'Blatant inequality': men-only tennis club told to admit female members or close

Naaman Zhou
Photograph: Andrew Weathers / EyeEm/Getty Images/EyeEm

An Australian tennis club that bans the membership of women has been told to change its rules or be evicted.

The constitution of the Adamstown Rosebud tennis club in Newcastle, New South Wales, only allows men to become members, which, until recently, meant women could not access a “heavily discounted” member rate when booking courts.

Local tennis player and coach Emma Pollock raised the issue with the council late last year, after she discovered male players had access to discounts and other membership rights not extended to women.

Pollock said she “was extremely disappointed that this blatant gender inequality still exists in this day and age”.

The City of Newcastle, which owns the courts the club uses, has written to the club and said it must amend its constitution to give women “the same status, rights and obligations as male members”.

It said the club’s discriminatory policies were a breach of its own licence agreement with the council, and if unchanged, it would not renew the club’s licence.

Since the initial complaint, the club has offered its discount rate to everyone – but has still not allowed women to become members.

Tennis Australia said the Adamstown Rosebud club’s rules “clearly breaches” national policies and it was an “unacceptable situation”.

“Affiliated organisations must not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, ability, religion or any other protected characteristic,” a spokeswoman said. “Tennis has a long history as one of the most inclusive and welcoming sports.”

A representative of the Adamstown Rosebud tennis club said: “We are working with council to resolve the issue, and that will happen in due course.”

Newcastle council also sent a letter to the club on Friday, saying its policy was “not acceptable”, breached the council’s own rules and potentially the New South Wales Anti-Discrimination Act 1977.

“It has been brought to the attention of CN [City of Newcastle] that the tennis club’s constitution only allows for male members and precludes female members,” the council wrote. “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.”

On Tuesday, a council spokesman said the club had until 5 July to present a proposed amendment to an extraordinary general meeting, or its lease would not be renewed.

“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,” the council said. “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.”