Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Jump! Jump! Jump! artefact Wednesday

Ah, 2007. It was a season which held so much promise. We were fresh off a championship, two years after almost going broke. We had what looked like a good squad, and a good first up crowd against the Bergers at home in an exciting game, followed by a thrilling win against Richmond, which I missed because I was at an Elbow concert. Another win against the Essendon Royals, and things looked promising. And then they didn't. Dean Anastasiadis went down with a season ending knee injury in round 4, and we soon found out that for the most part we were adept downhill skiers, but not much more than that, and the season ended with us missing the finals by three points, amid suspicion from some fans that'd we kinda tanked some games - specifically the 3-0 loss at Western Suburbs - because we had cash-flow problems.

But one could easily point to the uneven draw as a causal factor - though the league had 16 teams, there were only 26 rounds - and the fact that we only played that season's wooden spooner Springvale White Eagles just once. We could point to the mess of the goalkeeping situation once Deano went down. And you could of course point to many calamitous poor results, including the 2-0 home loss to Sunshine George Cross the week before that humiliation at Ralph Reserve. But all that is irrelevant compared to the forfeit forced upon us by Football Federation Victoria, for a home match against Melbourne Knights. But first some background.

2007 was a crazy year on the terraces, hills, concourses, and the streets of Melbourne. There were was the Cros vs the Serbs (and Greek onlookers) at the Australian Open tennis. There was a stolen Melbourne Victory banner which found its way to Clarendon Corner in round 1, and which made a reappearance at our game at Richmond. There were also more ethnic related incidents at the Water Polo World Championships. A combination of these things saw FFV and/or Victoria Police - it's not quite clear to me even now who was exerting the greater pressure - to demand unrealistically expensive security measures. South refused to pay the asking price, and FFV preemptively - that is, days out from the game - awarded a 3-0 forfeit to Knights.

The next week we were scheduled to play against Fawkner at CB Smith Reserve. This is the old CB Smith, with the tin shed along the western wing, and most importantly, an open view from outside the southern end, where there was only a high chain-link fence to visually obstruct spectators. It was a perfect venue to conduct what we called at the time a protest against FFV, which naturally proved futile, and only really served to hurt Fawkner on one of their bigger paydays for the year. The Agitator brought a slab of Heineken, and the game was an awful 0-0 draw - though we could've sneaked a winner late. The most interesting thing, unplanned amid the scarcely planned nature of the whole enterprise, was at the end of the game when the Clarendon Corner stalwart known as "Box" climbed up the very high and probably very rusty fence to chants of "Box! Box! Box!", and then when at the top, "Jump! Jump' Jump!". Thankfully he had a little more sense than that, and climbed back down.

I can't remember where I found this photo, so if it belongs to you let me know. But this was 13 years ago, and my haven't we come a long way since then.

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

#itstime artefact Wednesday - #SMFC4ALEAGUE t-shirt

Time has stopped. Time no longer exists. There is no A-League. There is no South Melbourne Hellas. There is no soccer. We exist in the collective individualised state of attempting to engage with the twin voids of chronology and meaning. All we have left is the remembrance of time, and the events which occurred back when things still used to occur. I bought this t-shirt late last year at the Savers outlet in Footscray, for the princely sum of $3.49. I don't remember what the club was charging for these shirts. Not being convinced of the merits of the South Melbourne bid, or the legitimacy of the A-League bid process as a whole - and because I am preternaturally too cool for school - I didn't buy a shirt from the club when I had the chance. We could wonder which of our fans had bought one of these shirts and then lost all hope and abandoned the club after our most recent A-League bid failed. More likely, the shirt belonged to a former casual employee, volunteer, or sundry associate of the club, who would have no reason for keeping this shirt. For those of us still here, it's not an item that's going to end up in the poolroom, but there wasn't much choice for me when I saw it on the racks.

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Nick Maikousis on South Radio

South Radio has put up a rather good interview with club president Nick Maikousis. For those not keen on listening to the full 30 minutes, here's a brief summary, though I won't have done the interview justice.

Maikousis notes that all operations at the club have shut down at all levels. Seniors mens, womens, juniors, the lot. Senior players are still training in isolation, under a stressful situation. Some players are entirely reliant on football income to make a living, but all of our contracts are game based.

Maikousis does not foresee the season resuming. That's interesting in itself, because as yet I have not seen anyone in any senior position in Victorian soccer making a statement like that, despite its obvious plausibility. He does throw up a rough scheduling model under which he believes that the 2020 NPL Victoria season could resume, but the time-frame would be tight - and it would be difficult for clubs whose grounds become unavailable in the off-season to maintain access to grounds, should the season be extended.

(largely left out of the discussion is what impact such a catch-up model would have on the condition of grounds having to take up at least two senior and reserves matches a week)

With his belief that the 2020 season is unlikely to resume, Maikousis goes on to discuss modelling of what a season without football will look like for South across the board - in terms of sponsorship, membership, costs, etc. He goes on to make the claim that for South, match day revenue is less important than it is for other clubs - which makes the idea of resuming under a closed-doors system less likely to happen in his opinion. The line that the club's revenue focus is now on sponsorship sits in line with comments made at the most recent AGM, but it is a comment which also downplays somewhat the fretting over lost match day revenues due to both our recent (past two years) poor form, and especially the impact of the live streaming og every NPL game.

While nothing has been settled yet, there is the possibility that those who have already paid sponsorship and/or membership fees, may have their benefits rolled over into next year, especially in the event that the entire season is called off. This would be an interesting move, with quite a few variables. What if a junior player does not return next year? If a sponsor's business is effected so much that they cannot continue into next year, if say, they've only made part payment? Still, best to wait and see what actually happens with the rest of the season, and event what Football Federation Victoria will end up doing with its operations.

The club is working through the ramifications of the shutdown on our various facilities, which includes the Middle Park and Caulfield grounds as well as Lakeside, and the rental and financial obligations related to those. The club will also investigate the various government subsidies which have emerged as a result of the corona virus shutdown. There was no mention of the effects on the sub-lease of the social club operations. Maikousis did note however, that the club's external debt repayment plan - originally slated to be complete by the end of 2020 - would likely be pushed out by three months.

After the broadcast was published, there was going to be a meeting between the various NPL clubs to discuss the situation.

Maikousis also provided an update on a meeting with PFA head John Didulica, regarding the recent accusations of unpaid wages. Maikousis made the point that the issue was not about wages, but rather about end of contract terms regarding players who left during the middle of the season - an issue which is being resolved, or close to being resolved. The president also claimed that the club and the PFA are in agreement about the lack of an adequate dispute resolution process when issues arise between clubs

Thursday, 2 April 2020

NPL shutdown extended

So the pause that was set on grassroots soccer in Australia until mid-April has now been extended until the end of May. Given the way the COVID-19 situation continues to unfold, that extension won't be a surprise to anyone.

Maybe because of the tedious way the season had been going, I've not been missing South games as much as I thought I would be, and I suspect that's probably the same for a lot of our remaining supporter base. Still, I do miss some of the people. And it'd be nice to keep busy and get some fresh air and be able to watch people exert themselves for my entertainment. The restricted triangulation of going to the supermarket, the local bakery, and the front garden can get wearisome even for the best of us. and smfcfans,com have both more or less lost all momentum. There's just nothing to talk about except the thing that everyone's talking about, unless you want to dig into the past. Looking forward, we're probably not quite at the point where the whole 2020 NPL Victoria season will become a write-off, but it must be getting close. Who knows how you'd even resume the competition should the situation be stable enough at the end of May.

The economic consequences of the shutdown on local soccer are still yet to be fleshed out, and it's probably too early to know how far-reaching the effects will be. But for South, there's some interesting questions to consider, and I'm interested in how the board will handle them. There's player contracts of course - with South reputedly being one of the few clubs in the competition to have their players on professional contracts instead of amateur, you'd hope that the bulk of those contracts were based on players actually playing.

There's also coaches and support staff, for some of whom South will be their main source of employment, as opposed to it being a weekend thing for a bit of extra coin / lucrative hobby. Oh, and then there's the situation every NPL club will be having to deal with - what happens to their youth programs which will have cost parents a great deal of money, and whose seasons would have barely started. And some of our coaches and at least one of our players must be on working visas. There's also income streams from sponsors, loss of match day revenue, and let's not forget Vic and the folk who lease out the social club space. We're fortunate enough to have the monthly government stipend, but we also have debts that we're trying to clear... it's just so much uncertainty.

On the social side of things, the club itself continues to sporadically provide social media updates. There's the high level personal trolling of me by the club with 'Melvin Mondays'. There's also been a revival of South Radio, which seems to only be available via Facebook at this stage. According to senior team manager Kris Peladarinos, the players are training and keeping fit mostly by themselves at the moment. We'll have to wait until president Nick Maikousis makes an appearance on the show to get more solid information about how the club is dealing with the issues brought about by the corona virus shutdown.