite high.''

In contrast, Sutherland Shire Council charges a maximum daily operational fee of $750 for major commercial events. ''In preference to higher fees, council's focus is to embrace opportunities which promote healthy and active lifestyles,'' it said.

A competitor at next week's opening round and a Manly resident, Alice Rohkamper, said it would mark her first trip to Cronulla. While it would be ''disappointing'' not to be play at Manly, ''we're just taking it as a change … and hopefully it will be back next year'', she said.

This story Iconic sport deserts 'most expensive beach in the country' first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.