Monday, 29 June 2020

The extended gist of the June 2020 president's message

As many of us are aware, as part of a personal push to improve member/board relations, president Nick Maikousis had promised to instigate regular member forums to inform members of ongoing matters at the club - as well as receive more prompt feedback from the membership rather than wait for an AGM.

Regular member forums also reduce the time needed to be spent at AGMs as well, of course, but I guess that's more of a fringe benefit.

If you haven't noticed these promised member forums, it's because they haven't been happening this year, for obvious reasons. Still, after giving an update via the re-booted South Radio in early April, Maikousis has not made any further appearances or made any further announcements until yesterday. 

As a matter of fact, South Radio also seems to have disappeared again.

All of this is understandable, because there's been both nothing happening, and a lot of stuff happening. The nothing is both on field, because no one's playing any games, as well as off field, because there'd been little obvious progress being made on a resumption until recently. But the lots of stuff happening is also true, as the club's senior teams had returned training, and there was constant talk about how the competition would resume.

Either way, it's nice to have official word on a number of issues. Of course you can all watch the video on Facebook - it's only about ten minutes long - but if you don't like the usage of the generic dance music that the club's media wing has made its signature, you may as well as read this summary instead. 

This summary also has the benefit of being easier to find for future reference. 

First cab off the rank is that all teams and all age groups have resumed training, which is nice I suppose. In regards to the men's season, Maikousis noted the difficulty of getting even this far into agreement to resume the season, remembering that just three NPL clubs (ourselves, Hume, and Gully) wanted to resume, and that Bentleigh have withdrawn from the 2020 season. Our club pushed for as much football as possible to be played - and thus we will (probably) have a completion of the remainder of the first half of the season, and an expanded eight team finals format.

The proposed finals format will include home and away legs. Maikousis makes no mention of matters relating to promotion and relegation for this year. It appears though that there will be a Dockerty Cup played for this season, which is nice.

The issue of a mid-season transfer window remains unresolved, though Maikousis noted that clubs may be able to use players signed for next season, for this season. How that actually works I'm not sure. No mention was made of any of our players potentially leaving for other clubs during whenever the mid-season transfer window may look like. 

There was brief mention made of the women's NPL and position in that. As expected, the plan is for a full home and away season, with finals series. At any rate, there are no fixtures set for either competition at this stage. 

While no direct mention was made of the possibility of crowds returning to games this year, in the event that clubs are allowed to host crowds at games in 2020, the club will extend the rights of members to use their memberships for home Dockerty Cup ties as well as home NPL games. 

Though I think we can safely assume that under the current circumstances, a return to crowds is a tad unlikely.

As noted in earlier dispatches, the club is exploring the option of providing discounts to current members when renewing their memberships next season. I just hope the club's membership database is up to scratch.

Maikousis noted that Eric Zimmerman has joined the board, with his immediate remit being the building up of our sponsor portfolio and business networks. Again, this has been a stated goal of Maikousis that's been oft repeated.

The president noted that there are no outstanding payments owed to members of the current senior men's squad. I don't know what that means for members of previous squads. The club is also seeking an overhaul of the player contract and dispute resolution process, and is working with bodies such as Football Victoria and the PFA in order to avoid having an "Avondale situation" happen again, as well as I assume avoid having wage dispute matters dealt with through the media for want of appropriate dispute resolution channels.

The Chris Taylor matter has been resolved, though the nature of that issue's resolution will remain undisclosed and confidential. No surprise there. All one can say is that I'm glad that's finally over, though who knows what the monetary costs were, as well as the costs to our reputation and success on the field.

Lastly, the club is pushing ahead with trying to get the second division  up and going - something about "seizing the opportunity", and offering all the resources the club has at its disposal to FFA, in order to make the dream of aspirational clubs all over the country come true. Who knew we had that many resources?

Monday, 22 June 2020

News! Sweet, nourishing news!

Finally some solid sense of when local soccer might come back, as well as in what form. Hold on to that feeling for as long as you can though, because you don't know when it will be taken away from you by irresponsible Essendon players or people attending poorly thought out house parties.

So the date for resumption of NPL Victoria is the weekend of July 25/26th. According to this Joey Lynch article (which is well worth a read), the recent spike in corona virus infections and the associated re-implementation of some pandemic restrictions won't have any effect on the resumption of local soccer, but we'll see. 

The consensus resumption format *seems* to be that in the men's NPL competition there will be eight more rounds played to complete the home and away season, which with the five already completed rounds, will at least set up a situation where everyone has at least played each other once. After that there will be an eight team finals component, of who knows what format.

This proposed return to action has been complicated by the fact that Bentleigh Greens have withdrawn from the rest of the 2020 season, As long as they pay their fiscal dues for this year, they get to keep their spot, and it seems like there won't be any relegation anyway.

As to what happens to Bentleigh's first five results, one assumes they'll be annulled and each team granted a bye from now on, but until such time as Football Victoria clarifies the situation all I can d is speculate. No official word either on what happens to members of Bentleigh's squad now that there's no senior team for them to play for in 2020. The talk is that at least some will try their luck in the state leagues.

No word either from what I can on the status of and/or existence of a mid-season transfer window, or whether the Dockerty Cup will continue - though the persistence of the latter for 2020 does seem to be something that is being mentioned.

As for the NPL women, they're looking at a 14 match home and away season with a top four finals series. Unlike the men, the women's NPL had not yet started before the pandemic lockdown. South is still signing players up for that competition, and in some respects it all looks a bit more straightforward on that front, for the time being at least.

In terms of whether fans will be allowed to attend games, my hunch - and it really is only a hunch - is that it's not bloody likely, especially with the recent spike in corona virus cases. Quite how anyone will enforce a ban on spectators at games in open parks - such as those used by many women's teams, and of course many state league teams - is anyone's guess though.

Football Victoria plans to continue streaming some games, but that doesn't mean there's any guarantee that we'd be a team being covered. Still, I assume the club itself would endeavour to do whatever is possible to provide streams of games.

And there's also this...
Interesting news emerged over the weekend that along with a reformatted broadcast deal, the A-League will move to a predominantly winter season from next year, for at least the next couple of seasons. Whether this is a temporary move in order to deal with the effects of COVID-19 and the 2022 Qatar World Cup - which will be played in November-December - or a move that the A-League will be in for the long haul, remains to be seen.

I have my doubts about the sensibleness of this change in direction, but that's for those who are more engaged with the A-League - and those who are trying to get promotion and relegation up - to deal with. What hasn't been explained yet - not that I was expecting to have been sorted out so early in the piece - is how this will effect the leagues below the A-League.

From a Victorian perspective, one assumes that there will be little problem in terms of accommodating the match day use of AAMI Park between Victory, Heart City, Storm, and the Rebels. Where Victoria Patriots Western United end up is an ongoing problem, and while I don't think that any of the local A-League teams will end up at Lakeside at times during the winter, it will be interesting to see if any attempt is made by the government to accommodate them on the off-chance that AAMI Park is double-booked by another sporting event or a concert.

Of course there's also the issue of training venues which some local A-League teams are sorted for (City, United), and one which still isn't (Victory). Again, we will wait and see.

Up until now the tail-end of the summer-based A-League seasons have already extended into the start and/or end of the NPL Victoria (and before that, Victorian Premier League) and state league seasons. In the beginning, when the A-League had an August-September start, the competition would finish in early February. In more recent seasons, as the A-League has pushed back its season starting point, the competition has gone all the way into May. That is much like the National Soccer League had done its business during its summer seasons, with both competitions crossing well over into the start of grassroots soccer seasons across the country.

Where this becomes relevant to us is scheduling. Some states - I believe South Australia is one such case - does not allow local competitions to run against Adelaide United fixtures. That's easy enough to do when you have just one A-League team in your city, but also where there isn't a holdover collective of clubs who are not fans of your city's A-League team representatives. The multiple teams issue in particular is going to be very interesting to see play in Victoria in terms of scheduling A-League matches.

On any given week, there could be two A-League games in Melbourne, with limited premium time-slots available. Saturday afternoons are out, because that's already taken up by the vast majority of senior men's soccer teams. Sunday afternoons have a variety of junior and women's competitions in action, though most will be over by early afternoon in the event that our local A-League teams choose to go with a late Sunday afternoon kickoff.

Friday nights, apart from often being the AFL's marquee night (with most of those games being played in Melbourne), will also go up against the majority of NPL senior men's games. These Friday night senior men's games have come about sometimes from long habit, and some from recent attempts to avoid clashing with junior NPL Sunday fixtures.

Will the A-League seek to create rules in cities like Melbourne, which have multiple teams, preventing local soccer from clashing with local A-League fixtures? Or will most teams - including the increasing numbers of state league teams which have gone with Friday nights as their preferred home game timeslot - simply move out of the way when there's a clash? It will be interesting to see how the A-League goes about trying to make this work, considering that some of the accompanying rhetoric around the move to winter is about coming into line with/connecting with grassroots soccer and its participants.

(keep in mind that I don't buy the angle that there is any great hostility toward the A-League from most local soccer people - apart from the usual suspects - just indifference)

The switch to winter doesn't seem to bode well for the future of the perennially embattled Y-League. Will they persist with their too-short, budget summer season? Or will it also move to a full-length winter season winter, where you would then assume the A-League (senior) NPL reps would leave their respective comps? Or will the concept gets dumped entirely - with A-League youth teams (and I assume senior players who miss out on A-League selection) going on about their business in the NPL competitions?

There's also no word on what will happen to the W-League, and whether it will also move to winter. If the W-League moves to winter, it jeopardises its favourable alignment with the American NWSL. If the W-League does move to winter, it will probably see most capable W-League players move overseas to the more lucrative NWSL, as well as then sucking up even more players from local WNPL competitions to fill out the numbers.

All in all, a lot of things to ponder for those of us in the second (and third and fourth) tiers, even though public consideration of our relationship to this change seems to have been negligible at best, except as possible customers for a competition heading into waters left uncharted for 30 years.

Saturday, 13 June 2020

Who knows? Not me, that's for sure.

So where are we at with a potential restart and/or resumptio to the season? Who knows. Every day it seems there's restrictions being lifted, or at least talk of such in the near future. And yet in terms of the soccer stuff, most of us plebs are not much the wiser.

When will we see a restart? Will we be allowed to go? Which teams are in or out? What would the competition even look like? For whatever it's worth, both our men's and women's teams have been training, but anything more than, your guess is as good as mine as to what will actually happen.

There was talk of the leagues across the board being restarted - with promotion, and no threat of relegation, to avoid punishing teams that did not or could not resume play. Apart from the effect of inflating the numbers for the top division in 2021, that idea also necessitates the flow on effect of what to do for the top NPL division. Why would teams play if they weren't going to get relegated, weren't likely to win a championship, and weren't going to be able make any or much money at the gate and canteen?

And then there's talk of players moving on from NPL clubs to cash in on state league teams willing to throw the dice for promotion in this compromised season.

To the right is one set of possible scenarios as discussed within Football Victoria's meetings, which includes the possibility that the likely patchwork NPL season could include teams plucked from NPL 2 and 3 to fill out numbers.

Another source has told me that the league will resume on July 17, that Heidelberg and Avondale will be sitting out the comp, while Knights and Oakleigh are on the fence. Everyone else will play, and there'll be eight more rounds plus finals. Apart from their general commentary, another source of mine who is close to Heidelberg has told me that Heidelberg are very wary about the insurance implications of resuming, among other things.

Apart from that, there's  not much to say. I've been doing my radio show in Football Nation Radio, and piss-farting around wasting time. At least the footy's back.

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Scrapbook artefact Wednesday - SM Hellas vs Newcastle BHP, 1993

After initially being a cautiously keen user of the Australian Football Before the A-League page, I'd boycotted it for a few years. Partly because I'm not a Facebook fan; partly because the page was becoming increasingly repetitive and was of poor quality from an artefact and discursive perspective; and partly because the moderators of the site did nothing to curb possibly libellous personal abuse levelled at myself and another user.

But the past is the past. Though some of the discussion on there is still vintage garbage TWGF level in terms of its pitting the past against the present, the quality of the artefacts seems to have improved somewhat, as the page's user base has increased in size. Some people are even posting full programs instead of just newspaper cut-outs!

In amid the usual and the surprising, you occasionally stumble across interesting items like this:

Click to enlarge the image. Credit: Mark Taylor.

It comes from a series of scrapbook notes taken by one of the page's members, Mark Taylor, who has been sharing them on the group's page. The game was South vs Newcastle in February 1993, the home game after the Clash of the Titans. In its own way it's a kinder gentler version of something like this,

Anyway, thanks to the relevant Facebook page, I've also been able to add even more content to South of the Border's match program archive, including the program from the opening of St George Stadium - at present our oldest NSL program on the site, and our second oldest overall. We've also got away to Marconi in 1979, and hopefully soon Marconi away 1980 and 1981.