Disclaimer - while I have been both an occasional contributor to Goal Weekly, as well as a current member of the FFV's history committee, the following article does not claim to be representative of the views of either organisation.
Goal Weekly's decision to go on a print version hiatus during the winter season is a blow to the local soccer scene on several fronts. The FFV's decision to take away its portion of funding from Goal Weekly is, from this outsider's position, seemingly the straw that broke the camel's back.
No other publication focused so broadly on the local game, at all levels. Where the FFV struggles to even get results into the mainstream papers, Goal Weekly had not only those results, but also reportage from across the range of competitions.
Because of its marginalised status in the the Australian sporting landscape, soccer has perenially found itself with people willing to plug the gaps, by writing on the game and creating publishing avenues for the sport from their own good will and because of their passion for the sport.
As much as the internet revolution has accelerated and taken down more than a few specialist magazines down with it, the print medium is still the dominant news form. And frankly, Goal Weekly's website is atrocious.
And blogs and internet forums can only go so far. So many versions of the FFV website alone have risen and fallen, taking with them copious amounts of the game's history and data. Much the same has happened to the Goal Weekly site, several forums, and the array of online puiblications I've written for - 86th Minute, Half Time Heroes, etc. Yes, the OzFootball site is still kicking on in its ramshackle fashion, but that mostly provides the raw data of a given moment in time.
Goal Weekly was perhaps the focal point of this state's soccer discourse. It not only had the reports from across the leagues, and even other states, but it also published the humour and the grievances of the soccer public in its diverse forms. In short, it told the story of the game, a weekly snapshot. It was the most obvious place to find the continuing narrative of the local game.
There are people who depend on publications like Goal Weekly. Believe it or not, there are still people who do not have access to the internet on even a semi-regular basis. The famous South supporter and mad fan of women's football known as Josie is one such a person. She was relatively distraught at the prospect of Goal Weekly's print demise - someone had tried to point her towards this blog, but she has no access to the internet, and was unware that fixture dates and locations had been changed.
A whole slew of soccer writers and photographers - both those of a hobbyist persuasion and those who would make a career out of it - have now been denied a major avenue to practice their craft in the public sphere. If local papers don't want to cover local soccer, where do the writers and photographers go?
Michal Skrodzki was one such hobbyist. His job was to cover the happenings of the teams from state league 2 and under (which I filled in on occasionally). His writing was haphazard, prone to cliche and over-exuberant whimsy, but when put alongside the diversity of the other writings - Mark Boric's acerbic take on authority, Craig MacKenzie's coverage of the south-east, the up and coming Sacha Pisani, Niki Cook's coverage of the women's game, the delerium of Tsigan's Tsigar - it created a tapestry unlikely to be found anywhere else in Australian sports writing.
The FFV has claimed that their media budgets are tight, and that their contribution to Goal Weekly returned little value to the organisation. I was prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt, waiting to see what thing they would come up with that was better than Goal Weekly.
So far, all I have seen has been a VPL media guide, glossy but vacuuous and out of date by the time it hit the presses, made up of incorrect and incomplete squad lists, and cursory glances at the possible prospects of the season's participants. Another wesbite revamp has been promised, but since articles on the womens and junior facets of the game have predominated for years - not that there's anything wrong with that, it's where the growth is - the VPL will still likely suffer in comparison.
The notion that the FFV got nothing out of their contribution to Goal Weekly except for a bit of flak is laughable - but the fact that they genuinely seem to believe that is the case must be taken seriously. It shows an organisation that is unwilling to take criticism on board, despite the mission statements plastered across its office walls.
The clubs are also not blameless in this area. The support of a good deal of the leading clubs in the state has often been described as poor by people who have contributed to the paper. Unfortunately, there are also clubs who would agree with the FFV's stance, that the organisation donating some of its money should be able to dictate terms - not even considering the possibility that something like Goal Weekly should be the exception to that rule, that it serves a greater good.
Some may point to this blog and accuse it of hypocrisy in this matter. 'Haven't you sought the end of the print medium on several occasions?'
That would be an incorrect assumption. I have only celebrated the declining circulations and tightened financial situations of publications which have either been superseded by something better, or whose downfall is of their own making, in their fervent race to the bottom. As yet, Goal Weekly has not been superseded by something better and its pluralism was something to be celebrated.
Even if there was no money involved, it's the principle of that matter that comes to the fore - that the FFV can not even find something positive to say about the publication should be troubling everyone in Victorian soccer.