Monday, 19 December 2016

Not looking ahead to tomorrow's AGM

Tomorrow we have the South Melbourne Hellas and South Melbourne FC AGMs. This is a time of year that I usually revel in, because as members it's our one official (and in theory at least, mandatory) opportunity to hold our 'elected' officials to account.

Of course, the more money is involved and the more time is involved and the more effort is involved, the less real say a plebeian member has over the affairs of the club, let alone the opportunity to change the course of the club's direction except as a cog of variable importance in the volunteer collective - and even then, it'll likely take years of graft and patience and careful politicking to even get close to the point where you'll feel like you've made a tangible difference that will actually outlast you.

But I'm not so naive to have ever thought that this was never the case, nor that one lone blogger can change everything or even anything. But since we're all in collective self-delusion together - and much emphasis needs to be placed on the 'collective' aspect - we carry on as if we can change things, because not writing the whole thing off from the get go makes things at least more interesting. 

Oh, it might only only be a very basic format of brief bouts of euphoria contrasted with extended bouts of depression, but the 'soft verse, loud chorus' format worked for Kurt Cobain, and didn't that work out well for everyone?

Look, there's a lot of pompous talk at South Melbourne, exacerbated in recent times because of the A-League expansion guff, about how we're a members club, and how that makes us innately superior to those clubs owned by private citizens or corporations who name their season ticket customers erroneously as members; if that assertion contains any validity as a concept, it's at an AGM where this is most likely to occur, where the notion of 'member owned and member run' finds its truest expression.

Which of course makes it all the more disappointing when members willfully choose not to attend these things, but that's their choice. And after all, who am I to place limits on how cynical people can be? Apart from being accused in recent weeks of having my misery chick shtick reach parody levels, last week I even had to educate people that my miserableness is not monotone, but varies between sullen and animated. 

Anyway back to the revelry (notice the poesy/poetics/playfulness of moving from self-absorbed angst to the potential for joy we mentioned right at the start? That's craftsmanship, friends, albeit at a very crude level). While in general I have been encouraged by the progress made in presentations, questioning and the overall running of AGMs since I first started attending these meetings in 2006, this year I can't say that I am looking forward to the AGM.

Don't get me wrong - the club is winning trophies, it's made progress by finally getting the social club and attendant leases sorted (or so it seems), and we're back in the local women's top flight - but there are issues which continue to undermine confidence in our overall progress, and I won't even start about not being able to stick to an agenda at these meetings.

That these issues include ill-treatment of the membership base as a whole is not something to be taken lightly. Setting the date of the AGM for a Tuesday night in the week leading up to Christmas is, frankly, contemptible, especially for an organisation that likes to sell the line to its members and the wider public about its professionalism on and off the field. 

One could give the club credit I suppose for managing to get the AGM up in a more timely manner compared to last time; but the AGM is still being held too late in the year, too long after the end of the season, and too close to a very busy time of year for many people. People much more cynical than myself would say that the decision to hold AGMs at such inconvenient times and at such irregular intervals is a deliberate action, but I like to apply Hanlon's razor to such things.

Further to the issue of the date has been the mess that's been made of the notice of an AGM. For a club that boasts about its social media and technological aptitude, its efforts in informing its members of run of the mill business leave much to be desired. While I was one of the fortunate ones to receive an email relatively soon after the announcement of the AGM date, others have not received any personal notification either via mail or email. 

The availability of the financial statements have also been problematic. I myself only came to know that they were actually made available via the website (scroll down to the bottom of the screen) via a thread on smfcboard. I even had to ask another member for the password, and in turn I was also asked for the password by other members. One of those is even a very loyal and well liked volunteer!

The timing and conduct of the AGM process thus far has also been less than stellar in what is an election year. There are apparently four nominations for the board, and depending on who you believe, three vacancies. This means that unless someone from the board resigns, there ought to be elections. And this is where it has been getting messy.

On the one hand, those close to the current board claim that one of its board members has willingly chosen to resign. The prospective incoming faction (or elements thereof) on the other hand is claiming that this resignation is being forced by the current board to avoid an election.

The possible conduct and consequences of an election are also under dispute. One source close to the current board claims that elections would not be able to take place until into the new year, putting a halt to work on the social club and other elements of club business, as the board would be operating in caretaker mode. A source from the other faction claims that elections could be held on the night of the AGM, with no need for an elaborate or elongated process where competing tickets are formed.

All this is complicated by the existence of long running personal animosities between members of the two groups, current board members being related to members of the incoming faction, and the failure of the club to even note that there are nominations for the board. 

Being as I am on all things South Melbourne Hellas an unreconstructed Third Way advocate - the worst of all the 1990s political movements - my hope is that the two different factions can resolve their differences prior to Tuesday's meeting, so we can eliminate the need for a violent bloodbath. It's not a possibility I believe to be likely, however.

I haven't been contacted or spoken to about these matters for a few days, so I'm not sure what the latest status of all these things is. One of my correspondents hung up before I could say 'keep me updated if anything changes', and the most recent correspondent who called me while I was sweeping out the garage (and I continued sweeping while we chatted) didn't necessarily tell me much that I hadn't already been told by others, though I do appreciate being kept in the loop, even if my phone manner apparently leaves a lot to be desired.

But now on to other matters. In more recent years I have made a habit of sorts of drawing up a list of questions on here that I'd like to see asked and answered at the South Melbourne Hellas AGM, and last time I even had you, the audience, contribute questions. 

This year because of time constrains and non-entirely related to South Melbourne Hellas anxiety attacks (OK, abject apathy, too, and maybe some of recognised truth acedia's blackest hole if we want to be melodramatic about things), I really haven't been able to do any sort of meaningful preparation. Also I really wanted to go to the movies to watch the Japanese dub of a film I've already seen before, so there's some sulkiness as well.

It's enough perhaps this year that instead of listing a whole bunch of questions, I at least put forward some of the things that happened this year, and what I hope will be covered aside from the internecine politics.

For instance, while I'd like to ask more things about the financial statements, as I've said before I'm more or less functionally innumerate in these matters. Therefore it's up to others who are better acquainted with the accounting world to makes those questions. Every year I ask (or hope to ask) about debt levels and sponsorship and sustainability, but I always find myself getting swamped on these matters, or having my questions brushed aside.

Something more tangible for me to be concerned about is improving the fan experience for South Melbourne fans of Lakeside Stadium. I know that this is inordinately dependent on the social club being opened, which will improve the conception of Lakeside of being our home ground, but what of the game/arena side as well? Harassment of supporters not so much by security, but by rogue(?) employees of the State Sports Centres Trust continues to be a problem.

Add to that the dismissal of Blue Thunder Security after the Victory incident - to what I believe is an SSCT preferred security company - and the club all of a sudden has less control over the operation of match day than it did previously; what Kosta's other faults, he was at least a collaborative type, rather than the remote/austere type that we have now. Of course one can't simply ignore the fact that supporters need to mind and manage their own behaviour at games - as the mess of the away trip to Bentleigh Greens in the league showed. 

On the social media front, it gets frustrating to not have any idea of what the plan is. That's not from a blogger/former insider of sorts' point of view, but from the point of view of trying to figure out what the club's end goal is with this stuff. Does social media bombardment merely constitute the cheapest option available to the club for promoting itself? If so, is that the reason why its use seems to be the predominant advertorial tool of choice? Are there any internal goals or benchmarks which the club hopes to achieve? And apart from hitting internal benchmarks, is there some way of measuring how many people convert to South based on these scatter-shot salvos?

There are things, too, which it must recalled are outside the club's control. One of the things that comes up often is the availability of merchandise. The club signed a deal last year with BLK, which promised both stability and savings for the club, and accessibility for fans. The deal was a failure on all those fronts because of BLK itself (and we weren't the only ones burnt by that) but will the new Puma deal sort those issues out once and for all?

We also haven't heard very much about Genova International School of Soccer for awhile. It'd be nice to know what's happened to that arrangement, not only for the effect on the senior team, but for the effect on the juniors, and whether these Spanish trips are really worth the cost and effort.

And then of course there is the issue of A-League expansion. I hope to write more on a certain aspect of this in the near future, but that's not for now. To be blunt, the club has put out mostly blather on the topic so far. Now several, perhaps even many South fans seem OK with this, and in the long run it may very well have no effect on the final decision one way or the other. But the blather and bluster has annoyed me, and is starting to wear thin among those non-South fans who may have initially been sympathetic. Is there an actual media strategy that's being followed?

It would also be nice to know as members of what will probably be the largest stakeholder in such an enterprise (even in our almost certain role as a minority investor) what we're being asked to sign up to. We will even get a chance to vote on this? When will we actually get more information? Scaffolding or standing room? What percent would we exactly? Will we need to sacrifice only our male firstborn to the vengeful FFA god Ba'al-Gallop, or the female firstborn as well?

Lastly (as often seems to be the case), there is the matter of the women's teams. That we're 'back' in the WNPL is good for us I guess, even if it's not necessarily in the best interests of women's soccer in this state (at least according to pretty much every comment I've read from people in the local women's game who aren't connected to South). But how do we maintain control of the now definitively independent SMWFC? And will they have to change their name?

Mind you, a lot of these issues are merely things that concern me, and there's no accounting for what bothers other people. To show you how even I can be human, a few weeks ago I was wondering where all the angst would come from, because everything seemed to be going great. 

Well, now that that's all written, I'm turning my phone off for the night. Not for fear of having upset anyone mind you, because this only offends on a literary level, but because it just seems like the civilised thing to do.


  1. Anyone want to know where the Brazil money went?

    1. Nah, but I do like the redirect to the official site in the username.

  2. Was gung-ho for this year's AGM, but as noted above the timing is abysmal.

    Can we someone ask if we can schedule this closer to season's end in future years?

  3. In all honesty, AGMs should not be held any later than the month of November.

    Paul, if you could ask the following questions, that would be great:

    * What is the club doing to constrain expenditure and has it identified ways in order to keep a control on costs?
    * How is the club going about establishing and setting up processes for the eventual operation of the bistro and futsal centre? Does it have sufficient working capital to commence operations?
    * What level of borrowings are required to cover any shortfall in social club construction?
    * Have most 2016 sponsors recommitted for the 2017 season?
    * Has one of the new Queensland player signings suffered an ACL injury in training?
    * Is the club looking at a marquee player if it qualifies for FFA Cup?
    * What are the details of the A League bid
    * Is the club looking to sign more players for the 2017 season?
    * If CT departs for Wellington, does the club have a contingency plan to replace him.

    I dare say this could be a long night !

    1. Those are all very good questions. I'll try my best to get some answers for them.

    2. All those questions were answered. It was the shortest AGM that I could think of.


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