Friday, 30 November 2012

Queenslander Tyson Holmes joins South for 2013

Have we ever had a Tyson play for South before? The story below is from the Sunshine Coast Daily.

Fire dynamo moves on  by Steve Zemek

New signing Tyson Holmes playing for
Sunshine Coast Fire in the QSL Photo: Warren Lynam.
FOOTBALL: Tyson Holmes has always been a fish slightly too big for the Queensland State League pond.

A founding member and former captain of the Sunshine Coast Fire, he has been an integral part of a side that has dominated the competition for the past five years.

It would be an embellishment to say he has been the lone driving force behind the club's success, but the Fire's rivals will be glad to see the 25-year-old's back.

For years it has been a catchcry of his coaches and teammates: "Tyson should be playing in the A-League."

The attacking midfielder has been on the cusp before, trialling or training with several national clubs, including Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide and the defunct Gold Coast United and North Queensland Fury.

While his signing with Victorian Premier League side South Melbourne FC does not guarantee him a saloon passage into the top flight, it will move him from the periphery into the direct line of sight of many A-League clubs.

He stops short of saying his move is motivated by a desire to play in the A-League, but does acknowledge the Victorian competition is considered the strongest state league in the country and that he has a desire to prove himself.

"The Victorian Premier League is probably the strongest state league in Australia," he said yesterday.

"A lot of the players are coming through to the A-League from the Victorian Premier League. All the A-League sides keep an eye on the competition.

"It's a massive opportunity. I'm going to get down there and try to prove myself and get out of my comfort zone away from Queensland."

Holmes fielded offers from several Victorian clubs but signed with South Melbourne after being impressed with its set-up and professionalism.

The club is considered one of the most prestigious in Australia, winning four National Soccer League championships in the 1980s and '90s.

Holmes said it was a difficult decision to leave the Fire but he felt the time was right after the side's fourth grand final win in front of a home crowd against Whitsunday last month.

"Playing with the boys has been fantastic - they're a bunch of my best mates," he said.

"With (retiring forward) Shaun (Blackman) and a few others probably going away, the grand final at the end of the year, it just felt right - it felt like it was time to move on.

"It's amazing what we've achieved. It's been an extraordinary time, but it's time to move forward."

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Worlds of Football Conference 2012

Here it is, finally, a little late, no pictures (I'm sorry, I just couldn't be bothered), but finished.

The conference's theme this time around was 'Heritage, Communities and Cultures'. Of course, within the scope of that topic there was much wriggle room, but the narrowness of some of the papers, principally the AFL club related selections, left me cold. However, there were several worthwhile papers also given, and some good rapport had with the other delegates. My handwritten, notes, where I took them, are pretty crappy, and thus this rundown will not be as good as my notes on the previous conference. The further on you go, the more likely these notes will also suffer from the exhaustion of the long and crowded schedule.

 

DAY 1 - MCG / Hans Ebeling Room
First up was the keynote address by Kevin Moore, from England's National Football Museum. How do you create a museum for the entirety of the game, in a nation that has such fervour for the game? It's not easy. But Kevin Moore says you start off by not targeting it at die hard football fans, because they'll turn up anyway.

Because you see football as part of broader society, you don't try and gloss over all the negatives in the game's history, including the stadium tragedies, the violence, racism, misogyny and homophobia, no matter how distasteful these issues are to some. You provide an outlet for people to create and provide their own memories, within reason.

You do not make yourself the be all and end all of historical preservation. You work with local communities to find ways of preserving local history locally, and only step in to preserve history as a last resort. You try and tell stories, not just provide facts and figures. You recognise the importance of topophilia, but you do not become a slave to it, in part because football topophilia can be expressed in several ways.

In summary, Kevin Moore provided a very interesting look at the development of the National Football Museum, from its beginnings in Preston to its move to Manchester. Moore talked about the difficulties in securing funding, the fact that there is no national sports museum in England, and that the museum in some ways has to compete against Premier League club museums, which seek to tell a very different, hagiographic story, and which are often not standalone enterprises, but part of the 'stadium experience'.

An Aside
One of the people attending the conference, though he wasn't presenting a paper, was Ian Kerr. Kerr is trying to start a new higher-brow football journal called The Thin White Line- think The Blizzard, but with an Australian bias. He's currently trying to get edition zero up and going. Kerr has a background of working in trade magazines and publishing, and he seems to have a pretty good grasp on the kind of content he wants. So if you're interested in contributing something to this publication, do give him a buzz. I might end up doing something for it, if I can deviate from my decidedly middle of the road approach.


DAY 2 - MCG / Jim Stynes Room
Day 2 began with a panel discussion, featuring Helen Walpole from the National Sports Museum, Gregor McCaskie from the Essendon Football Club Hall of Fame, and the aforementioned Kevin Moore.

Walpole talked about the National Sports Museum's collection, which told us something we could probably guess by ourselves - that cricket, Australian Rules and the Olympics are at the forefront of their collections. That's understandable, but I think it presents a particular problem to that museum in that it will then struggle to deal with the other stories that Australian sport has. As someone who likes to talk about the parallel existence of soccer in Australia, this concerns me. Then again, the game itself has to learn to take better care of its own history.

I think Essendon Hall of Fame curator McCaskie talked about the difference (as did Kevin Moore) between Hall of Fame setups and museums, in that the latter term should be a protected one, to avoid confusion between educational efforts and self-promoting ones. McCaskie also reflected on how people are fallible. Memory is faulty, reputations whitewashed.

Then it was time to move into some of the papers.

Deb Agnew looked at the issues the SANFL had with youth retention. She was mostly focusing on boys participation, and the reasons behind the stable but unchanging participation numbers. Surveys were conducted across several clubs, both country and city, about what lead to players staying or dropping out. While players often responded that umpiring was a major bugbear, injuries were far more important in seeing players leave the game, especially as they made the transition from junior football to senior football.

I was interested to learn that Australian rules clubs in South Australia are restricted to having 28 players on their list, at every competitive age group. It was also interesting to see that the AFL youth program Auskick had almost zero impact on influencing South Australian participants from taking up the sport at older age levels. The fact that the numbers were stagnant was not elaborated on to a great degree.

Part of the problem with state specific football papers, is that each state is different enough historically and culturally, that it is difficult to conduct meaningful comparative work, let alone decide which state should be used a 'control' sample. How we as Australian sports academics get around this is something that needs to be worked on.

Ian Cunningham's presentation was on communication and sports officiating - 'developing a feel for the game'. That kind of thing is a pretty nebulous concept as far as I'm concerned. Cunningham looked at officiating and player reactions to officiating in several different sports. Nor surprisingly, there seemed to be a general trend among player respondents that they preferred a free flowing contest. There was analysis of hand gestures, body language and use of verbal language - apparently six word explanations of decisions work best in that environment.

I thought there could have been greater depth to the presentation. While Cunningham managed to answer most of the questions thrown at him adequately, he didn't have an answer for my question about whether there was a difference in player views between sports like rugby union, where only the captain can speak to the official, and sports like soccer, where every man and his dog feel like they have a license to harass the referee.To his credit, Cunningham acknowledged that was something he should probably follow up on.

While having a chat with him during a break in proceedings, neither of us was able to find an answer as to why players felt that referees needed to have played the game to understand it, while players who had never officiated a match felt they had enough authority to judge referees. One of those mysteries of life, I suppose, to be put alongside while male sports reporters who have no high level experience are more qualified to cover sport than their female equivalents.

Deb Agnew presented a paper that was very much a follow up to her presentation at the previous conference, on the difficulties faced by AFL footballers upon retirement. In that sense, there was little new information that was provided, but the vox pops from the player interviews were still interesting.

Peter Ochieng presented one of the more surprising papers at the previous conference, in attempting to rescue the bad reputation of player agents and managers, by emphasising how important good agents were to a healthy footballer marketplace, especially for African players. This time around he sought to find a method of identifying what separates African Cup of Nations winners, from African Cup of Nations losers. Using data based around resources allocated to football - professional players, clubs, stadiums etc - he used statistical techniques beyond my understanding to try and find impartial rationales for why some countries were successful, and why some weren't.

While not initially being super impressed by the outcomes and methodology, I at least was able to see that his data was important, and that his use of that data was probably sound. But now I'm not so sure. I'm not satisfied with how he couldn't really find a way to accommodate Egypt into the frame, considering their relatively low level of achievement on the resources scaled compared with their very highly successful tournament participation. Nor was I happy with his explanation of why South Africa had failed so miserably as a footballing nation over the last decade or so. And there was no correlation given to the difference in results (if they exist) for World Cup qualifying as compared to African Cup of Nations qualifying, complicated as that is by them being often lumped in together as part of the same process.

Shane Pill provided one of the more curious presentations, on Australian rules football in the USA from 1910-13. What could have been another out and out propaganda piece was actually rooted in solid scholarship, and told an interesting story to boot. It seems that Australian rules had gained some sort of traction among a segment of the private school system in parts of the United States, but that World War 1 and the rise of college football (of the American variety) put a stop to it. I think Pill overestimates how much traction Australian rules had actually made in the US (I'm not sure if that was his intention, but that's how it came across to me), but it was an interesting presentation nonetheless.

Matthew Klugman presented a paper he had worked on with Francesco Ricatti, who was absent from the conference. The fancy name for the paper was Connected to Something: Soccer as a Site of Transnational Passions, Memories, Communities for Italian Migrants. The actual presentation focused on Sydney's Italian soccer community, and their relationships to their major clubs, APIA Leichhardt and Marconi Fairfield.

This was one of the standout papers, not just because it was right up my alley thematically, but also because it tackled a lot of the myths and assumptions about Italian soccer in Australia, as well the myths of the transition from NSL to A-League.

The Italian politics of North vs South did not feature heavily in the presentation - if anything, the Sydney issues of inner city (APIA) vs outer suburbs (Marconi) were more important to the way the supporters of these two clubs viewed themselves and each other.

The paper looked at what many 'bitter' Australian soccer fans still refuse to acknowledge - that the affinity people had for these clubs was situational, and bound to be temporary at the first sign of trouble. Australian soccer is not unique in this regard, but the ethnic question serves to a provide a simultaneously dominant and obscuring narrative - one could easily make similar observations about the VFA, for example.

Despite the obvious passion and nostalgia of the interviewees, personal experience demanded that I ask two obvious questions:
  • How many of the people interviewed still attended APIA or Marconi matches?
  • If they didn't still attend matches, how did they reconcile their nostalgia and their view of themselves as supporters of those clubs, with their current lack of support by means of attendance?
The answer to the first question was, mostly no. That question was extraordinarily loaded (how partisan of me), but unavoidable. The answer to that second question was interesting, and revealing. The respondents seemed to think there was no conflict in their present attitudes with their previous behaviour.

What they disliked most was how the A-League and FFA had branded all of that era as either unimportant, or something to be wiped off the historical map. The respondents felt disrespected. Coming back to the state vs state issue, there were questions about Italian soccer supporters from Victoria and the fate of Brunswick Juventus, but not being within the scope of this presentation, it was an issue that remained unresolved.

One can easily project a similar study on Greek-Australian soccer fans bearing similar results, but there would have to be some divergence. After all, APIA dropped out of the NSL in the early 1990s, and Marconi crawled to the end of the NSL in terms of supporter numbers. In comparison, if you believe the data from that time, South Melbourne was apparently maintaining and increasing its spectator numbers

One would also have to analyse not just those supporters who left South because they made a distinction between 'Old NSL South' and 'Newborn VPL South', but also those who turned ideologically on the club.

Brian Moroney's paper on 'The UltraS of modern football' was interesting, if disconcerting. I'll admit that when it comes to the crunch, I don't really know squat about football ultras, let alone the one with a capital 'U' and a capital 'S'. Academic work on this more extreme faction of football support is thin on the ground, in large part because the UltraS are rightly wary of academics and journalists. So it was a fair effort for Moroney to be able to get the trust of members of Lazio's 'Irriducibili', especially considering he doesn't speak Italian.

It just so happens to be that the UltraS aren't just a football movement - they also have charitable and social wings. Moroney struggled to accommodate those noble causes against the driving ideological force behind these movements - violent fascism. Nor was he able to answer the question about how Livorno's left-wing supporters fit into this scene. But perhaps I'm the wrong person to be looking at this topic, since I abhor violence and fascism, and think that neither of these two things has any place at the football.

If you want to have a read of a version of Ian Syson's presentation, entitled 'The Calm and The Storm', just hit the link, and make up your own mind. He'll appreciate the hits, too. I will say however, that as with my earlier musings on Deb Agnew's paper on SANFL youth retention, the differences between states is something that will come up repeatedly for Syson as he continues this work. I think Syson is aware of this, but how to deal with the different stages of Australian (nee Victorian) rules expansion across the colonies? Was it undertaken as an evangelical crusade? Or was it more akin to a form colonisation? Does it have more of a sense of empire building? And how much do the code wars of our times get in the way of accurately assessing the equivalent issues from 100, 120 or 140 years ago? Something to ponder

Stephen Alomes is a bit of a lunatic - not that there's anything wrong with that. Given his reputation of being one of the AFL's/Aussie rules' most shameless propagandists, at least in academic circles, I was expecting the worst. Somewhat surprisingly, it took him a while to plumb those depths this time.

His presentation topic was on the aesthetic merits of Australian Rules football, and what to do about the rolling maul that threatens to suffocate the game. There were interesting points that Alomes (whose academic career seems to specialise in explorations of Australian nationalism) made about the notions of play, art and the agon, but all the potentially fascinating insights that could come out of such a discussion were undone by Alomes' starting point - that Australian Rules football is the best game in the world - and working back from there.

Alomes also heavily and unashamedly tried to plug his new book, which made the actual interesting parts of his presentation even more isolated. I'm still confused as to what purpose he thought there was in showing the audience his rather mediocre paintings of Australian rules football scenes were. The highlight came when academic and former 1960s Melbourne player Bob Stewart, asked Alomes when the 'golden age' of Australian Rules was supposed to have been, considering that Stewart had played in his fair share of games out there (pointing out to the MCG arena) where the ball struggled to leave the centre square, and had 36 blokes surrounding it.

It's fair to say that when Alomes says that Australian rules is the greatest game in the world, he's not on the same wavelength as many of the game's lay supporters who make that claim. The contradiction of Aussie rules is that, in its own mythology, it is and always has been the greatest game on earth; yet its rules have changed frequently, while at the same time these rule changes are bemoaned by the common man. Alomes suggests that the game needs more changes - restrictions on how many players can be around the ball, numbers on the field, no marks for kicks that go backwards. For someone who loathes the offside rule, these seem to be inherent contradictions in this change manifesto - and yet he seems entirely unaware of this.

As best as I can recall, Roy Hay and Les Murray provided an interesting look at why the Hungarian football team didn't turn up to the 1956 Olympics, especially since other Hungarian teams, like the water polo side, did turn up. Since I don't watch much of SBS football broadcasting anymore, it was good to see Les doing something a bit different, and dare I say meaningful. Hay set up the presentation, and Murray took it from there, including relaying details of meetings he had with former players and officials of that era. Most evocative were Murray's descriptions of life under the communist regimes of that era, and the important role he perceived that Hungary's successful football side had in maintaining communist rule.

The panel on 'the future of football', consisting of Richard Baka, Les Murray, Steven Alomes was, as expected, mostly a waste of time. However, it was almost made worthwhile by one old bloke in the audience who asked Murray what kind of future soccer had in Asia, when Asians don't really like soccer? Yes, someone actually asked that question.


DAY 3 - WHITTEN OVAL
Chris Egan presented a paper on the founding of Perth Glory, with the premise that rather than being the 'English/British Wonderland' it was often portrayed as being, the Glory was actually more influenced by Western Australian parochialism (which Egan called 'nationalism'). In that sense, he was arguing against Tara Brabazon's assertions from over a decade ago, that Perth Glory's 'Englishness' was its defining characteristic, making it out of synch with both Australian sport in general and the NSL in particular.

If I got it right, Egan argued that he wasn't saying that Brabazon was wrong, but rather that her more contemporary analysis, as well her as her particular academic background lead almost inevitably to those conclusions. Roy Hay, one of the audience members, was more forthright in claiming that this paper was overturning Brabazon's understanding of Perth Glory.

Egan also talked briefly about Perth Glory's victory over then A-League boss Matt Carroll and the FFA in being able to celebrate its entire history, and not just the A-League parts. Egan argued this was important, in that it would help make sure that recent Australian soccer history was seen as part of a continuum, and not as something which appeared out of and was connected to nothing.

While I admire the sentiment, I think Egan perhaps is too optimistic in seeing this win by Glory being replicated for use by ex-NSL clubs, especially the ethnic ones. I talked about the assault on South's continuity in this post, something which comes not just from the FFA, but from our former supporters. Egan has left a comment there, and I'd be interested to see if more of my audience has something to say on the matter.

Egan's paper is part of a larger effort, that of writing a book on the first 15 years of Perth Glory. It was one of the best papers of the conference, especially for the great primary sources Egan was able to obtain, which saw various figures disagreeing about the rationale and political implications of Perth Glory's entry into the NSL. We look forward to seeing the end result, in a few years time hopefully.

Because of a changed schedule (Mark Pennings, who was meant to be first up in his session, but turned up late), I missed MCC librarian Trevor Ruddell's presentation on the uniforms of Australian national teams. And because Chris Egan's presentation started late, I only got to see the tail end of Tim Hogan's presentation on a bibliography of Australian Rules football.

Hogan was looking at every single type of written material, and the ways of categorising and collecting them. In some ways, this topic is in line with my own, albeit mine (as you'll see later) has a much narrower focus. I did get to have a good discussion with Hogan about my work, all of which made me disappointed not to have seen more of his presentation.

Mark Pennings was there to talk about his new book (the first of four volumes) about the early history of Australian rules football,  and the issues around researching that topic. Veracity is at the top of that list. Even when you think you have all the scores down accurately, something comes up to annihilate the validity of your data. Likewise, most amateur chroniclers of that era did not have an eye for posterity, and their information is provided with large gaps, as if the missing details should be taken for granted.

This then leads to massive misconceptions about what rules were being used, who was organising games and how, all of which influences the propaganda battles of the present. And while the presentation was entertaining and informed, one also got the feeling that while Pennings is at the cutting edge of Australian rules historical work, he's still at best halfway to where Ian Syson has ended up. That doesn't really mean that one is right to the exclusion of the other, but it's interesting to see how two different writers coming from two very different places, at times using some of the same material, can come to such different conclusions.

Following the morning sessions, there was a panel discussion of sorts on 'Football in the West'. Brett Daniher, Western Bulldogs' community liaison I think was his title, went first. He talked about all the community work that the Bulldogs do, and the attempts by some other clubs to mimic it. I suppose rather by necessity, Daniher fell into the trap of trying to sell the work as integral to the Bulldogs' efforts to mark out their territory in the western suburbs, in order to maintain supporter levels and find new supporters. And yet, he never seemed to touch upon the fact,that  even though the western suburbs are growing very quickly, that unless these new arrivals were from non-Australian rules backgrounds, most would likely bring their AFL allegiances with them.

As far as I can remember, Scott Munn, Melbourne Heart's CEO, didn't talk so much about the western suburbs. He talked about how the future challenges in getting people, especially young families, involved with sport (focusing mostly on his own elite level) will not be related to costs as much as it will be related to time. It struck me as quite a middle class sort of argument. That is, not that the argument was invalid, but that the argument was narrow, and therefore prone to negating the importance of getting working class people involved with soccer. It strikes me only now, a week or two on from the conference, how easily such a comment could be allowed to pass - it doesn't say good things about what the authorities (and clubs) think about the place of the working class in local soccer.

As an aside, one of the more curious things that was said by Munn, was that one off attempts at trying to convert people to your cause like school clinics were almost doomed to fail (he used some clever analogy about pissing on your own leg - I can't remember how it went, but it was quite funny). All of which puts another attempt by Heart to give away free tickets into a whole different perspective.

Tim Shellcot from the Western Region Football League was the best of the three speakers in this session, in part because he didn't suffer from a proliferation of marketing speak. He put forward the challenges faced by the organisation, which fell broadly into two main areas. The first challenge was obtaining new facilities in growth areas of the outer western suburbs. The second was trying to find ways of bolstering the survival chances of older clubs from the Footscray/Sunshine areas, where demographic changes have wreaked havoc on clubs who have failed to keep up with the times.

Sound familiar? Those growth areas will be fought over by every sport. Those clubs in the traditional Footscray District Football League (the league's former name) areas are going to face the same issue many of the head in the sand soccer clubs will face. Lack of diversity will not see them viewed favourably by councils who are seeking to have their facilities used by the broadest range of their constituents.

Shellcot's one failure was in not considering soccer as his organisation's number one competitor. Instead, he singled out cricket as a threat, as that sport, traditionally part of the Victorian Anglo-Celtic winter-summer nexus with footy, is according to him now competing for monopolisation of talent. It is an interesting phenomenon of recent times, that talented young athletes are being asked to commit to a single sport at a younger age.

There is also the issue of grounds being shared with cricket. Shellcot did not seem to be able to the see the cricket side's argument on these matters. Nor did he elaborate on the strong place soccer has in the western suburbs, and what influence that may have had in the areas like Sunshine and surrounds where Aussie rules is apparently struggling at suburban level.

Laura Hale gave one of the few explicitly new media related papers, on using Wikipedia and Wikinews as a way of promoting African women's soccer. As a one time semi-prolific wikipedian myself, it was interesting to hear about many of the trials and tribulations I had also gone through: needing to use foreign language sources, fights with other editors, avoiding original research etc.

In addition to that area of her presentation, Hale also discussed her involvement, via her online work, of creating improved media kits for some of the Paralympic sports as well as for able bodied Olympic athletes. Even simple things like having a photo and bio for every athlete! It was interesting and impressive stuff, with lessons to be learned for many smaller scale sports organisations who think that this kind of stuff is inherently beyond their abilities.

Then it was time for my own presentation. Based upon my honours thesis, which I finished last year, I gave a very stripped back look at the history of Australian soccer literature. No time for quoting from the texts, or getting into any sort of depth with regards to the major texts, nor for analysing the parallels between the academic work and the creative work. What I decided to cover then was a brief history of this niche (and in some ways artificial) genre; a look at my research methodology; the varied themes of the texts; what doesn't quite fit; and the future directions this area of research should take.

Despite having a small attendance at my presentation, the questions from the audience were quite good. I was asked about whether I had covered similar texts from overseas, to which I had to reply that, no, I hadn't, but that I had some intention of doing so. A common response I had to give was that, within the scope of the thesis, there just wasn't enough room to cover all the areas of this genre that I wanted to, especially the area of children's and young adult texts - that would hopefully come in the next phase of researching and writing on this topic.  One of the audience members had apparently attempted similar work with the theme of swimming, and could identify with the difficulties of a pre-database era in terms of research.

Because I was scheduled directly against him, I unfortunately missed Les Street's presentation, looking at Sydney's NSL venues, work which was based on his masters thesis looking at (I think) the history of NSL venues. It was the presentation I was most looking forward to, and I was really disappointed that I didn't get to see it.

Paul Kennedy, of ABC News 24 fame, gave a presentation about a short documentary he made, which was broadcast on his Contact Sport program. The documentary (which you can watch here) looked at the 1892 boat accident which wiped out a majority of the Mornington Football Club's playing list. Worthy material perhaps, but it didn't do much for me. Part of that was due to the documentary itself, which felt a little like one of those earnest films made in a university documentary class (and I should know, I was a student in such a class), with the same sort of production values. The use of music, title cards, hokey narrative devices and the most obvious 'serious/poignant' camera angles was just so amateur that good community television making has left them behind. Perhaps others will get something more out of it.

Rachel Murphy is the Western Bulldogs' liaison person for their relationship with Victoria University. She went through the ways in which students get access and work experience through an obviously mutually beneficial arrangement. But like Brett Daniher's earlier presentation, it all felt a bit too much about the hard sell to me. It's the perennial plight of the cynic.

Peter Haby of the Hawthorn Museum, provided an an overview of that institution, mainly its role and its history. Haby was obviously knowledgeable and passionate about his topic, but the presentation was unfocused and unwieldy, and felt like it went on forever. Now I know that's not a very academic way of looking at things, but there's no way of dressing it up.

Still, it was interesting to hear one version of how some sporting anoraks, trainspotters and assorted weirdo collectors have been able to re-cast their obsessive hoarding and statistical obsessions into respectable pursuits. And not just respectable - but also marketable. Not that these sorts of museums are self-funding, not a by a long shot. But within the scope of selling a club, history. as approved by the clubs themselves, is suddenly worth looking after.

Of course, the aforementioned anoraks just want to carry on doing what they've always done, with the bonus of sharing their life's work with the general public.

Helen Walpole from the National Sports Museum gave a very practical demonstration of everything you need to look out for when attempting to preserve and display archival material. Wood, acids, oils, air, dirty hands are all just waiting to devour metal, cloth, paper - in fact any material you can think of. The importance of selecting tools and devices that cause the least amount of damage and risk  to artifacts is crucial, and the novel use of fishing line, mannequins, gloves etc, were fascinating.

It put a lot of things into perspective, seeing as South itself will be creating its own museum when the social club gets redeveloped. Are we going to go down the same route of every local club, just cramming everything into a bunch of trophy cabinets? Or are we going to use this opportunity to tell a story, both of our club and of the objects themselves?

Complaints
Call me petty, but I preferred the previous conference's location at Victoria University's Flinders Street campus, if only because the lecture theatres and clasrooms used actually had tables where someone could take notes properly. The notes I made on this conference suffer greatly in comparison to their predecessor, because about halfway through day two I just gave up trying to write on a notepad on my lap.

And while the aesthetics of looking over the MCG from the privileged areas of the MCC were pleasant enough, it reinforced the fact that these areas are off limits for the vast majority of the public. Which would be fine if it was during the cricket season, but the fact that access is also granted during the AFL season always strikes me as hypocritical. No doubt that there are bound to be those who have an MCC membership who will say that they have every right to have access to AFL matches. I'd hazard to guess that if AFL access was removed, we'd see a massive decline in the membership base of this so called 'cricket' club.

There was also a distinct lack of rugby league and union presentations, just one presentation between the two sports. Add to this the tunnel vision/myopia of some of the Australian rules papers, and it all got a bit too samey at times.

And finally, in no particular order of importance:
  • Powerpoint must die.
  • Flowcharts must die.
  • What's with trying to give us all this Western Bulldogs crap? And especially with trying to get conference attendants to contribute to the Western Bulldogs museum? I came here to see interesting papers, not for being bombarded with Bulldog propaganda.
  • The people who packed away the scones before half the people could get to them must die.

Positives
The good papers - the ones with new insights, those which overthrew old assumptions, and who were engaged with the questions of methodology - were worth the effort. Those attendees who were also willing to cross code boundaries made the experience worthwhile.

The next conference, scheduled for some time in 2014, will apparently be at least loosely based around the theme of soccer's 2015 Asian Cup, which Australia will of course be hosting. Expecting some really interesting papers then, especially in seeing what sort of 'Asians love Aussie Rules' propaganda pieces come out of it.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Case of the Mysterious Jersey

Do you know the story behind the jersey in this post?



Recently listed on Ebay, it has caused quite a stir among some South fans, mostly because no one can seem to remember when and why it was used.

And yet people claim that it seems familiar somehow. I don't have anything other half-educated guesses as to its origin.

The seven digit phone number on the back of the shirt gives it away as a pre-1998/99 artifact, but that doesn't get us very far.

My guess is that it's from the early 1990s, (perhaps circa 1992-1995 at the latest) for two reasons. One, because the use of the Vergina Sun image probably dates it to around the high point of passions about the Macedonian name issue. Secondly, 'healthy diet, try it' was a Victorian government health slogan/initiative from around that time also.

Yet one of our readers, via email correspondence, has suggested that perhaps it is a late 1980s artifact, because of the different type used for 'Marathon Foods' to that which was commonly seen. The vendor of the item was also interested but unable to provide any further detail as to the provenance of the jersey.

The lack of an NSL badge or apparel maker's mark suggests to me that it was at best a one off jersey. The sponsor on the back seems so minor, that it may have been a youth jersey, Dockerty Cup jersey, charity match jersey, or, and this is a longshot, a jersey from South Melbourne-Mordialloc, our state league offshoot.

The sponsor on the back, North Williamstown Body Works, seems to be still around, and operated by a Greek bloke as recently as 2010. Who's up for giving them a ring for us? We'd do it, but we suffer from a terrible phobia of calling people up.

Monday, 26 November 2012

SM Crisis 2012 - It's for your own good!

Great radio again last night.

After rocking up ten minutes late, and then spending another 10 minutes waffling on about the opening of a Greek migration exhibit, the 3XY sports guys finally got around to talking about South Melbourne Crisis 2012.

With the apparent resolution of the Toumbourou issue, there was interest from myself and some other South fans about how 3XY and Friends would report on the matter. And when they promised that they would open up the phone lines (for a massive 15 minutes) to take some calls live on air, they just about made my week.

Of course, one then had to sit through about an hour's worth of other guff, including:
  • A-League
  • Bentleigh Greens president (they signed Luke Sherbon)
  • Oakleigh's Aki Ionnas
  • Attempts to try and justify the comments that Elias Donoudis made in last Thursday's Neos Kosmos, which we discussed here.
  • George Karandonis talking about Greek soccer and what matches were going to be on television that night.
Karandonis and the hosts were all in agreement that the Greek Media Group's reporting was actually beneficial to South Melbourne, because South ended up sorting out their issue with Peter Toumbourou - even though the club had been trying to avoid court proceedings right from the start, and had been attempting to deal with this issue for over a year.

Now I would agree with their rationale of performing a public service, if the reporting on the recent issues was even half decent. But as we've seen throughout the duration of this scenario, the reporting was sloppy in its handling of facts and fueled by personal agendas against the current committee.

That kind of writing does no one any good, and harms the Greek Media Group's credibility in the event that they stumble across actual mismanagement or corruption at South Melbourne.

Talking about issues as if they are explosive revelations, when in fact some of these issues have been talked about for years, is just ridiculous. There was a sober, impartial way of going about this reporting, which they disregarded in favour of hysterical sub-tabloid theatrics.

Anyway, on to the much anticipated talk-back session. The first caller was one 'Theodoros', who started by saying that he was a South fan who didn't have access to online news sources, and was therefore reliant on newspaper and radio reporting for his information.

Theo then asked the hosts, very slowly and carefully, why no one from the sports show had talked to any South people (such as committee man George Triantos, who used to be the regular contact point, or head coach Peter Tsolakis) for a whole year, like they do with people from the other clubs.

The main host, Kostas Paterakis, tried to deflect this line of argument by saying he'd personally been away for most of that time, and besides, they still talked about South. But to his credit, Theo wasn't satisfied with that answer, and kept asking them to answer his specific question.

Eventually the host, sounding increasingly nervous during this exchange, backpedaled to the point where he admitted there were 'problems with personalities'. There was no elaboration about what those problems may have been, nor why personal issues between South committee members and 3XY would extend to Peter Tsolakis, who as far as I'm aware, has not been involved with any of the behind the scenes/off-field issues.

Theo's call turned out to be the only they took. 3XY claimed they were short on time, but promised to open up the lines again next week. In addition, they appeared to say that some South representative would be appearing on the show in a fortnight's time. We look forward to listening to both events.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

2012 Best and/or Fairest night

The 2012 Theo Marmaras Medal for best and fairest was another tie, with Luke Byles and Dimi Tsiaras taking home the honours. Tsiaras won the media team of the year (voted for by the best damn media crew in the world, and me I think, that is if they counted my votes). Shaun Kelly won the golden boot obviously.

The Sam Papasavas Award for long time service to the club was awarded to John Kyrou & Cindy Nitsos, two long time volunteers. Apparently it doesn't equate to being awarded life membership though. Go figure.

The board/committee members seemed quite chipper about overcoming their recent problems. I mean, sure they have reason to be happy with themselves, but all that backslapping made me a feel a bit queasy. Or maybe that was just the calamari.

The rest? Byles' Hawaiian shirt was a shocker. The food ranged from bland to OK, and the soft drinks were watered down to buggery. It was a given that I wouldn't like the DJ's choice of music, but did he also have to play it so loud and distorted? In other words, the usual gripes from me.

Friday, 23 November 2012

SM Crisis 2012 - Sandy Island Edition (with bonus whinge)

Ever heard of the island that didn't actually exist, and yet no one can quite figure out how it got onto maps?

For once a short and sharp media release.
South Melbourne FC advises that it has settled its dispute with Wellington Investments (Australia) Pty Ltd. Accordingly, the County Court Trial which was scheduled to commence in early December 2012 will now not proceed. The club will provide further information to its members in due course.
I suppose the members will find out in due course what this settlement actually means, and how it was brought about. No point in speculating until such time arrives, but if you, loyal reader, want to go for it, the comments page is there for your amusement.

It'll be interesting of course to see how the Greek Media Group goes about reporting this. We already know how Neos Kosmos feels - they don't care. And not because they don't think it's an issue - rather, because sports editor Elias Donoudis both claims not to have have any expertise on legal and financial matters, but also because South isn't important enough to talk about any more.

And not important in large part because according to him, we're not the real South Melbourne. The real South Melbourne was the one that was winning national championships. It was the South of Puskas, Anezakis, Papasavas and Vasilopoulos.

It's a gripe he has made frequently in his little Thursday column, perhaps most notably when some members of the post NSL committee (along with Paul Trimboli and Jimmy Armstrong, who still attend matches) attended the London ceremony where South was awarded the Oceania Club of the Century award.

Donoudis was appalled that Vasilopoulos and other assorted former committee members weren't representing Old South, instead of these charlatans who were pretending that Old South and New South were the same thing.

Frankly, it's a shit argument. The majority of people supporting South now would not be supporting it if they didn't feel it was a legitimate continuation of the old South. Legally, financially and historically, since we didn't go broke and start again, it is the same enterprise.

But what about socially? Well, there you may well have an argument, albeit a weak one. But just because most of our fans, as is their right, have abandoned ship in the post NSL era, it does not mean that those who stayed behind should also be required give up the more glorious parts of the South Melbourne story.

The successes - and failures - of South Melbourne Hellas do not belong to any one individual. They belong to the club. And as long there are even a smattering of recalcitrants who want to keep South Melbourne alive - and that includes all 53 years of our history, and whatever we can steal from before 1959 - then the club will continue, and so will we hope, a view of history that sees itself as part of a continuum.

If some of our former supporters want to assuage their guilt by coming up with the Old South/New South model, they can do that. But to those of us who are still here, it's offensive when they try and force that view on everyone else.

And really, I would like to see Donoudis try and tell Preston North End's supporters (for example) that their club has no relation to the one that won English league championships and FA Cups so long ago that most of their fan base has no recollection of them, that they are not the same club.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

SM Crisis 2012 - 37 Minutes of Sweet, Sweet, Lovin'

For those who missed it, last Sunday's 3XY Radio Hellas sports program once again covered the 'issues', but this time with a different approach.

Rather than focus on the issues at hand, they decided to have a go at defending themselves against the allegations made here, as well as shooting back at either the Greek Herald or one of the journos at Neos Kosmos.

It was hard for me to tell who exactly they were referring to, but they were pretty indignant all the same. The highlights of this portion of the show?
  • Claiming that they never open their lines for on air callers, which contradicted having the 40 year supporter/volunteer Argiri have his say the previous week, as if his opinion was the prevailing view or the only one worth having broadcast across Melbourne.
  • As has been noted by one of our readers, claiming they have limited air time, but then spending 37 minutes having a go at other news outlets and their journos.
  • Some amazing 'pot, kettle, black' moments about journalistic ethics, including about letting your sources write the story for you.
  • Claiming that they are no ones τσιρακια (minions), but not mentioning just whose τσιρακια they've been accused of being.
From where I stand, it was great radio, passionate, entertaining, and with a suprisingly good signal! Too bad the rest of it was almost entirely a snooze-fest, but what can you do? 

Monday, 19 November 2012

Mehmet Durakovic new Senior Technical Director

But what does a technical director actually do? Add your answers - both sensible and otherwise  - to the comments section, because I don't have a clue as to what such a position entails.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Mmm, that's some good sports rorting right here!

Firstly, this post is going to have some really bloody long sentences. I hope none of my students read this.

Secondly, I must declare that I am a Collingwood season ticket holder.

Thirdly, there's one thing that I really want to do, and that's get away from the topic du jour, so I can write about the recent Worlds of Football Conference hosted by Victoria University, even if the interest in that will only be a fraction of the recent goings on.

But that doesn't look like it's going to happen any time soon, especially when even the Herald Sun has decided to join the fray. And then in all likelihood, back to 3XY tomorrow...

Anyway, the article included in this blog entry is from this link, but due to the News Limited paywall, there's probably no point in clicking on it. The best to get around it is to Google the article, then visit their site from there, as for some reason that seems to get around it.

Insofar as 'smell the fear' articles go, this one I don't personally think is too bad, though who can definitively say who the dog whistling will reach?

It's biggest failing is in the details it is missing. One of these is the alleged (by rank and file athletics supporters) interference of the Collingwood triumvirate of Eddie McGuire (both Collingwood president and board member of Athletics Australia), John Brumby (then Victorian premier and noted Collingwood supporter) and Robin Fildes (former decathlete and Collingwood player, then of Athletics Victoria, now of Athletics Australia), to get the deal done for Collingwood's benefit.

While certainly understanding how such a view could be constructed, no one has ever found the smoking gun to definitely prove that there was collusion between these parties to force Athletics Victoria out of Olympic Park (and wouldn't there be fireworks if there was!).

I sympathise with the Victorian athletics community who wanted to stay there - it was their home and it had history that has been trampled on. Remembering also that Collingwood had left Victoria Park in a terrible state, and many Collingwood supporters are still very uncomfortable about having left at all. And while I'm not disappointed with the new facilities, which South supporter wouldn't have preferred to be playing at an upgraded Lakeside Stadium that was purpose built for soccer, as it was originally intended?

And at the same time, Olympic Park had had very little work done on it for about two decades. As crap as this situation is for many of the parties (except Collingwood for some reason), well at least athletics got some nice new facilities (they would never have received otherwise) and South gets to survive for another five minutes until we get sent broke by the ingrained mismanagement of the club, and the vultures - you know who you are - can swoop in and do what they've always wanted to do to us.

I am just so tired.

Here's some other things to take umbrage at:

  • It's not a building of a social club, it's a redevelopment of the social club. The social club is already there.
  • They've given money to upgrade the rest of Lakeside Stadium, so leaving our social club out of those plans would be kind of stupid.
  • The redeveloped social club will, it is hoped and planned for anyway, be able to provide an income independent of the government stipend, which will end eventually. 
  • The redevelopment money is apparently required to be used for football purposes, so the community, via the futsal court, will have access to it (as is the case with much of the rest of the facility).
  • Unlike Olympic Park, which will be for the exclusive use of Collingwood (as one would expect) the $50 million spent on the facility benefits three tenants and the community at large.
  • As has also been noted, it's a crappy headline, which ignore the huge state and federal grants given to Collingwood to redevelop Olympic Park, which dwarf what South is getting.
  • It also ignores the entirety of what South to give up in exchange for this apparently 'free' money. This included income derived from other parts of the stadium, as well a cut of our (now admittedly meager) gate takings.
  • A bit more detail on the details of the court case would be nice. The club have sent out media releases on the matter. The phrasing in the article makes us look a bit more shabby then we probably are.

And I'm glad that negotiations were viewed by the Labor Government as difficult. South had something they badly needed. Why wouldn't South do its homework in terms of ascertaining the worth of its lease, and then going for the jugular?

Taxpayers fund $4 million soccer deal as part of plan to give Collingwood Football Club control of Olympic Park
          By James Campbell
TAXPAYERS are shelling out almost $4.5 million to a Victorian Premier League soccer club under a secret deal agreed to by the Brumby government, as part of its plan to give the Collingwood Football Club exclusive control of Olympic Park. 
The payments - which run for 15 years and cost taxpayers up to $300,000 a year - were signed off by then sports minister James Merlino in return for South Melbourne FC, formerly known as Hellas, giving up its exclusive lease at the Bob Jane Stadium in South Melbourne.
When the deal was signed in 2009 the Brumby government was keen for a reluctant Athletics Victoria to move to the stadium so Olympic Park could be given to Collingwood.
The payments have come to light through documents filed in a court case that could see a receiver appointed to South Melbourne FC over a $120,000 loan it was given by supporters in 2004 and which it has never repaid.
The County Court will be asked next month to decide if South Melbourne FC is liable to repay Wellington Investments for the loan it was given at the time the club was in administration after failing to be admitted to the A-League.
The club told the court "the majority of its income, more than $300,000 per annum, is paid to it by the State Sport Centres Trust pursuant to a memorandum of understanding ... involving the Victorian State Government".
It also told the court it is "receiving the sum of $950,000 from the State Government" to build a social club within its exclusive space at the redeveloped Lakeside Oval.
Sources familiar with the deal said it requires the Government to pay the club $300,000 for five years and then $200,000 for another 10 years after that, in addition to the $950,000 for the redeveloped social club.
Club chairman Nick Galatas declined to discuss the court case, but said the money was fair and reasonable compensation for giving up its exclusive rights to the old Bob Jane Stadium.
He rejected suggestions that the club's lease on Bob Jane Stadium had been for a peppercorn rent.
"It wasn't a commercial rent, but it wasn't a dollar a year," he said.
Mr Merlino said the court case was an internal dispute within the soccer club.
"I hope it gets resolved for all the players and members of the public," he said.
He said Labor government negotiations with the club had been difficult.
"I'm proud of the transformation of sport in the City of Melbourne during the last term of our government,"he said. 
"Melbourne now has two world-class sporting precincts, where most cities in the world would be lucky to have one."
A spokeswoman for incumbent Sports Minister Hugh Delahunty confirmed the existence of the deal but declined to comment, citing commercial-in-confidence.

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.

Friday, 16 November 2012

SM Hellas Crisis 2012 - Stathi Rombotis

Here's a very interesting article which popped up in the Greek Herald/Ellinikos Kirikas, Sydney's Greek paper.


For those who can't read or understand Greek, the basic story is this,

Basically this South supporter, Stathi Rombotis is saying, that after seeing all the mud thrown at South by 'the few, thankfully', he tried calling 3XY during their radio show, to be given air time like other people had been given. He claims he was told by one of the hosts, Kostas Paterakis, that he would only be dealt with off air.

When Rombotis asked why, he claims Patarakis gave him the impression that he didn't want to hear the voice of South Melbourne on the air. So Rombotis finishes off by now asking, why hadn't they (3XY Radio Hellas) talked about South for a whole year? Why are they so scared of letting Rombotis have his opinion heard on air like other callers?

Good questions, Stathi. I wonder what the answers will be.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Worlds of Football Conference begins tonight

Really looking forward to this, partly because I'll be presenting my first ever academic paper on Australian soccer in literature, and soccer in Australian literature.


This will be the second time Victorian University is hosting its Worlds of Football Conference. Last time was back in 2010. It's meant to cover all football codes, but I'm most interested in the soccer articles. Here are my notes from the previous conference.

This year's program looks reasonably promising, Dr Kevin Moore from the National Football Museum in England is giving the keynote address tonight at the MCG.

Les Street will be giving a paper based on his masters thesis on NSL venues, with the paper focusing on Sydney venues. Sadly, he's scheduled to be directly against my paper - I was looking forward to his presentation the most.

Chris Egan is giving a paper on the founding of Perth Glory - it's part of his efforts to write a book on the first 15 years of Perth Glory.


Some of the other Aussie soccer papers:
  • Francesco Ricatti, University of the Sunshine Coast, and Matthew Klugman, Victoria University ‘“Connected to Something”: Soccer as a Site of Transnational Passions, Memories, and Communities forItalian Migrants’
  • Ian Syson, Victoria University, ‘The Calm and the Storm: Soccer Reporting in Melbourne, 1908-14’
  • Roy Hay, Sports and Editorial Services Australia, and Les Murray, SBS Sport, ‘Proving a Negative in History: The Non-Appearance of the Hungarian Football Team at the Melbourne Olympic Games in 1956’
  • Trevor Ruddell, MCC Library, David Studham, MCC Library, and Helen Walpole, National Sports Museum ‘Representing a Divided Australia: Uniforms of Australia’s National Football Teams
In terms of non-Australian content the details are as follows:
  • Peter Ochieng, Victoria University, ‘Rule of Three: How Resources Separate Winners from Losers at the Africa Cup of Nations’
  • Brian Moroney, Victoria University ‘The UltraS of Italian Football: A Justified Violence?’
Les Murray will also be on a panel session on 'the future of football', with Steven Alomes, which I know Syson is really looking forward to. Melbourne Heart's Scott Munn will be on a panel discussing 'football in the West'.

I'll be providing a rundown after the conference of how everything went.

Monday, 12 November 2012

3XY Radio Hellas stick to its guns...

... and fires a few more shots across the South Melbourne bow.

Last night's sports program on 3XY Radio Hellas was some of the most incredible radio I've ever heard. Among the many feelings the program evoked were fascination, disbelief and incredulity. It was also often an unnerving listening experience. The stakes have been raised.

Throughout the extraordinarily lengthy coverage given to the issues covered in the Ta Nea's recent articles - I would hazard that at least 70-80 minutes of their alloted 130 minutes was spent on the matter - there was the constant and very defensive catchcry about the lack of a personal agenda in pursuing these matters.

What was particularly mind boggling to them (and to me, although for different reasons) is the way that the Ta Nea articles have created a sense of panic among South's supporter base. They're confused because they believe they are reporting the truth - however I'm confused as to why they're confused about the panic that's spread which is an inevitable result of the articles they've written.

The great swathe of South supporting family, for better or worse, relies on either the South official site or the local Greek press for its information. The former has been near silent on the issues as covered by Ta Nea, excluding whatever material they've published before. The latter saw a chance for some cheap thrills, and have run with it.

The net effect? People brought up in a culture where corruption from authority figures is seen as de rigueur - indeed those who are not corrupt are as σουρδοι, a word from Kozani meaning naive, innocent, with an unusual negative attachment to it - buying into these conspiracies.

One major breakthrough is that the Greek Media Group, in one of its guises, finally put names to the disaffected former committee members. These are now confirmed to be George Koukoulas, Lucky Chrisomalidis and Tom Karatzas.

Among the other claims that the program made either directly or indirectly:
  • That the club disrespected the two people who loaned the club money back in 2004, Chris Christopher and Tony Toumbourou.
  • That the club has disrespected former president Leo Anezakis and his family.
  • That the club was being run like a dictatorship.
  • That anyone who agreed with the board is a sycophant. 
Prominent longtime supporter George Karantonis (who also hosts a Greek sports radio show on community radio station Southern FM) was also on the show. Karantonis is a regular contributor to the 3XY sports program. He complained about:
  • The fact that South no longer controls Lakeside.
  • The $2.50 Ticketmaster ticket surcharge on games at Lakeside.
  • That South is the only club not working with the other clubs to, I assume, oppose the NCR reforms (an approach other supporters are also concerned with).
  • Treatment of life members (one of his favourite causes)
  • Regarding the $300,000 annual government stipend (I suppose about it not being used correctly), acting as if it that money is clear profit.
  • About the changes to the junior academy, berating both the costs, while claiming that the club will pocket about $30,000 profit from the program.
  • Smoking bans inside the stadium on match days (though he was corrected by one of the hosts, who mentioned that this is no different to AAMI Park or the MCG)
Another longtime supporter and volunteer, named Argiri, was also given time to air his grievances. His main complaint was that the club's plans for the social club would be disastrous, having being attempted before under previous administrations with no success. This was the same position he took at the meeting where the club's plans for the social club were detailed - for details of that meeting, see this post.

There was no mention however, that rightly or wrongly, most of the supporters in attendance were supportive of the club's direction on this matter. The way the matter was presented on the show was thus incredibly skewed toward Argiri's (and George Koukoulas') minority position.

Equally, when they had asked people to call in, the reaction to those callers (all off air) that seemed to criticise the Greek Media Group's approach was noticeably hostile. If this is the 'Greek community's team' (a laughable and long outdated notion), surely those who support the current committee have just as much right right to have their views heard fairly as do the naysayers?

The presenters and contributors also asked what the board have achieved in the past seven years. The focus was often on on field results, and well, who hasn't been annoyed by them? Equally they could ask their frequent guest Aki Ioannas of Oakleigh what they've achieved in the same time period. Or any of the big spending clubs who haven't managed to snare a title.

If we're talking about off-field issues though, well, including those persons who are now on the outer, the board has actually done a pretty decent job of keeping the whole thing afloat for as long as they have, to the point where it seems we've turned things around and are ready to build again instead of just survive.

What's odd though, is that despite all the problems and mistakes the club has made over the past seven years, and all the enemies and enmities that they've racked up, that not one of those three aforementioned persons, who have spent varying amounts of time on the committee since the end of the NSL, are apportioned any of the blame for these failures.

I Hope You Guys Know What You're Doing Department
The relative silence on all these issues being undertaken by the club is intriguing, and not without risk. By not responding, they're obviously taking the chance that the momentum of this anti-committee campaign will eventually run out. Combine that with a belief that the proof will be in the pudding - Toumbourou's sons dealt with, social club and lease sorted, balance sheets in the black - and the hope that news of these possible successes will filter through to the hoi polloi.

Mud sticks. But I suppose getting dragged into a street fight isn't worthwhile either - you end up lowering yourself to the level of those making vague accusations, hiding behind phony anonymity, and you lose anyway. And what chance is there of actually changing people's opinions, when people would rather believe the worst?

The notion that 3XY/Ta Nea has offered an opportunity to the board to tell their side of their story, and that they've knocked it back, won't play well in the sticks. But if the board wants to stick to their approach, especially after reportedly being black banned from the program for about a year anyway, that's their prerogative.

Here's hoping that it all goes to plan.

Ephemera
Also interesting was later on they had a representative from Bentleigh Greens on the show, who was at a loss to explain the poor crowds his team got in 2012 despite playing well, making finals etc. He seemed to put the blame squarely on Joe Public (and in my mind, not necessarily without good reason), but I couldn't think of why the hosts let him get off so easily for making that call, and especially how $12 was not expensive in terms of ticket prices, when earlier assertions were made that South's current committee were to blame for poor attendances since the end of the NSL, and that the Ticketmaster surcharge, which the club does not control nor receive, was somehow excessive.

Lastly, Hellenic Cup committee chairperson/president (and a 'χωριανό' of my dad) Jim Massis stated that the Hellenic Cup would not be held next year, as the organising committee had not received any expressions of interest to host the event. He appeared to apportion blame towards the restructure of the league system, rather address the issue of host clubs not making any money from the competition. Is this the end of the tournament? Wait and see I guess.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

FFV CEO Mark Rendell Departs FFV

Some of our readers may have seen the 'Lawn Bowls Rendell Bows Out' article that I wrote for Goal Weekly. For the rest of you, here's the article in question, with one minor addition.


Mark Rendell's resignation as Football Federation Victoria CEO couldn't have come at a more crucial time, amid the biggest proposed reforms in Victorian soccer seen in decades. With Rendell hosting National Competitions Review information sessions as recently as mid-September, his sudden exit has caused much speculation as to the reasons for his resignation.

The fate of the NCR, as it was to be enacted in Victoria, could now be in limbo. The FFV, and Rendell in particular, were adamant that they would not baulk from the process. Yet many of the state's leading clubs are strongly opposed to the reforms. While four or five clubs are rumoured to be working with the FFV, only South Melbourne has come out and openly stated its intention to engage with the process with any sort of enthusiasm.

Coming across from Bowls Australia, where he had spent 11 years as either a director or CEO, Rendell was always on a hiding to nothing, especially from the game's conservative male soccer factions. Within days of his hiring he had been dubbed 'Mr Lawn Bowls', a nickname that stuck.

Rendell's experience in lawn bowls seemed to inform his approach at the FFV, with an emphasis on expanding participation, especially in womens soccer. This focus on female soccer, while worthy, received criticism from some quarters as bordering on the obsessive. Many of those complainants also felt that the FFV's promotion of the Victory and Heart (but especially the former) saw little in the way of value returned. They argued that it wasn't the FFV's job to promote private businesses, especially with a limited budget to use on its own concerns.

But for all the criticism leveled at Rendell and the FFV on their lack of interest in elite senior men's soccer, there were attempts to try and revive interest in the VPL. The grand final was played at AAMI Park, this year in conjunction with an A-League match. Last year saw the return of cup football for the first time since 2004, though interest seemed to fall significantly this season, amid complaints about costs and poor organisation. The FFV also ran weekly live VPL matches on the internet, though some wondered if that money wouldn't have been better spent on other media ventures.

There was also the attempt at creating a player development structure independent of clubs, who were perceived to be exploiting junior players in order to pay senior player wages. Rendell was thus an advocate of weakening the control that clubs had over the game, a system of governance in place since the early 1960s. Reforms which sought to grant more power to the majority of ordinary participants – players and parents - were enacted via forced changes to club constitutions and the creation of the zone system. Others, though, felt that the net effect of the zone system was to place different mouths at the same trough, with the majority of the game's participants still more or less powerless.

The FFV also sought to reconnect country soccer to the metropolitan system. In addition to absorbing regional federations under its own banner, the FFV also attempted to bring in the Victorian Champions League, a zone based summer league for all age groups.

However, the VCL senior men's competition never got started, and soon enough its senior women's counterpart fell over as well. There were complaints about travel; about the same sorts of biases being involved in selections; about making kids play throughout the entire year; about forcing junior players to play in the VCL if they wanted state selection. Still, there were those who looked forward to the VCL season, and it created a bridge between country and city soccer.

The FFV also got rid of the Super League system, often characterised by its constituents as a flawed but fixable system. The dissolution of the Super League system was widely panned by people involved at junior level. Mismatches became more frequent, diminishing the social experience of weaker players, while reducing the amount of high level competition faced by more talented players.

During Rendell's tenure, the FFV found itself in court against two of its clubs, Whittlesea Zebras and South Melbourne. Both times the FFV lost – the Zebras' court case in particular, in which the FFV was involved in turfing the Zebras out of Epping Stadium, seriously damaged the FFV's reputation among its constituents. The financial costs were also substantial.

There was also an emphasis on stamping out poor behaviour on and off the field. While docked points were used, the main deterrents used were fines. Several clubs were punished with five figure amounts – difficult enough for teams at the top of the league pyramid to deal with – all but impossible for clubs at the bottom. The FFV claimed that its zero tolerance approach was working, while others wondered if punishing clubs instead of the individuals responsible was the right way to go.

The move to the St Kilda Road headquarters also created discord. It hadn't been so long since the FFV had moved to the Darebin International Sports Centre – now it was moving again, and this time away from its grounds at DISC.

The Knox Regional Football Centre was unveiled this year with much fanfare, but there are allegations that proper due diligence was not performed, and that the facility is bleeding money.

There have also been criticisms of the service that the FFV provides. The switch to the new results system (albeit due in large part to an FFA initiative) started off clunky and is still not seen as satisfactory by many of the game's constituents. In an era when a young Victorian cricketer can trace their statistics across every year of their career, the inability of the FFV to even have correct best and fairest vote tallies is inexcusable.

Whether sourced from within the game or outside of it, the new CEO has their work cut out for them. Among their tasks will be contending with the factional fighting and self-interest which Rendell was not able to stamp out. They'll have to quickly come to grips with the NCR reforms, whose final blueprint is due in January 2013.

They'll be in charge of a large and unwieldy organisation that appears to have high staff turnover, and a reputation of not delivering quality outcomes for its constituency. And perhaps hardest of all, they'll have to find ways of making the game more affordable for participants, as the costs of playing soccer in Victoria continue to rise.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

More on Ta Nea's South Melbourne 2012 Crisis

Following last week's article on the Wellington Investments loan debt, Ta Nea has followed it up with another piece on what they're calling an 'exclusive exposé on the South Melbourne Football Club'.

Now I'd put up a scan of this latest article as was done for the previous effort, but I couldn't come up with an image capture that I felt was of adequate quality. In other words, it was too pixelated and grainy and stuff.

This time the article starts off with a justification being made as to why they're reporting on this issue, with a heady dose of emotion thrown in. I'm not too fond of the emotional blackmail attempt, because as a news service they have every right to report on South Melbourne or any other issue they want to.

As with last week, they list a series of issues or questions they believe the club needs to answer, this week using a numbering system as opposed to the infamous letter based method which saw 'point c' fail to show up (or point γ for γαμώτο as recently tweeted by Athas Zafiris).

The first point covers much the same ground as the first point covered in last week's article - namely, the status of the Lakeside lease, and why the final papers haven't been signed yet. Which is odd because South president Leo Athanasakis addressed that issue in the Neos Kosmos article, which only came into being because of Ta Nea's original article.

What's strange is that later on in in this week's Ta Nea article, there is reference made to the aforementioned Neos Kosmos article, but more on that later.

I'm not sure if this is deliberate misinformation or just poor wording, but they also write that South relinquished Lakeside Stadium, when in fact South relinquished the remaining six or so years of its exclusive lease - lest there be any confusion on the matter, South never owned Lakeside or any portion of it.

The second question is an intriguing one - 'are there any disgruntled suppliers of the club?'. I would have loved to seen some elaboration on this question from Ta Nea, but alas, the question just dangles there, only partially formed.

Their third point asks why SMFC does not contribute financially to the South Melbourne Women's FC. If I had to answer that, I'd probably say it's because the two clubs are separate entities, who are still (reportedly, anyway, though progress has been so slow as to make you wonder), trying to reach agreement as to how to move forward, hopefully under the same umbrella. I was under the assumption that this was fairly widely known. I wonder if SMWFC were asked to comment on this article?

Question four is more or less a repeat of last week's point 'd', asking where the $30,000 a month received from the government is going. Mismanagement is certainly being implied here, but nothing specific is detailed, and I really wish there had been. This kind of vague writing does no service to the issues, nor to Ta Nea. What's worse, if the implied mismanagement allegations are not true, will they be corrected in a prominent manner?

Question five actually tackles the issue of the juniors revamp in a relatively half decent manner. The price hike is quite significant, and it means that there will be talented players for whom South Melbourne will not be an option. One wonders though, again, how much research Ta Nea conducted on this matter? Did they attend the club's info night? Did they read my report of that info night?

Which brings us back to the Neos Kosmos article and the issue of the club's lease. One detail not brought up by either Neos Kosmos, or Ta Nea in its two articles, is the apparently imminent beginning of South's social club redevelopment, which will be entirely funded (at least according to the board) by a government grant of about $900,000. If the lease was on such thin ice, wouldn't it be worth reporting on that matter also? Or is it only access to the Lakeside Stadium playing field that is in doubt?

Now, I'm all for the protection of journalistic sources, and especially of corporate or government whistle-blowers, who need the protection of anonymity. But when Ta Nea identifies the positions that their sources have held at South, the anonymity of these sources is pointless, and only hurts the credibility of their reporting. Also problematic is that once again, there is a lack of a byline on the article.

I'm also interested in Ta Nea's sudden interest in the decline in South's membership numbers and attendance at AGMs. Again, if they had done even the most basic research, they would find two very obvious reasons for this. In terms of South's AGM numbers, since attendance is open only to social club members and life members, and not to season ticket holders, naturally there will a lower turnout for these things.

Is it the right approach? I'm not so sure. I think season ticket holders should be allowed to attend, though they should be barred from voting on matters relating to South Melbourne Hellas Soccer Club, which is the umbrella group which runs everything else. Melbourne Knights reportedly allow all of its members or season ticket holders to attend their AGM. But our arrangement is not unusual. Melbourne based AFL clubs use much the same system as we do.

In terms of membership numbers, blaming this board (or any board, for that matter) for that is ludicrous. I'd ask them to name just one sporting team in Australia, that's fallen permanently from the top tier, who have retained a significant amount of their top tier supporter base. Their assertions early on in the article, about the community supporting the club through the glory days of the 1970s, 90s etc, somehow fail to mention the lack of support the community has given to the club since the club returned to the VPL

When someone claims to be conducting an exposé, I want something substantial, something that will genuinely uncover gross incompetence or corruption. These articles have done neither. Frankly, half-arsed reporting like Ta Nea's recent articles belongs on blogs, not in the 'legitimate press'.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Ta Nea, Toumbourou and the administration legacy - UPDATED

Some people may not be aware that when the club went into administration back in 2004, one of the ways we avoided going under was due to a loan by Messrs Christopher and Toumbourou.

The nature of that loan has been subject to some conjecture over the years. While we're not going to speculate on the exact details - because at this blog, we don't know what they are - the general perception (rightly or wrongly) among those who know of this loan have seen it as a non-interest loan, to be payed back when the club got back on its feet.

Seeing as the club has seldom if ever made a profit in its 53 year existence, even in the good old days, the debt has hung over the club like a sword of Damocles. This loan debt has been mentioned at every AGM I've been to since 2006. I'm not able to recall the exact figure of the debt, but an amount of $120,000 gets thrown around a bit.

Despite being donated by two individuals, the debt was consolidated under the company name Wellington Investments. It now appears that one of the parties who made the loan, the son of Mr Toumbourou, has asked for the debt to be repaid.

It is my understanding that there are disagreements about the nature of the loan between the club and Mr Toumbourou's son, and that thus far, mediation has failed to resolve the issue. Mediation attempts are apparently still being made, but failing that, the two parties may be heading to court in December.

All of this has not been helped by the following article published in Ta Nea last Wednesday:



Now I have no qualms with any media outlet reporting on this issue, but this is such a terrible article on so many levels.
  • Who wrote the article (the byline is not visible on this version)?
  • What's with the poor expression found in the article (though goodness knows how many times we've been guilty of that)?
  • Which VPL clubs operate on a budget of $150,000 to $200,000?
  • The predictably uninformed understanding of the club's deal with the government, especially when it comes to the $300,000 annual renumeration figure.
  • The vague allegations of the club being 'in strife'. What does that mean exactly?
  • Why not name the two 'disappointed businessmen'? If their motive for the imminent return of their money has been the poor management of the club, why have they not made their concerns public at an AGM?
  • Whether one agrees with it or not, the issue with the $3,500 charge for juniors has been well covered, so I'm not sure what rumours they are referring to.
  • Where is point 'c'?
There are also bound to be insinuations made from our supporters about the fact that this was published in a Greek Media Group publication, which also owns and operates Greek community radio station 3XY Radio Hellas. Owned by Melbourne Victory shareholder Harry Stamoulis, people will see this as another part of the conspiracy against South Melbourne.

It does not matter whether it is a personal or institutional crusade against the club, but when added to previous behaviour from that organisation - reputedly being blackballed from 3XY Radio Hellas' sports program, the lack of coverage of Melbourne Heart in Ta Nea, Stamoulis affiliations with disgruntled former supporters/sponsors etc - it does not paint a pretty picture.

The club responded to the article with this media release, the entirety of which follows:

South Melbourne FC wishes to inform its members, supporters and sponsors that the article titled, “Sth Melbourne F.C. Appearing in court in November”, which appeared in The News Weekly section of the Ta Nea newspaper contains numerous inaccurate statements.
Preparations to enter into the agreements for the Club’s long-term use and occupation of Lakeside Stadium following the Memorandum of Understanding the Club entered into with the State Government are progressing as scheduled.
The Club is in a sound financial position and will publish its financial accounts prior to the end of the year in accordance with its long-standing practice.
Whilst the Club has been sued by Wellington Investments, the company previously operated by club benefactors Messrs Tony Toumbourou and Chris Christopher and run by Mr Toumbourou’s sons, the Club does not wish to comment on the detail of the case. It wishes to note only that the claim relates to a time when the club was placed into administration following the disbandment of the National Soccer League. The Club is protecting its rights and those of its members in the course of the litigation. On a more serious note, the Club is unfortunately forced to investigate its legal options in respect of this error – riddled and misleading article in order to protect its well - earned good reputation within the community.
More positively, mention is also made in the article of the Club’s junior program of which the Club is very proud. All places in its Youth Development Program have been filled for next season and the Club looks forward to the development of its future stars.
For all media enquiries, please contact Nick Galatas on admin@smfc.com.au

It's a confident response, and from what I can gather, the club seems more confident of winning this battle (should it go to court) than our previous court date with the FFV from 2010 (which of course predictably won the battle, though not the war). Me, I'm never confident when it comes to court cases, especially with the sort of hubris our club is prone to suffering from.

It'll also be interesting to see how Ta Nea's rival Neos Kosmos deals with the story. There may have been something in their English language supplement last Saturday, but it's not online yet, so we can't gauge their angle. Whatever happens though, we at South of the Border will try and keep up to date with this issue, possible court dates and speculative potentially libelous innuendo included.

UPDATE - NEOS KOSMOS JOINS THE FRAY
It appears that Neos Kosmos have decided to get in on the act. Here is their article on the matter.

A prominent Melbourne businessman is taking South Melbourne FC to court over a loan secured in 2004. It is alleged the terms of the loan included time limits and a debenture charge over the assets of the club, and they have since been breached.
The money, he claims, is in excess of two-hundred thousand dollars. Although negotiations for repayment had started several years ago, they have since soured and there is current legal action afoot. The club has been a flag bearer for Hellenism in Melbourne and Australia in general and now finds itself on the brink of receivership, should the court action prove successful. 
Further, it is understood that the club entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the State Government of Victoria in 2009 where the club received payments in excess of $25,000 per month. This MOU facilitated the creation of a lease, ensuring the long term tenure at Lakeside Oval. To this date, it is understood, that this lease has not been executed by all sides. 
All of which the club categorically denies. Leo Athanasakis, the club's president, assures that the club is in no economic strife. "The Club is in a sound financial position and will publish its financial accounts prior to the end of the year in accordance with its long standing practice," he said. 
"The club has no debt other than this liability now to him. The club owes nothing to players, owes nothing to other creditors." In fact, he says, the club will be "declaring a profit of close to $150,000". The president explains the delay is normal, with most sporting clubs waiting six months for the government's approval. 
"The Lease has now been signed six months ago and it's currently within parliament as the process dictates with other leases that involve crown land. It happens with bowling clubs, tennis clubs or any other club that signs a lease with the government, they go through the same process and they all take about six months before they come back. 
"So it has been signed by South Melbourne and the government and they go through parliamentary process, red tape in other words," he says. 
The club will also be seeking legal advice over what he calls "riddled and misleading" article published in Ta Nea. The article only uses unnamed callers to back up its claims the club is in financial turmoil and blames the club of unfairly raising the cost of subscription for juniors to $3,500. The subscription, the president says, is not for juniors, but is a highly intensive training regiment for 14-21 year-olds. 
The program has already sold out, offers 5 days training a week and has full time staff outside of the normal teams.

Like the Ta Nea article, there is no byline. Also like the Ta Nea article, it does not name the businessmen involved who are seeking to take South Melbourne to court. It is also concerning or intriguing depending on your point of view, to see such wildly different numbers being talked about in terms of the loan. Ta Nea says $120,000; Neos Kosmos says in excess of $200,000.

At least the article goes to the trouble of further investigating some of the claims made in the Ta Nea article. It elaborates on the juniors situation, and goes into some detail about the Memorandum of Understanding with the government on our lease arrangement.

Lastly, for now, I'm interested to see the claim made by Athanasakis that this is the last remaining debt that the club has on its books. If true, that'd be a pretty good turnaround in such a relatively short space of time.