Thursday, 6 March 2008

The other side of the "Summer League" debate

It's fair to point out that not everyone's against the FFV's new direction. Lance Jenkinson, a sports journo from the local Fairfax media has a different spin

Summer league sets some ambitious goals

Of course I disagree quite a bit with his opinion piece, feeling that it is far too optimistic, uncritical and contains a fundamental misreading of Victorian senior soccer, as well as not taking into serious account the logistical requirements. Sticking to the proposed men's senior comp for the moment, because I wouldn't know where to start with the womens and junior stuff.

You have to hand it to the Football Federation Victoria and its proactive board.

Proactive? Ambitious? You bet. On that point one must agree, considering a lot of the stalling done in the past to prevent change happening. But why this sort of change, why not what was proposed in the past? And what are the contingencies if this fails? Or is this an all or nothing approach? Who's going to pay for all this? Why aren't they contributing to the game now if they aren't already? What's in it for them?

What was so impressive about the project launch was the FFV's ability to cop criticism on the chin and learn from past mistakes.

Where have the FFV shown the ability to take criticism and learn from their past mistakes? A lot of people keep banging on about how they keep making the same mistakes over and over, and can't even do the basics right.

It is an ambitious plan - but one that has been meticulously planned with a lot of input from people outside and in the FFV.

And yet a lot of people seem to know very little about what's going on at all, with seemingly quite a few people alarmed at the lack of information and consultation provided. On the same token, it appears as if some VPL boards (and there is reason to believe South is one of them) who are much better informed and seem to have far more input.

Integration: Can the FFV successfully use the 'Melbourne Victory model' of creating a team from a blanket region instead of a suburb or ethnic background?

Melbourne Victory works because it is at the top tier. Interest in top tier sports pretty much across the board is at a high level. Yet interest in 2nd tier sport is falling, with clubs merging and some disappearing altogether. Market correction perhaps, in that there are too many entities to sustain at a senior level? Possibly, but I think the trends show that people care about junior sports, top-tier sports, but care less and less about the in-between stuff.

Crowds: Will the supporters embrace the new league with the understanding that it will not affect their support of established clubs such as South Melbourne, Melbourne Knights or the Fawkner Blues who will still form the Foxtel Cup?

On the one hand, with the crowds that most VPL clubs get, does it really matter? Then again, the majority of the VPL clubs for a long time now have been located in the northern and western suburbs - the eastern suburbs haven't a serious senior contender for many years. It could be argued that there is a serious problem with senior soccer out in the eastern suburbs, will this kind of thing help reverse that trend? Hard to say, but I'm doubtful.

Facilities: This could make or break the FFV's plans. Will it find the dollars and the government backing to upgrade facilities in the next four years to be able to establish the mooted centres of excellence?

This is a good point he brings up, but what kind of efforts are the FFV putting in now to secure upgrades to VPL venues? Or to secure the future tenancy of clubs at venues? Or to help clubs at all levels g4et equal treamtent from council's compared to their aussie rules counterparts? How will their bargaining power change?

The player development point is a red herring. Your Joe Spiteris and Michael Curcijas are not the future, and yet, with the A-League's youth competition due to start this year, that also means that another batch of players, supposedly the next in line for top-tier senior selection and recruitment, will also be unavailable. So who will the players be that will be called up? And will they get better? If so, how much better? Can players have the option of refusing to participate? What if a lot of players refuse to participate? What happens to pre-seasons?

Most of the reactions I've read lean towards the negative, with responses ranging from the hysterical, the cynical, to the just plain unsure. In writing that opinion piece, not only has Jenksinson put forward the first overwhelmingly positive view that's I've seen (which is a good thing in the sense that it's interesting to see another side of the coin, apart from one associate of mine), but he appears to have a lot more more faith in the FFV than most people.

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