A plan to ban fast food signage at Warrnambool's sporting facilities has been labelled "silly" with city councillors questioning whether they should act as "food police".
The new policy was set to give the council the power to "dictate" which sponsorship signage clubs would be allowed to display at sporting grounds.
But in a 6-1 vote, councillors opted to send it back to officers to add more detail and signalling they were not keen to see fast food businesses banned from sponsorship signage.
Cr Ben Blain voted against the move because he said councillors should make the decision themselves rather than delay a decision by sending it back to staff.
He had proposed an alternative motion calling for the policy to be amended to allow permanent fast food signage at all council grounds, but it won no backing from his fellow councillors.
Instead, Cr Debbie Arnott put forward an amended motion to send the policy - which would affect 15 recreation reserves - back to council officers.
"I think there needs to be further work done on it before we are satisfied with it," she said.
"I don't think it's council's role to dictate what can be on signage and to say that we are going to ban fast food outlets from advertising. I think it is just silly.
"How do we decide what is fast food? And how can we be the food police to these football clubs?
"The signage from fast food outlets, whoever they may be, fill a big gap for football clubs. They help with a lot of sponsorship. I don't see any reason why they can't have signage."
"To propose that the fast food signage is carried in and out of a ground every day, I mean I just think that is so inconvenient and so wrong," Cr Arnott said.
Cr Richard Ziegeler said that while many would agree fast food elements were possibly not desirable for health, there were great benefits in what those outlets did for local sport which depended on their sponsorship.
"Local sports have actually gone through a fairly tough time," he said.
"We should not be prejudice against that kind of advertising.
"There's an awful lot of people that get benefits from fast food outlets in terms of employment, in terms of sponsorships.
"The resident clubs at all of our grounds rely heavily on that sponsorship, regardless of what you think of the quality of the food that comes out of those outlets."
Cr Ziegeler said the quality of signage needed to be looked at and a uniform approach applied, but he was not happy about being able to dictate what kind of advertising it was.
Cr Max Taylor said he would like to find out how many sporting clubs would be adversely affected by the decision.
Cr Otha Akoch said that in most cases clubs survived on sponsorship and volunteers.
"Clubs don't have the luxury of picking and choosing. They are desperately begging for sponsors and need to take what they can get," he said.
"Let the clubs decide what's best for their children. If clubs decide not to accept sponsorship from fast food outlets, then let that be at their discretion."
Cr Blain said he was struggling to understand why the policy was being sent back to officers.
"I really think this is something we should be just making a decision on," he said.
"This policy to me is really concerning because we're possibly limiting the ability for clubs to fund-raise and be able support themselves.
"At the end of the day, this is supposed to be about kids getting to sport, and everyone staying fit and healthy."
Cr Blain said clubs did an awful lot with very little and it was important the council supported them while also pointing out that councillors voted to charge cricket clubs ground fees last year - a decision that sparked backlash.
"I can understand not having alcohol, tobacco or political advertising," he said.
"The other big question is, what actually is classed as a fast food company? Is it any company in Warrnambool that actually does take away? After COVID, nearly everyone does takeaway.
"Does that mean that no restaurant, no fast food chain is able to sponsor these clubs?"
Cr Blain said going back to council officers with the policy would just create uncertainty at the start of football season about what clubs could and couldn't do with their sponsorship arrangement over the next few rounds.
Cr Angie Paspaliaris said it seemed the policy was formulated fairly quickly after the $11 million upgrade of Reid Oval.
She told Cr Blain that sending the policy back to staff would delay it possibly for a month and wasn't a huge wait.
Cr Arnott said that despite the delay most clubs would get the message they were not in favour of banning fast food signage.
Mayor Vicki Jellie said the council could not be the food police or the sponsor police.
"These people that run some of these multi-national-branded companies are local people. They're generous people. They've gone through a tough time also with COVID, so have the clubs," she said.
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