Saturday, 17 November 2012

South Melbourne Crisis 2012 - Another SMFC Media Release

The latest salvo fired in this saga - my brief thoughts at the end of the media release.

Media Release - South Melbourne FC Supporter Update
Friday, 16 November 2012 9:39 AM
Whilst the off season may appear to be to be a quiet time at our Club, the Board has been busy addressing the many, mostly exciting and positive, off field issues currently affecting the Club.
As most of you are aware, at the recent Information Evening held at the stadium, the Board informed our Members of our Club’s response to the NCR, its advanced and progressive junior program and the redevelopment of its social club together with the rest of the space it occupies exclusively at Lakeside Stadium.
The Board has also been finalising the Leases and other Agreements which the Club will enter into with the State Sport Centres Trust and Parks Victoria, respectively, as required by our Memorandum of Understanding (“MoU”) with the Victorian State Government. The process involved in negotiating and completing these agreements is a long and laborious one but is progressing well and is almost completed. The Club has appointed independent external Solicitors to assist it with this process and to ensure that it achieves the best outcome. Whilst the Lease and related agreements in relation to the stadium are almost completed, the Club is also close to finalising arrangements for the newly constructed pavilion in Albert Park to be open for our use next season.
In light of the above positive developments, the Board was bemused and puzzled, to say the least, to read the two recent articles published in The News Weekly, which is the English language section of the Ta Nea Greek language newspaper. The breathless attempt by The News Weekly to conjure a story from thin air was surely not worthy of even the most desperate journalist. Then again no journalist put his name to their articles which whilst not surprising is hardly acceptable.
The newspaper itself characterised the “information” contained in the articles as emanating from “unnamed callers” and it essentially comprised of a series of allegations, questions and rumours. The articles are ill informed, badly written, defensive and simply embarrassing to read. The Club was even more surprised, therefore, to then find that radio station 3XY devoted most of its Sunday Sports Program last Sunday night to the “issues” raised by The News Weekly articles after not covering news from the Club at all over the last year. 
The Board is far too busy to even try to understand why that may be the case but we are sure that many of our supporters and members will have their own views.
Nevertheless, the Board is conscious that some of our supporters and members may have become concerned by this recent persistent and misleading media coverage, bordering on a campaign. For that reason, we thought it appropriate to update our supporters and reiterate the things I have said above in relation to the Club’s progress on off field matters.
Last, but not least on the positive news, is our most passionate subject and the reason for our existence; our football team. The Board continues to work constructively and progressively towards building a top class and successful football team. You will see evidence of this during the summer and hopefully, conclusive proof next season! Our forthcoming end of year social function, which will have a different feel and emphasis this year, will no doubt be a chance for all those who attend to have a great night whilst discussing the season just passed and our prospects next year.
Sadly, however, the Club is also involved in one less pleasant development. It is true that the Club has been sued and is presently defending an action brought against it by Wellington Investments (Aust) Pty Ltd in the County Court of Victoria at Melbourne. Wellington Investments, as many of you will know, is a Company with which Messrs. Tony Toumbourou and Chris Christopher, two great Club benefactors, were previously involved and which is now run by Mr. Toumbourou’s sons, Messrs. Peter and Jason Toumbourou. 
The claim by Wellington Investments relates to the sum of $120,000 which Messrs. Tony Toumbourou and Chris Christopher pledged in the middle of 2004 and which Wellington Investments subsequently paid to assist the Club to raise the sum of $450,000 required by the Deed of Company Arrangement (“DOCA”) which it entered into when it went into voluntary administration after the disbandment of the NSL in 2004. Most of the sum of $450,000 was contributed by many concerned supporters of the Club with the balance of $120,000, paid by Wellington Investments. With the eleventh hour contribution of Wellington Investments enabling the Club to reach the target of $450,000, the Club was able to emerge from administration and to enter into its new era.
Recently, Wellington Investments has demanded repayment of the whole of the sum it advanced to the Club comprising the amount of $120,000, plus interest, bringing its total claim against the Club to $200,000. It also seeks its costs. Wellington Investments has demanded immediate payment of the money and refused to accept the Club’s offer to pay it $150,000 in 5 quarterly instalments commencing earlier this year. This offer was made some months ago.
The Club is protecting its interest and those of its members and supporters in the County Court litigation. In preparing its case for Court, the current Board has formed the view that whilst the sum of $120,000 was certainly advanced by Wellington Investments for the benefit of the Club, which the Club has always acknowledged and been grateful for, the terms of the advance were such that the Club is not liable to pay Wellington Investments the sum it seeks. It is also important for our supporters and members to know that in the course of this Court proceeding which was commenced by Wellington Investments in order to establish that the Club owed it money, and before the Court has decided the case, Wellington Investments threatened to appoint a Receiver to the Club. It became necessary, therefore, for the Club to seek an injunction against the appointment of a Receiver to prevent the Club from disappearing as we know it and in all likelihood, losing all its entitlements under the MoU with the State Government. The Court granted the injunction after it was strenuously opposed by Wellington Investments.
The Club would prefer not to be involved in Court proceedings if it can avoid it and to that end, it has proposed and will continue to propose what it considers a fair resolution of the claim by Wellington Investments and to consider any reasonable settlement proposal put to it. Everyone should bear in mind, however, that the reference in The News Weekly to “and a number of business men”, is in fact, a reference to Mr. Peter Toumbourou. Further, the reference to “loans of almost half a million dollars” is entirely false as even Mr. Toumbourou alleges only a loan of $120,000. The Club will continue to keep its members and supporters informed of the progress of this Court action which is presently due to be heard in December 2012.
Finally, our Board and the Club understands that not everybody will always agree with every decision nor with every direction it adopts. People are entitled to voice their opinions and criticism and the Club welcomes constructive criticism and accepts that opinions of all sorts, constructive or otherwise, will be freely expressed. Our Club will object, however, to articles purporting to report news, being comprised of nothing more than the opinion of an unnamed few, causing unnecessary concern amongst some of our supporters. 
The Club’s volunteer Board and overworked General Manager are busy enough with their many responsibilities without being at the beck and call of whichever media organisation sees fit to publish or air unsubstantiated and misleading information. The Board has in the past and will continue in future to make its various members available to engage in constructive discussion in relation to our Club and the same in general, including answering relevant questions and dealing with constructive criticism. 
There is much more positive and constructive news to come, so stay tuned … to us.

Nick Galatas
Chairman


It's about time the club put out a more definitive statement. Would it have nullified a lot of the 'debate' had it been put out earlier? That's hard to say, and my guess would be 'probably not'. But it may have helped at least steer the debate towards a more factual direction.

Certainly, it's great to see a no nonsense naming of the disputed loan figure and the attempts to resolve the issue. Not that this means that South is guaranteed a court victory, but get it out in the open about where this situation came from and where it's going and why.

It's also good to see some more elaboration on the process of doing the final sign off regarding the Lakeside lease, though to be fair, this was also covered in the Neos Kosmos English Weekly article.

Joe Friday agrees, all that's needed are the facts.
One thing I must take umbrage with, is that they should have avoided getting personal with those they're disagreeing with. These sections come across as unprofessional and petty, even to those who would likely agree with those sentiments. Leave that stuff to the blogs and forums.

And while it's understandable that they would want to pump their own tyres, feeling proud and excited about the coming season and the corner we've been told we've turned, a 'just the facts ma'am' approach would have been more suitable.

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