our efforts are like those of the Trojans.
We just begin to get somewhere,
gain a little confidence,
grow almost bold and hopeful,
when something always comes up to stop us:
Achilles leaps out of the trench in front of us
and terrifies us with his violent shouting.
Our efforts are like those of the Trojans.
We think we’ll change our luck
by being resolute and daring,
so we move outside ready to fight.
But when the great crisis comes,
our boldness and resolution vanish;
our spirit falters, paralyzed,
and we scurry around the walls
trying to save ourselves by running away.
Yet we’re sure to fail. Up there,
high on the walls, the dirge has already begun.
They’re mourning the memory, the aura of our days.
Priam and Hecuba mourn for us bitterly.
CP Cavafy, Trojans, translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard
Relax - can't you see how eerily calm it is?
So, it appears as if the lull in proceedings following last year's FFA intervention, and the subsequent dropping of the court proceedings by the Coalition of the Non-Willing, was truly just the eye of the storm.
As the silence surrounding the NPL extended into February - with the exception of a few recalcitrants who were either warning of the doom yet to come or calling the coalition figureheads and their clubs sell outs - the only certain thing was uncertainty.
Then, backed by a smattering of facts, the rumours started flowing in. The facts were that 37 entities had applied. Though not everyone showed their hand, they ranged from the usual VPL and previously already committed suspects to smaller and, on the face of it at least, more dubious entities.
Me, I'm not ashamed to admit that I scoffed when I saw Avondale Heights (among others) noting their intention to apply. That's not a slur on that club, because doubtless they've done good things there in recent times. But all the usual questions of grounds and money and everything else made it hard for me to take their fast-forwarded ambitions seriously.
And besides, even though the criteria is not as stringent as it was under the FFV's original plan, surely it would still be too high for most of the entities putting their name forward? And isn't that what the independent selection panel is there for? And surely the FFV would want to limit the amount of teams to make it a truly 'elite' competition? We'll come back to those points later.
There is nothing more to buy and no monthly fees of any kind. Call now, seats are limited!
And then yesterday, as the FFV starting informing teams of the success (or otherwise - there was no word from the latter) of their application ahead of today's major announcement, it seemed like nearly everyone who applied managed to get in.
Rather than the 'elite' league this was supposed to become - whatever 'elite' means to you, and whether you take that concept as it exists here even half seriously - the kinds and numbers of teams claiming that they are in is sending this process to even greater depths of incompetence.
Rather than a select group of fully funded, venue compliant organisations making the grade, the FFV has shown its process to be akin to a property investment seminar or, even worse, some sort of timeshare company peddling an exaggerated offer of a lifetime, and I'm starting to wonder, did most of the applicants only rock up because they thought they were getting a free lunch?
|The FFV website earlier today. Picture stolen from the Football Chaos twitter feed.|
During the silence, speculation grew and mutated accordingly, ramping up in the last couple of days to fever pitch. These guys are in. These guys are out. These guys didn't bid. This is how it's going to be. Thirty clubs in one division where everyone plays each other once, like an apertura with no clausura. Two divisions split into south/east and north/west. No Melbourne Knights, but every other Croatian club worth its salt, in. Clubs turning on each other. Furious text messages coming through, including one where the FFV are portrayed as the limbless Black Knight from Monty Python's Quest For the Holy Grail, incapacitated but fighting on regardless.
And like the infamous Garcin, Inès and Estelle of No Exit, we followers of Victorian soccer surrendered to the panic of this Second Empire furniture filled hell, by torturing each other with manipulative remarks, while assuming that the real torture is yet to come. L'enfer c'est les autres and all that, and while I'm not saying Sartre doesn't make a good point, but his vision of hell is limited compared to the Tartarus we live in.
Anyway, as for me today, I talked about lunch (Lebanese pizza with shanklish and tomato), and pleaded with the FFV that if they hurried up, I wouldn't post something so hysterical (then reminds himself that lying makes baby Jesus cry). I also picked up a smattering of new Twitter follows, which is nice. Welcome aboard fellow travellers. Even the Federation Starship USS Voyager had more of an idea of where it was and where it was going.
What we've actually ended up with - for now
Well, after waiting all day, the FFV managed to sneak in their NPL announcement a minute earlier than their usual time. So, let's be grateful they got it in at 4:58 instead of 4:59. I think they can cancel that efficiency review now.
However because of internal and behind the scenes wrangling - which we can't go into too much detail about, seeing a lot of it is very speculative, but it apparently involves even more FFA headkicking - today's announcement is at best, half an announcement of what's happening this season.
So what's the actual deal? Well, as mentioned earlier, we did have several clubs yesterday trumpeting the fact that they were in, and a huge amount of rumour and innuendo.
The FFV has, at the close of business today, announced those teams who will be granted NPL licences if they wish to take up that offer, without announcing a league strcuture.
How they quite go about creating a league structure - to be announced next week - when they still won't know for sure whether everyone who has been offered a licence will take it up until a fortnight's time, nor whether the constituents of most of these clubs have approved their clubs ambitions, is anyone's guess. We won't even see the fixtures for three more weeks,a dn the actual NPL rules for more four weeks.
The FFV"s media release is below. We're in, if that's all that matters to you.
Friday 7 February 2014
FFV ANNOUNCES NPL LICENCES FOR 2014
Football Federation Victoria (FFV) today announces that 30 National Premier Leagues (NPL) licences will be offered to the following clubs/entities commencing this season:
- Avondale Heights
- Ballarat Red Devils
- Bendigo Amateur Soccer League
- Bentleigh Greens
- Box Hill United
- Brunswick City
- Dandenong City
- Dandenong Thunder
- Eastern Lions
- FC Bulleen Lions
- Goulburn Valley Suns
- Green Gully Cavaliers
- Heidelberg United
- Hume City
- Kingston City
- Melbourne Knights
- Moreland Zebras
- North Geelong Warriors
- Northcote City
- Oakleigh Cannons
- Pascoe Vale
- Port Melbourne Sharks
- South Melbourne
- Springvale White Eagles
- St Albans Saints
- Sunshine George Cross
- Surf Coast
- Werribee City
- Whittlesea Ranges
All of these clubs/entities will be required to confirm their participation by returning a signed licence agreement to FFV by 5pm on Wednesday 19 February.
In addition to the licences listed above that will be offered, FFV will offer a licence to Eastern Jets and Border FC to start in the 2015 season.
“FFV recognises the tremendous level of effort and resources required to produce an NPL submission,” FFV President Nick Monteleone said.
“All applicants should be congratulated for their dedication in submitting an application. I would like to also thank the Assessment Panel for its hard work reviewing all 37 applications.
“The NPL will have a positive impact on players, coaches and club development across all of Victoria.”
The competition structure of the NPL will be announced next week, with fixtures to be released on Wednesday 26 February and NPL Rules of Competition on Tuesday 4 March.
FFV has appointed Liam Bentley, its former Competitions Manager, as the Head of NPL Victoria.
So where to now?
Well, we're still waiting. How an organisation like this keeps surviving, I'm not sure. Every time they make it to the end of a week they must be doing cartwheels. They're the best argument for legalising euthanasia Kevorkian could have asked for.
This isn't only an issue for prospective NPL teams. Every club in the FFV system has no idea - in early February - about what league they will be in, and who they'll be playing. How are teams supposed to recruit? How are they supposed to conduct proper trials for juniors? How can they set up a proper budget for the coming year?
And how will the FFV, an organisation which has enough issues managing the leagues in an ordinary year, manage to get all its fixturing and registrations done by the time the leagues would nominally start in late March? Or when the Dockerty Cup is supposed to start perhaps in mid-March, which is now just five weeks away.
Then there is the other issue - compliance. While I have perhaps unfairly singled out one club from those above, each of my readers, by themselves, without even being aware of the NPLV criteria in any meaningful depth, would be able to point to several of them and make strong cases as to why they wouldn't, shouldn't even get close to making the grade.
But the FFV has said that if they can catch up to wherever the criteria says they need to be next year, they can stay. How about, no. How about they actually get there first, and then apply? Will the FFV actually have the guts to throw clubs out that have promised to get up the necessary standards, but then failed to do so? Especially if they were clubs who have supporting the FFV no matter what crazy scheme they put forward?
And what happened to the concept of an elite system? Instead of restricting it to 24 teams - remember that the NSW NPL limits it to that, and their player catchment easily outstrips ours, let alone taking into account finances and venues - 30 teams, with the prospect of even more teams joining up next year - remembering that new metro entities (such as Eastern Jets) can only join from 2015 - and soon there'll be more elite teams than community clubs.
Whether they split the divisions into north/west and south/east divisions, or pile 30 odd teams into the one competition, either way it will be an on field disaster. The people nominally in charge of this competition should look to the 1947 Victorian Division One season to see the kind of disaster that awaits them and all of us - unless we take into consideration two possibilities.
Or secondly, that having become filled with an overdose of poisonous rage due to their humiliating backdown at the end of 2013, they've decided to hijack the whole process before driving it into the nearest chasm, taking us all with them.
Third to last thought
So, to paraphrase Tony Martin's depressing BBC correspondent guy, as the constituents of soccer in Victoria awaken to the devastation caused by this disaster, they begin the slow process of rebuilding under a nightmarish regime of terror.
Second to last thought
Well, at least they're calling the cup competition the Dockerty Cup again. I'll happily take most of the credit for that, but thanks to everyone who chipped in at some point. As Mark Boric noted however, time to get the Armstrong Cup up and going now.
If you pitched this whole NPL saga to Oliver Stone, even he'd tell you that it was too far-fetched and implausible. Through the looking glass? We crossed that threshold years ago.