The two AGMs - South Melbourne Hellas and South Melbourne FC - were held back to back without a break. Proceedings started on time, and finished after about an hour and a half. The mood was neither sombre nor muted, but neither was it particularly combative (except for one gentleman). Missing also from the AGM was any sense of mirth - often times during the Leo Athanasakis years, no matter how riled up the members would get, there'd usually be at least one joke that would come out and leave everybody a little less upset.
But welcome to South Melbourne in 2019, where the AGMs - for the time being at least - are likely to be more serious in form and content.
Elections were held for both boards, and the results were the same for both committees - the same eleven nominees filling the eleven vacancies. There were some new names replacing some old names, as well as replacing a few names I didn't recognise.
There was not a huge attendance, which was as expected considering the timing of the event just a few days before Christmas, but apparently there were enough in attendance to form a quorum for both meetings; though there was quibbling about whether a quorum for a South Melbourne Hellas AGM is a set number or a percentage of the membership, which is for someone to go through and check at some point. For the board's part, it was noted that they had promised the 2019 AGM would be held before Christmas, and they followed through on that promise, despite some self-admitted duress in fulfilling that promise.
There were several notable absentees in terms of our supporters, but there were also a few notable missing board members - I'm thinking specifically here of football director Andrew Mesourouni. Or maybe I just didn't recognise everyone's face. Of the board members present, only president Nick Maikousis, chairman Bill Papastergiadis, and treasurer/secretary Mario Vinaccia were involved in providing extensive reports on their portfolios; even the election returning officer Skip Fulton was heard from more than most of the other board members.
There was a moment taken early on to acknowledge Ange Postecoglou's success in winning the J-League title. The club's chief sponsors were also thanked.
It's a cliche to say so, but 2019 was unequivocally a transitional year for the club. In 2019 we were still coming out from the other side of the Chris Taylor sacking, including shedding even more of the senior players who had been with us during that successful period; the women's team also lost a swathe of experience and talent, and went through a number of coaches; and this AGM came after the first full season since the end of the 11-year presidency of Leo Athanasakis, who was not present at this meeting.
Despite not being officially the club's treasurer during his presidency, in the past few seasons Athanasakis would nevertheless perform the duties of providing the treasurer's report, which certainly had some people asking in the past (and in the present) what was the point of even having a treasurer if Leo was going to provide the report? Anyway, now that Mario Vinaccia is unequivocally the club's treasurer (as well as club secretary, which does seem like one job too many), we received what was promoted as a financial report that was prepared by the named treasurer.
To that end, Vinaccia provided what was perceived by the members as being a 'more' thorough report of the club's accounts than perhaps they were accustomed to. Turnover was down by a noticeable amount, but this also took into account a number of factors.
- There were fewer functions, and these functions tended to raise less revenue.
- The impact of live streaming and the senior men's team's erratic form.
- The fact that the previous season's financial report also included the somewhat artificial boost of the FFA Cup run (which included several home games aside from the Sydney FC one), and the Guangzhou R&F visit and its associated function.
- The decline in prize money from the lack of the men's team's success.
- The shift from running the social club ourselves, to outsourcing its operation to an outside operator.
- The discovery, via a thorough audit of the club's accounts by Vinaccia and the club's long term auditor, of what could at best be called 'previously unknown/undiscovered' debts.
This audit, which took the entire year to undertake, has made the board much more aware of what its financial position actually is. As for the debt taken out by the club to finish off the construction of the social club, the club is aiming to pay that off next year. It will, of course, be interesting to see what the club's books look like without that bank debt, and with a second year of this administration looking after the books.
Circa 2021/2022, the club's annual stipend from the government is due to be reduced, and thus progress will need to be made to make up the shortfall that will eventuate. Nevertheless, the board emphasised the control of signage at the ground, and its renewed efforts to attract more sponsorship and corporate support, as part of the club's overall efforts to remain fiscally healthy. The club has also seemingly made a more sincere effort in applying for grants, and it is investigating the possibility of what might be achieved via the Australian Sports Foundation.
In terms of the club's operating structure, it was mentioned that all board members will also now be directors, though for some reason I was under the assumption that that was meant to be the case anyway. Another element of the club's pivot away from the Athanasakis-era Triumvirate style operation is a proliferation of sub-committee and advisory type arrangements. There were several well researched questions asked from one member about lax record keeping at the club in terms of governance structures, as well as associated regulatory compliance - this line of questioning was good in that it was not merely accusations of poor internal mechanisms, but also letting the club know where and how it could improve, what needed to be remedied.
As had been noted at an earlier members forum held by the club, Football Victoria's live streaming has cost the club significantly on the match day revenue front. While there have been some minor cost savings in our media department because of the live streaming, they have not been near enough to making up for lost match day revenue.
Cutting the costs of hosting during senior men's match days is part of the rationale of moving our games to Fridays and Saturdays, and the under 20s out to Darebin. The SSCT staff costs, as well as that of security, accrues significant penalty rates for weekends, especially Sundays. However, another part of the rationale for the shift in days is an attempt to attract more corporate support.
The club begun the process of holding more frequent member information nights and forums, and the plan is to hold the next one around March. It is arguable that these non-AGM sessions also cut down on the time spent at an AGM, and hence in part the short duration of this meeting. There will be a renewed focus on club functions, miniroos, and attempting to restart/revive a past player association. These elements are important not just from a revenue raising standpoint, but from the point of view also of trying to revive the sense of South Melbourne being a 'club' in the true sense, after years in which it could be argued that these matters had been left to deteriorate to an unacceptable degree.
Among the other things discussed. The departure of senior women's team coach Mick Gallo was explained as being more or less due to irreconcilable differences - in this case the club had one view of what Gallo's role should be, and Gallo had another. A Dorothy Dixer from the floor asked what money the club had spent in its A-League bid - with the answer being, for the record, 'zero' - the bid was funded by several board members of their own volition.
Apart from the need to rejuvenate our Miniroos component, there were no reports on the health of our youth system - with the exception of noting that we were close to securing some kind of deal with Parks Victoria with regards to the pavilion near fields 18 and 19 in Albert Park.
There was no discussion about prospective player signings for either the men's or women's team. There was a question about the process that led to Esteban Quintas being appointed senior men's coach for 2020, with the answer being that the club considered that he was the best available to the cub at this point in time. Discussion on the appropriateness of hiring the inexperienced (from a coaching point of view) Luke Adams as an assistant coach more or less went around in circles.
There were no firm commitments as to where the club hoped to finish on the table next season. There was little talk of the proposed second division and/or promotion and relegation. Maikousis stated that it was the board's aim to hold the next AGM by the end of November next year, in line with constitutional requirements, legal requirements, and the expectations of members.