This is, first of all, an election year. It is the first election year since the club, partly due to the FFV enforced constitutional changes, and partly due to its own maneuvering, has opened the suffrage up to so many people. After we had been promised that the social club wing of the club - the part that controls all the other parts - would remain solely at the mercy of social club members, it appears as if everyone who is a member of the club, including mere season ticket holders of South Melbourne FC, will be able to have their say.
There are always rumblings about people perhaps challenging this committee, which in one form or another has been the only committee to run for office since the end of the NSL. But each time an election comes around, no one else puts their hand up. Whatever my thoughts are on this current committee - and they are admittedly generally favourable from my end - it has always been my contention that the failure of rival tickets to emerge is a damaging prospect for the club long term.
Firstly, the lack of a rival ticket indicates that on the surface at least, there are few other qualified groups looking to take over this club. That may or may not be true, but it's not a good look. Secondly, the lack of a rival ticket gives a certain carte blanche to the current committee. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, even if a hypothetical rival ticket's proposed policies and agendas are backward, conservative, unfeasible, or (Zeus forbid) couched in the rhetoric of 'need more Greeks', at least it would provide a contrast to the agenda of the current committee.
The Lease/The Social Club/Exclusivity
The big item of course is the lease. Four years on from signing the Memorandum of Understanding, two years since we moved back into Lakeside, and we still haven't locked everything away for keeps. Still no social club, no 40 year lease, no football exclusivity, at least in practice. After being promised back in January 2013 that a deal was close, then again in July 2013 that we were a couple of months away from sealing the deal, here we are still waiting.
This is not meant to be an attack on the committee, because I'm sure they're hurting as much, if not more than us, being at the coalface of the matter on a daily basis. In the July meeting, the situation was explained quite clearly, that there were four agreements, and that they all needed to be signed simultaneously. The issue has become messier now, because the State Sports Centre Trust is clearly disrespecting the arrangement that we are supposed to have.
The lack of a social club is one thing. The Trust allegedly going behind our backs and letting A-League franchises use the venue without our permission is quite another. Unlike some South fans, I'm not averse to letting the A-League use the venue for women's and youth games. Apart from the direct income we'd get from their hiring, when the social was supposed to be up and going, there'd be another source of income coming in on a non-South match day. That, and if we didn't let them use the ground, some other club would make the most of the opportunity to make some money. And it's not like we haven't had those teams use the venue in the past.
But it has to be on our terms. If this is a big game of chicken that the Trust is playing to see if we'll blink and take them to court to sort out these matters once and for all, then I hope that we do. If the club is confident in its case, then they should go for it - of course how many legal cases can we take on at once is an issue we must also consider. If Athletics Victoria is also being treated poorly, we should seek to find a way to work with them to take on the Trust. If the Trust is also not treating its other tenants with respect - remembering that it also controls venues such as the State Netball and Hockey Centre - then we should endeavour to work with those groups as well.
There were four or so big ticket items within the lease. The guaranteed income, the football exclusivity, the social club and the 40 year lease. This is what was offered to the club by the government. This is what the club and its members agreed to. This is the least what we expect out of the situation. After finally securing that deal, then we have to work on making Lakeside feel like our home ground. The social club will be a big part of that - but externally, there must also be signs that we belong there, that it is our turf. And again, there should be ways of working with Athletics Victoria so they can make the venue feel like their home as well.
For the record, my mail is that the final sticking point is the lease. Everything else is apparently ready to go, but as we are no doubt aware, leases on Crown land are set at a 21 year limit - thus this government or the Trust trying to weasel their way out of the deal. There has already been pressure put on Hugh Delahunty, the Minister for Sport, and Matthew Guy, the Minister for Planning, by a range of organisations. Whether the situation has deteriorated since then, I guess we'll find out this week.
Lest we forget that we are still in the middle of this process. After supposedly being 'in the tent' with the FFV, then out of the tent and now leading the charge against them, it'd be nice to have further clarification on what's going on. Is the 60 odd club co-signatory group going to be happy if the scenario eventuates where South and a handful of other clubs, happy with what they've managed to wrangle out of the NPL deal, break away? What will be the consequences and costs of going to the Supreme Court? Are (us and the rest of the co-signatory group) going to follow through with the threats of not handing over affiliation fees to the FFV? And can we get a stright answer on what's going on with the supposed dealing with the FFA?
Underneath the big ticket items, there have been significant changes to the way the junior wing of the club will operate. After reforming the junior wing, seemingly getting rid of the influence of the old Caulfield mob (unless I'm reading that completely wrong) and attempting to prepare for a tilt at the NPL as the FFV was going to run it, we've now changed things a fair bit. Coaches have gone. The lower level age groups will have more teams added, costs to players will be reduced, and the higher age groups won't have to pay a cent. There would be some who, not without reason, will see this as a cynical ploy of getting money from younger players to fund the higher age groups - unless of course these younger players are given priority over potential imports from other clubs...
Then there's other issues which need to be clarified. The team of course. What news there? What's going on with our A-League ambitions, if they still exist? Have we given up the ghost on ever reconciling with the women's team? Is it coincidental that their most successful period on field at least has come after they've officially split from us? And what the hell happened with this?
What I'm hoping for this week
- Proper meeting attendance/roll call taken. If you're not a member, you shouldn't be allowed in.
- Good questions from a variety of people.
- No putting down of new members, just because they're new.
- From new members, respect for the emotional attachment for the club held by the long term supporters.
- No shutting down of sensible debates. We need enough time to discuss the matters concerning our club. Yes, people get tired at these things, and yes, the debates can often drag on, but winding things up quickly for no good reason does no one any good.
- No disregarding the concerns of our supporters with a 'she'll be right' attitude.
- Respect for other members, even if you disagree with their point of view.
- People coming up with solutions, as opposed to just complaints. I know I don't have the best track record on this front - but there must be something that we as members can do to help. The committee does a lot of the day to day work, it's true. But the committee alone are not the club - the members as a whole are the club. Isn't this what we keep bragging about as the difference between ourselves and the franchises?