Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Can the Hellenic Cup be saved from itself?

Normally, once the Hellenic Cup is over, there aren't too many recriminations from this blog, outside of our own progress at least.

One also doesn't want to knock the efforts of a group of volunteers just for the sake of it. In the past, I have been prone to defending the Hellenic Cup committee, especially in their efforts in rejuvenating what could have become a moribund competition.

Certainly, their inclusion of women's, youth and veterans comps has added another dimension, and increased the participation base of the competition. Considering that this is where this sport is headed at this level, that was a good idea.

And the prizemoney is still good, let's not forget that. $10,000 for the winner of a pre-season competition, when the top prize for winning the VPL or the state cup is worth not much more than double that, is fantastic.

And yet, the organisation of this year's tournament has been shambolic. Constant fixture changes and confusion; grounds destroyed by weather and overuse; the lack of any website updates; and now the prospect of high profile teams not even bothering to enter.

And yet this should have been the best tournament yet in terms of competitiveness. The provisional league teams were whittled down before the state league and VPL teams entered. The state league teams, courtesy of the FFV pushing back the VPL season to late March, now had a pre-season alongside the VPL sides, meaning fatigue woild be less of a factor.

And yet somehow the competition was still a shambles, and Western Suburbs' surprise victory overshadowed by the calamitous organisation.

There were constant fixture changes, even before the tournament started. The tournament programme booklet was rendered all but useless. The decision to change a South fixture twice due to the Antipodes Festival was ridiculous.

The confusion about who would play where, especially in the north/west portion of the tournament, was even more confusing, after the Ralph Reserve field succumbed to the twin perils of overuse and the weather.

The effect of all this would have been lessened if they had made use of their website even in a rudimentary fashion. But since they could not even manage to update results, what hope of informing the public about the other changes.

Last year, Hellenic Cup committee chairmain Jim Massis told me that the reason the website hadn't been updated was because the person responsible was in Greece. I had made an effort, for the general public, to keep track of results as best as I could, using a google document and updating scores as I learnt of them.

It wasn't a perfect solution - at one stage I was copying notes by hand from Massis' notes - but it seemed to be reasonably popular among people wanting to get that information. No single topic/entry has even been half as popular on this blog as this post.

Massis' reassurance that the website would be running for this year's tournament was enough for me to not offer any assistance. Of course, once again, there were no updates on their site. Information could only really be gleaned by looking on soccer-forum.net, which is blocked again; the socceraust.co.uk site, which only had senior men's results, and not all of them; and the south-east results as provided on the Kingston City website by the soccer-forum user known as 'Psycho'.

The lack of reliable information was not the only issue. Despite managing to get it down to four senior groups of four teams each, the tournament still managed to force them to play matches on consecutive days. When Altona East chose to forfeit their quarter final, due to a lack of available players after what was apparently a tough encounter the day before, rather than acknowldege that there perhaps was a problem with the fixturing, the Hellenic Cup committee tried to get Brunswick City to play the match agaonst South - fortunately, they had the good sense, or the necessity of also declining the offer, and South eventually went through to the semi-finals on a forfeit, as they should have in the first place.

Massis was later apparently waiting to unleash on Altona East's refusal to play on Greek radio - fortunately for all concerned, 3XY's phone hook up wasn't working for anyone, and thus further embarassment was avoided, for the time being at least. But then came the semi-finals. Played at different venues, at different times, with different rules. While both semi-finals finished level after regular time, the match at Ralph Reserve, owing to a lack of match lights, went straight to penalties, while the game at The Grange went to extra time.

And while it's easy to point out all the things that went wrong, one is obligated perhaps to provide some possible solutions. And  while that's not usually my strong point, I should give it a stab.

Firstly, do not charge such a high entry fee. $8 for an adult ticket to watch 70 minute matches of a pre-season quality is not value for money.

Secondly, do not charge any entry, let alone $8 for the pre-tournament qualifiers. How much money do you think was going to be made from these games?

It might not be under your direct control, but do try and lean on the host clubs to stop them from price gouging on food and drink. Apparently the cost of a souvlaki at Kingston went from $8 to $10 for the final, and other food drink went up in price also. Way to piss people off.

Think about getting rid of the under 21s competition. The reserves teams below state league one play in an all ages competition, making it very difficult for them to field competitive teams made up only of players under 21. It might also ease your scheduling issues, even if it forces reserves teams to seek other games outside the tournament.

Either use your site properly, or dump it. I'm happy to offer my limited talents in running a site for you, provided I can be provided with accurate fixtures and results in a timely manner.

And lastly, don't piss off any more teams. While not necessarily your fault, it was disappointing not to see the big spending Clifton Hill in the tournament, and even the struggling AEK Waverley. Getting in non-Greek teams to fill in the gaps is counter intuitive to what this tournament is about.

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