Blacktown City CEO Bob Turner: “The council is exceptional in wanting to build pride”

Ahead of the National Premier Leagues NSW season, Blacktown City CEO Bob Turner chatted with Soccerscene about the NPL 1 side’s 2022 Season Launch and the recent developments being instigated to push the club towards greater growth and expansion into becoming a central sporting hub for the Blacktown region.

The Blacktown City 2022 Season Launch was hosted by Stephanie Brantz and marked a significant milestone moment for the club. The sheer magnitude of the launch well and truly represents a pivotal moment in Blacktown City’s recent history, which is due in no small part to the initiatives being introduced by Turner and the team at the club.

Unveiled at the event were the announcements of Blacktown City’s first ever Senior Women’s team, construction of new $1 million changerooms under the main grandstand thanks to the NSW Government, and full operational control of the side’s home Stadium – Blacktown City Sports Centre.

In addition, Blacktown City unveiled that they had become a Diamond Member of the Greater Blacktown Business Chamber, and utilised the evening to launch their recent induction and to host Chamber members in a restructured Business After 5 format.

BCFC Bob Turner

Have Blacktown City regularly conducted season launches of this size? Or was this the first time where you’ve actively tried to bring the community together from all over Blacktown?

Bob Turner: They used to hold the launch at Lily’s Function Centre with Vince Camera when he was in control at the club. But we haven’t had one for a number of years, and we just felt with so many good things happening that it would be better to have a real season launch and make a big deal of it.

Blacktown Council came to the party and let us have their Bowman Hall which can accommodate up to 400-500 and is adjacent to the Council Chambers. But more importantly, because of social distancing it helped us to keep spread and thankfully the Mayor, and the Deputy Mayor, a couple of Councillors, and of course Stephanie Brantz – were all there. It just added to the whole credibility of the launch and it was also good to see both the men’s side and the women’s side together on the stage at one time. Which is a huge plus for the club moving forward.

Blacktown City have recently been inducted as a Diamond Member of the Greater Blacktown Business Chamber. What was the process of organising that and how did it feel being able to launch it?

Bob Turner: It’s fortunate that I’m Vice President of the Chamber, so that helps! One of the biggest things I’ve found in my year involved at the club is how do we make a bigger impact for the city of Blacktown. Both for the club, but importantly for the city. Because I think that the city of Blacktown is very sports conscious. It’s a very misunderstood city in my opinion over the last 10 years of being involved in it. It doesn’t have a main sports team that the city takes pride in and I think Blacktown City – by virtue of not just our name but also our history, credibility, stadium and the competition we play in – all are significant factors in being able to build Blacktown City into something elite.

Our goal is no different to when I first joined the Sydney Kings back in 1989. I could see the potential of what the Kings could do for the sport of basketball and also for the city. It was just a matter of time before we made the right inroads to get people to understand that it’s a good product and things took off. So, in my view, after a year of involvement we’ve made huge strides forward in so many different areas and winning on the field is a bonus. It’s everything else – it’s the business of building Blacktown City.

There’s a Women’s World Cup coming up in Australia and New Zealand, and along with that comes all of the excitement and momentum building around women’s football. What was it like for you to launch the first-ever senior women’s team for Blacktown City with such a promising future ahead?

Bob Turner: Last February we announced that I had become involved in the club and one of the first questions that I asked was ‘do we have any women’s players’? We had some junior teams but not anything significant. I said that with the World Cup coming in 2023 the game is going to explode as a result of that, and we need to jump now into that space. Our Head of Football Mark Crittendon had always wanted to build a women’s program, so collectively the new board and Mark decided that we’re going to have a go at this.

We appointed a Head of Women’s Football, David ‘Dok’ O’Keefe, and his background is one of building clubs. His task is very simple: within three years we want to be in NPL 1 and we want the Blacktown women’s team to be as credible as the men. It’s the same culture that Mark has established in the men’s team – where players want to play for the club and they know they’re going to get better by being a member of Blacktown City. In time, we can build the women’s program at the same level.

One of the key ingredients of that is the upgrades to the changerooms which are a bit ancient. We applied for a grant with the State Government to build new changerooms for our women’s program primarily, and we were successful in that grant application. So, now we’re busy preparing to build new changerooms under our main grandstand which was 20-odd years ago they wanted to do. The main benefactor of that will be our women’s program, and it will help us to recruit better young female talent, especially if they know that the coaching, culture, facilities and competition are all right.

Blacktown Women's

What was it like to finally solidify your home ground – Blacktown City Sports Centre – as being controlled by the club?

Bob Turner: Vince Camera from Lily Homes took over the club when it ran into financial trouble around 12 years ago. And he turned the licensed club into a function centre. He took over the stadium, installed the AstroTurf pitch, put in netting for 5-a-sides, improved the corporate suite area and the café, and did so many very positive things. But after 10-11 years he lost his momentum for it and came to us to see if we wanted to takeover the ground.

We started to negotiate that opportunity and in October of last year we took it over. Not only does that give us full control of what we can do to improve the stadium and the changerooms, but also greater revenue streams are now available to us as with running our own competition and hiring our ground out to other clubs, academies and people who want to train. So, now rather than just relying on gameday tickets and sponsorship, we have revenue streams that can help build a solid financial base for the club and make improvements. My end goal is to make our stadium a 4,000-5,000 seat niche venue and a good destination point for people to come and watch good football.

The theme you’ve introduced for Blacktown City this year is ‘Bring it home Blacktown’. Obviously, you’re wanting to amplify the region itself and to give Blacktown the respect it deserves, but what does this theme represent for you?

Bob Turner: Back in 2011, NSW Baseball and the Sydney Blue Sox asked if I would get involved because they needed to restructure. They made the comment at the time that Major League Baseball actually owned the league and I thought that was pretty impressive. If I had never done that, I would’ve been like the vast majority of Sydney residents in that I would never understand Blacktown. But because I went out to the ballpark that is based in Blacktown, got involved in the Chamber and ran a not-for-profit business for a few years in Blacktown, I could really see the opportunity in the misunderstanding of what the city represents. I would often ask people to come out to watch the Blue Sox play and once they found out it was in Blacktown they’d not want to go, like there was some huge problem.

But that reinforced to me that if you live in Blacktown, you like Blacktown. If you don’t live in Blacktown, you’re not going to get it, for a long time at least. The council is exceptional in wanting to build pride in the 400,000 residents in the area and that population will grow to 550,000 over the next 10 to 15 years. If we can capture that through some emphasis on who we are, Blacktown City wins, the city of Blacktown wins and the sport of football wins. That’s really what it’s all about. To me it’s as much a play to help out the city.

Bob Turner Cup

Recently the Australian Association of Football Clubs (AAFC) announced the final report for the National Second Division. Is there a reason why Blacktown City were not part of the final plans put forward?

Bob Turner: No, other than we might not have been communicated to I would think. It’s definitely in our wheelhouse. Blacktown City used to be in the NSL and was a very solid club when that competition was growing. We definitely want to be involved in anything that’s improving the game. My one concern – having been in professional sport all my life – is how to pay for it all? And that’s something that everybody has to consider. Because on paper it all looks good, but remember you have to finance and fund paying players, building competitions, and flying around the country especially in Australia with a jam-packed sports calendar.

Nowadays there’s 50-odd sporting teams in Sydney alone and TV money is not going to answer the call because it’s not that big a country. If you rely only on games and sponsors, or somebody who has deep pockets, eventually those pockets get thin and you get tired of losing money. The future of any competition relies on how you pay the bills and that has to be a number one consideration.

Liverpool Olympic FC enjoy game-changing grant from NSW Football Legacy Fund

Liverpool Olympic FC NSW grant

Liverpool Olympic FC received over $60,000 as part of the NSW Football Legacy Fund initiative, helping to upgrade its footballing facilities in Sydney’s South West.

The initiative, which was announced in 2022 as a collaboration between the NSW Government, Football NSW and Northern NSW Football Federation, provides up to $6.21 million to federation-affiliated, not for profit football clubs and associations.

The fund aims to help clubs in two areas, participation and infrastructure, with its goal being to capture the increasing interest in football following the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

Liverpool Olympic are one of many clubs in NSW to be successful in their funding application, with money going towards upgrading its existing clubrooms and football amenities.

The club, founded in 1983, have been playing football at Hoxton Park Reserve in Hinchinbrook since 1990 and have not had a significant facilities upgrade since 2002.

Speaking to the South West Voice, Liverpool Olympic FC’s Committee spokesperson Damien Gauci believes the club’s selection will be crucial to its future.

“The funds from these grants will assist the club in their plans to have all players training and playing games in suitable facilities with safe equipment, including our disability group, SNAPParoos,’’ Gauci said.

Football NSW and Southern Districts Football Association, of which Olympic are a member, have long-collaborated on the SNAPParoos program that provides an environment for children and adults with disabilities to participate in football.

As recognised by Gauci, the grant will have a lasting effect on the club’s vision of making football accessible for all ages, genders and abilities.

Another key part of the legacy fund is the equitable provision of infrastructure and resources for women’s football specifically, demonstrating a commitment to Football Australia’s overarching Legacy ‘23 strategy that aims to have 50% female participation by 2027.

Liverpool Olympic, alongside other clubs in NSW, will now have greater capacity to make football not just a more inclusive participatory experience, but to be at the forefront of their respective communities.

Heather Garriock: Acting for the good of the game

Heather Garriock

Heather Garriock, the former Matildas midfielder, is the proud holder of 130 Caps for her country and as she looks back at her extensive career in playing, coaching and mentoring, she faces her biggest challenge to date in attempting to make a difference on the Board of Football Australia (FA) which she was appointed to in September, 2021.

After the success of the Women’s World Cup, when the Matildas became the talk of the nation, it would be easy to say that football in Australia had finally arrived on the map.

However, acceptance for the game has never been that simple and despite the impetus generated in women’s participation numbers since the World Cup and some excellent attendances at the A-League Women’s matches this season, the A-League Men’s competition is struggling.

On the football field, Garriock always accepted a challenge and she is determined in her role on the FA Board to make a difference.

In this interview with Roger Sleeman, Heather Garriock discusses her early career in football before she rose to the top, the meaning of being a Matilda, how she contributes to the continuing growth of the women’s game, her involvement on the board of the F.A. and the role of past players.

ROGER SLEEMAN

When was your introduction to football?

HEATHER GARRIOCK

My Dad was a Scotsman who played semi-professional football and was a fanatical Hearts supporter.

I started playing as a six year old at Leppington Lions and lived and breathed the game into primary school when I was selected in the NSW Primary Schools squad.

Eventually, I was chosen in the first NSW women’s public school team from 250 triallists.

R.S.

What was your progression from there?

H.G.

I attended Westfield Sports High School and also participated in the NSW Institute of Sport from 13-14 years old where I was coached by Connie Selby, 3-4 nights a week.

I was in the state teams and played under Jean-Paul de Marigny who reckoned I had a bad attitude so I left to play in Marconi Reserves.

While at the club, I was privileged to witness the feats of Craig Foster, Andy Harper and Francis Awaritefe.

On leaving school at the end of year 10, I went to the AIS where I was coached by Chris Tansey and in the same year became the top scorer and player of the year at Marconi.

Ultimately, my winning mentality and strength of character was rewarded when I was selected for my first Matildas appearance against China in October, 1999.

R.S.

Can you describe your early journey with the Matildas?

H.G.

Early in my experience, we had tough coaches like Chris Tansey and Adrian Santrac but fortunately when Tom Sermanni took over the reins, things changed completely.

Tom was able to get the best out of me and I loved playing for him.

R.S.

How much has women’s football changed since you first played at a senior level?

H.G.

I still can’t believe how the women’s game has grown so much, but I am proud to say I was part of the pioneer movement which worked so hard to pave the way for future generations to excel in the sport.

R.S.

How do you rate the standard of the current Matildas with those playing in your time?

H.G.

It’s hard to compare eras because we were part timers, unlike so many of the current players who play full-time overseas.

The game is also quicker and players are in some cases playing 50-60 games a year.

However, from my era, players of the quality of Cheryl Salisbury, Di Alagich, Joey Peters, Lisa de Vanna and Julie Murray had that X-factor and would perform in any company.

R.S.

What is your opinion of the A-League Women’s competition?

H.G.

While the established Matildas are playing overseas at big clubs which has left a void, our young players are getting the opportunity to  compete at the highest level in Australia.

Also, their local experience has been highly beneficial to the Young Matildas who are improving rapidly in international competition and the recent defeat of China was a testimony to this.

Furthermore, as the professionalism of the league improves, so will the quality of players.

R.S.

After the success of the Women’s World Cup, why hasn’t that success been capitalised on by infiltrating the business world to back the game?

H.G.

On the contrary, the Matilda’s brand is one of the strongest in Australian sport, superseding the Socceroos.

However, it’s not a competition between the two because we need both to be strong.

R.S.

You were appointed to the FA Board in September, 2021.

What is your role and what have you achieved in this time period?

H.G.

In this time, I’ve been involved in improving the lot of the Matildas, e.g. the collective bargaining process which has led to equal pay conditions with the men.

Also, I’m involved with overseeing the technical development, development pathways, junior national teams and focusing on the history of the game.

The success of integrating the former Matildas into the World Cup experience was a great achievement and we’ve had so much feedback about how they felt so accepted during the event.

R.S.

How do you rate the current FA Board’s ability to turn the future of the game around?

H.G.

We have a new team with new leadership in Chairman Anter Isaac, who has been in the game for many years and is determined to take the game to a new level.

The game has to be united with a top to bottom approach, with particular emphasis on working with the stakeholders and the member federations.

R.S.

Why can’t more opportunity be provided to former players from the women’s and men’s game to contribute their expertise, rather than non football people dominating the sport?

H.G.

This is a fair point to action and we must identify what they can contribute so the game benefits and becomes stronger in all areas.

Recently, we discussed the appointment of talent scouts to scour the country for the very best young players.

Obviously, there are many other areas they can be utilised.

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