Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Praise Jah! The deal is done, 40 years won

The news is in - South Melbourne's 40 year tenure to Lakeside has been secured. South president Leo Athanasakis has given much credit to Bill Papastergiadis, the club's lawyer throughout the process of securing the lease, as well as thanking his board for their work on the matter, and the club's supporters for their patience.

The media release supplied by the club does not mention any details about what concessions, if any, to the Memorandum of Understanding agreed to by the various parties several years ago. There was no detail provided about any possible compensation forthcoming to supplement the lost income due to the delays in finally agreeing to the deal. The assumption - and it really is only an assumption based on the last section of the media release - is that the forty year tenure will begin as of the signing of this agreement, and will not (for example) be backdated to December 2011, when we resumed playing out of Lakeside. For the precise details, I suspect one will have to wait until the AGM later this year.

There will, no doubt, be those who will not be happy about this outcome. Those who come from hostile clubs are of no concern, really, because that's their right to wish for our downfall. More distressingly, there are a small minority of those from within our ranks who perhaps would have wanted this effort to fail to suit their own political ends. When the negotiations with the government delivered what appeared a club saving and club revitalising deal, their focus was on the poor on field results. When the results improved, the focus then turned to the stalled lease situation. While seeking to improve the club's fortunes on and off field is of course the desire of every South fan, the malice that sprouted around this issue sometimes crossed a dangerous line.

This is not to entirely excuse the actions of the South board, however, in their handling of a particular aspect of this issue. While the desired outcome seems to have been secured - though of course the proof will be in the pudding - their approach in dealing with the memberships' concerns was at times less than admirable. Now I acknowledge the fact that the board and I work under very different parameters when it comes to communicating with the broader South Melbourne Hellas public. But there's something disturbing about the fact that more people came to this site - a site run by a too much spare time, no important contacts kind of person - than to the official site for news, or even vague updates about what was happening with this situation. When the members, whose club this is, are kept in the dark in this way, it sets a poor precedent for future board/member relations.

Having said all of that, my sincere thanks to the board, and of course massive kudos to the legal team for getting the job done - and can we please not squander this opportunity like we did the last time? Like you, I can't wait for the work on the social club to finally get started, so we can have a place to eat, drink, socialise and show off our history. In other words, it's time to make our house into a home.
Now let us remember the good times, and look forward to the better times we've been promised will come
There were a lot of farewells and milestones we covered even before the bulldozers moved in - the idea back in 2004 that we should be the ones initiating a ground sharing model at Lakeside; the first hint of something actually happening; the first step to my becoming a bone fide senior citizen by watching Stateline; the visit to the Parks Victoria info session; the MOU vote itself; the scratching around to find any sort of information; farewelling the Valkanis family.

Up to this point, in over seventy articles tagged with 'Lakeside redevelopment', I've followed the destruction and reconstruction of our home from the air, from inside the ground - until I was effectively banned from the area - and of course from outside the building site, like most of you had to do, as well as sourcing information from other sources such as Athletics Australia. For the lack of a place to show off our history, I've attempted to provide glimpses into some of the well known and lesser known artefacts that we have at our club.

I covered the fact that nothing had started yet by June 2010 even though we'd played our last game in April, though by July 2010 the terraces were gone. It was in December 2011  when we moved back in to Lakeside, and we looked forward to getting back into the social club, even if we had to wait for it a little while longer with a slew of away games to start the season. By November 2012  though, nothing had happened, and the lack of progress became another point of mischief for our then enemies (and now frenemies) in the Greek press, though it helps when (removed by legal team). By March 2013, it appeared there were serious issues with the entire process. By August 2013, overt cynicism about the entire thing had started creeping in. By January 2014 I was fed up enough to start a letter writing campaign, which some of you also joined in on.

In March 2014, I posted the response I received from Hugh Delahunty, the Minister for Sport and Recreation, which explained the government's position. The public display of that letter did not go down well with some members of the South hierarchy, but their displeasure was outweighed by the support of those at our club who could see that what I had done had no malicious intent whatsoever; that it was not about self-aggrandisement, but about adding to the information that South fans should have had - in this case, information that for whatever reason the club had decided not to provide any of us with. Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for any sort of response to the two letters I sent to the shadow minister, John Eren. I guess that's a moot point now.

Oh, there was also the time I was told at Berwick that the agreement was' two weeks' away; then the more recent time that I was told it was 'two weeks' away. And of course the many times we were all told that the finalising of the agreement was imminent, only for it to turn out not to be the case. Who had it worse? The people who were behind the scenes and knew intimately what the problem was? Or those of us outside the sphere of influence and privileged information, who looked on more often than not feeling helpless and increasingly hopeless because of the lack of information and apparent progress?

While we're not yet at the end of journey, this is a significant step in the right direction - I hope. I'll continue to follow and present the latest developments as much as I can. More than almost any other issue affecting the club, I hope my reportage on this matter up until this point has been of some use to you, the South Melbourne Hellas supporter. The opaque match reports and the myriad digressions? I can understand if they don't tickle everyone's fancy. But even though I know I've squibbed on a few occasions, not dug deep enough when it's been necessary, maybe not gone in hard enough (or perhaps gone in too hard - anyone? didn't think so), I still hope you've got something out of reading these reports. My main goals on this front were to where possible, inform you of things that I felt you had a right to know, to inform you of things that you should know, and to inspire you to take a more active interest in how our club is being run, whether you agree with whatever positions I hold or not. Lastly, until we walk through those newly renovated social club doors, the counter on the blog will stay.


  1. Christ, someone got a bit excited here. Still waiting.

  2. I'm confused. Didn't this get finalised early this year?

    1. The lesson here is that Jah is an unreliable bastard.


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