|Former names||Elsternwick Cricket Ground|
|Location||St Kilda St, Brighton, Victoria|
|Owner||City of Bayside|
|Field size||165m × 145m|
|Elsternwick Cricket Club (VSDCA)
Victorian Amateur Football Association (1967–pres)
Brighton Football Club (VFA, 1927–1960)
Elsternwick Football Club (VAFA, 1908–1953)
Elsternwick Park (currently known by its sponsored name Sportscover Arena) is an Australian rules football and cricket stadium in Brighton, a suburb of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia. The name also refers to the wider parkland in which the main oval is located. The ground is the administrative and primary central playing base of the Victorian Amateur Football Association.
The cricket ground was built on part of the site of the former Elsternwick Racecourse by the Elsternwick Cricket Club, a club which had been established in 1901 through an amalgamation of three local cricket teams. The original cost of the development was more than £500, and the ground was formally opened on 9 November 1903 by former Premier Sir George Turner. The Elsternwick Football Club, which was playing in the Metropolitan Junior Football Association (later known as the Victorian Amateur Football Association), began playing football on the ground during winter from 1908.
In 1927, the Brighton Football Club, which was playing in the Victorian Football Association, began playing its senior home matches at the venue. The Brighton Council, which owned the ground, erected fences around the venue, and improvements were paid for jointly by the Elsternwick Cricket Club and the Brighton Football Club. Brighton had an arrangement under which it shared winter tenancy of the ground with incumbent Elsternwick Football Club, such that the clubs used the ground on alternate Saturdays, while the Brighton seconds team continued to use Brighton Beach Oval as its home ground; this arrangement was unique in the VFA, as all other clubs were required to provide the same ground for their firsts and seconds teams to use on alternate weeks.
The ground was of good quality and was sought after by other clubs. On two occasions the St Kilda Football Club, which played in the Victorian Football League and often endured a disharmonious relationship with its landlord, the St Kilda Cricket Club, considered a move to the ground: once in 1933, when its committee recommended it but the club did not proceed; and again in 1959, when a request to the council for a 50-year lease was rejected. Prahran played its VFA home games at the venue in 1948 when its home ground at Toorak Park was unavailable. In 1954, the Elsternwick Amateur Football Club was evicted from the main ground, and the Brighton Soccer Club leased the ground in its place, sharing it on alternate weekends with the Brighton Football Club; it was the first time a VFA team had shared a ground with a soccer team, which caused great concern within the VFA at the time.
The venue was unavailable for football in 1961 due to re-surfacing works, and upon completion of the works, the Brighton Football Club, which by this time was struggling to survive, was not offered a new lease. Brighton merged with South Caulfield and moved to Princes Park, Caulfield; and the Victorian Amateur Soccer Association became the venue's winter tenant, turning the main Elsternwick Park oval into a dedicated soccer venue during winter.
The Victorian Amateur Football Association has been the main tenant at Elsternwick Park since 1967, and it is now the Association's primary home base; it serves as the Association's administrative headquarters, the training base of its umpires, and is a venue for finals matches. Since 2003, the venue has had floodlights suitable for night football and has been known as Sportscover Arena as part of Sportscover's sponsorship deal with the VAFA. Sportscover Arena remains the home of the Elsternwick Cricket Club in the Victorian Sub-District Cricket Association. The Elsternwick Football Club, which still plays in the VAFA, now uses the park's No. 2 oval, located to the immediate west of Sportscover Arena, as its home ground. Since 2009, the Community Cup, an annual charity match played between a team of Melbourne musicians and a team of community radio personalities, has been held at the ground.
Wider Elsternwick Park
The main oval is located in the north-western corner of the wider Elsternwick Park reserve, which covers 90 acres between Glenhuntly Rd, Head St, New St and St Kilda St. The wider reserve served as the Elsternwick Racecourse from 1880 until 1891, but after its closure it fell into disuse and disrepair – to the point that it was known colloquially as "no-man's land" in the district. The main oval was opened on approximately five acres of the reserve in 1903, and the rest of the reserve was leased by the Elsternwick Golf Club in 1910, which invested £13,000 pounds developing it from a swamp to a private golf course. When its lease expired in 1925, the Brighton Council did not renew it and instead made the area a public reserve, which included a municipal nine-hole golf links, a tennis club, a bowls club and more football and cricket ovals, all of which remain today. After losing occupancy of Elsternwick Park, the golf club moved to Cheltenham and became the Kingston Heath Golf Club.
- "A new cricket ground". The Argus (Melbourne, VIC). 9 September 1902. p. 7.
- "Cricket – Victorian Cricket Association". The Argus (Melbourne, VIC). 11 November 1903. p. 7.
- Anderson, Dave (24 February 1954). "Soccer victory shock to national code". The Argus (Melbourne, VIC). p. 20.
- "Football – Brighton Club's New Ground". The Argus (Melbourne, VIC). 16 December 1926. p. 4.
- "VFA decision soon on Prahran players". The Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne, VIC). 18 March 1959. p. 61.
- Old Boy (31 July 1933). "St. Kilda Football Club – proposed change of ground". The Argus (Melbourne). p. 16.
- Jack Dunn (4 April 1959). "St Kilda to seek new home ground". The Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne, VIC). p. 54.
- "Elsternwick Park for Prahran FC". The Argus (Melbourne, VIC). 6 March 1948. p. 24.
- Scot Palmer (21 January 1961). "VFA club near "end of road"". The Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne, VIC). p. 53.
- "Sports park takeover?". The Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne, VIC). 2 November 1961. p. 50.
- Scot Palmer (30 March 1962). "Brighton saves its VFA place". The Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne, VIC). p. 44.
- Scot Palmer (16 December 1961). "End of the road for Brighton...?". The Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne, VIC). p. 51.
- "History of the VAFA". Victorian Amateur Football Association. 2014. Retrieved 4 April 2014.
- "The Elsternwick Racecourse". The Caulfield and Elsternwick Leader (North Brighton, VIC). 25 April 1881. p. 5.
- "Complimentary race meeting to Mr A. F. Bradshaw". The Argus (Melbourne, VIC). 24 September 1891. p. 9.
- "Park lands – conflict at Elsternwick". The Argus (Melbourne, VIC). 13 October 1921. p. 10.
- "Elsternwick Park – Brighton Council proposal". The Argus (Melbourne, VIC). 19 February 1925. p. 14.
- "Golf club's name changed". The Argus (Melbourne, VIC). 15 September 1925. p. 9.