Doug Hodgson: The ‘forgotten Aussie’ and the importance of a mature transfer system

Although they embody far more, at their very core, every football club is essentially a business entity. Countless variables makeup a club’s balance sheet including sponsorships, merchandising, broadcast deals and ticket sales, but one major income stream that Australia is yet to fully exploit is the one that draws the most public interest – player transfers.

The cash injection received from player transfers can do wonders for a club, regardless of their stature and size. In addition to allowing clubs to reinvest the funds into their facilities and development pathways, a mature transfer system also encourages coaches to develop their youth instead of relying on proven talent.

As one of Australia’s early international football exports, Doug Hodgson was one of a group of young guns who caught the eye of international scouts and paved the way for many others to follow. His story is one of frustration and overcoming challenges, but ultimately shows that young players need resilience to make it in what is one of the world’s most competitive industries.

“As a player you have a small window and opportunity, you have to take it with two hands and make sure you have the desire and passion to succeed,” Hodgson said.

In 1994, Hodgson moved from Heidelberg United to Sheffield United for an upfront fee of £30,000, a figure which rose to approximately £70,000 with add-ons based on appearances. He was also joined by fellow Aussie, current Adelaide United Head Coach Carl Veart (pictured in top photo) in a deal worth £250,000.

Doug Hodgson making headlines for scoring on his debut for Northampton Town.

But despite earning a dream move to England, Hodgson’s path to the top was far from easy.

Following a car accident as a teenager, Hodgson was told by doctors he may never play again. A few years and a lot of hard work later, as a 20-years old he won Heidelberg United’s Best and Fairest award, earning a loan move to Sunshine George Cross where he was managed by Hull City legend Kenny Wagstaff.

“Kenny organised a trial with Hull City and I worked and worked to be prepared for it. At the end of the trial I was offered a two-year contract worth £450 per week. The club offered Heidelberg £20,000 but there was a transfer break down as Heidelberg wanted £140,000,” Hodgson recalls.

“As you would imagine, there was anger, disappointment, and frustration. I thought, here is a club that paid nothing for me, and I had serviced them as best as I possibly could. I won the Best and Fairest only for them to slap a price tag on me that wasn’t realistic.”

“I understand business and maybe they thought that was a fair price, but as a young kid, there was a lot of bitterness as I knew these opportunities didn’t come up often.”

It would take another two years for Hodgson to get another chance at his dream move. While playing in Western Australia (although still under contract at Heidelberg), Sheffield United came down under for a post-season tour. After seeing him play, Blades manager Dave Bassett was so impressed with the young Aussie that he offered him to join his team for the remainder of the tour as a trial, resulting in a deal being struck.

Hodgson possessed the talent and mental steel to become a quality player in England, and although his career was heavily injury affected, he still managed to make almost 150 senior appearances, most of which with Sheffield United and Oldham Athletic.

One honour that eluded Hodgson, perhaps due to injuries, politics or just plain bad luck was earning a Socceroo’s cap. This has led to him being dubbed the ‘forgotten Aussie’ in some circles.

“At one stage, while playing for Sheffield United in England’s first division I played 14 games straight and I won player of the month. Similarly, at Oldham in the second division I was voted player of the month when I was 29 and probably playing the best football of my career,” Hodgson said.

“There was an Australian national team camp happening in London at the time. I’m not saying I should of played because that’s unfair on the other players, but I should have been given the opportunity to go to camp. Not being able to represent my country was the biggest disappointment in my career. I eventually walked away from the game in England with 12 months left on my contract due to injuries.”

Despite the injuries and frustrations he faced, Hodgson built strong relationships in England and maintains connections with many of his former teammates and coaches today.

This is an enormous factor in international transfers that is seldom mentioned. Players who venture overseas often get the opportunity to network and learn from the brightest football minds in the world, eventually bringing that knowledge back to Australia.

“I coached the U-15s at Northampton Town and the Sheffield United Reserves. Neil Warnock was grooming me to become the next manager of the club but mentally I found it hard to accept the way my career ended,” Hodgson said.

Since returning to Australia, Hodgson has brought back a raft of knowledge which he has used to teach the next generation. Some of his key accomplishments include coaching seniors and juniors at the NPL level, being involved with New South Wales’ youth program, and leading an U-14 youth team to the Victorian championship.

“I have contacts and will open a door for someone if I can if they are good enough. We need to remember though that different kids develop at different ages and its important to focus on education and make sure they are always moving forward,” Hodgson added.

Five of the 10 largest outbound transfers occurred during the NSL era.

On the flipside of the coin, for Heidelberg United, the windfall received from Hodgson’s sale meant covering debts and ensuring the club’s financial viability during a tumultuous time.

“In those days, most clubs were running on overdrafts and volunteer work. We had small sponsorships but really relied on the community to raise funds. There weren’t many player transfers, but we had some success with guys like Doug Hodgson, John Anastasiadis, and before that, Yakka Banovic who joined Derby County,” said former Heidelberg President Peter Tsaklis.

“We were paying about $60,000 per year just for registration into Australia’s top league and there weren’t any grants or assistance from the government at the time. The transfer fees were much needed but we barely able to use the funds to improve facilities at the club, as most of it just went towards running costs,” Tsaklis added.

This was the norm at the time, where if a club was lucky enough to receive a large transfer fee, the funds were often used to balance the books. Or, if they were in a stronger financial position, used to make sorely needed investments and upgrades that they otherwise would not have been affordable.

One example of this occurring was the sale of Socceroos legend Mark Viduka, who was famously transferred to Dinamo Zagreb from the Melbourne Knights. The fee helped the club fund its stadium redevelopments and officially named its grandstand in his honour, a grandstand which today still houses one of the NPL’s most passionate fanbases.

Although Viduka’s exact transfer fee is unlisted, incredibly, five of the top 10 largest transfer fees ever received by Australian clubs occurred during that era.

To add to this, despite the mammoth deals regularly taking place around the globe, the $1.7 million Leicester City paid for Zeljko Kalac in 1995 still remains the largest transfer fee received by an Australian club.

These statistics are not emphasised to criticise the current league or administration, but they do highlight what an enormous opportunity exists in Australian football.

Australia’s transfer system has fallen far behind the rest of Asia’s key players.

Much of the rest of Asia seems to have evolved in their abilities to produce and sell talent. According to data gathered by Optus Sports, Australia’s outbound player sales in 2019 totalled $2.698 million, a number dwarfed by our rivals Japan ($49.39 million) and South Korea ($37.45 million).

If the game’s administrators can over time build an ecosystem that incentivises player transfers, the prospect of adequate financial reimbursement could lead to more clubs focusing on developing players rather than looking for short-term results, ultimately leading to more opportunities for youth and clubs tapping into one of the most lucrative income streams of all.

FCA CEO Kelly Rourke discusses future ambitions for Australian football coaching

Kelly Rourke

Football Coaches Australia (FCA) CEO Kelly Rourke has certainly had an unorthodox career on her way to taking over this role in December last year, but her wealth of sports administration experience paired with her glaring passion for football promises to help coaches in Australia progress further than ever before.

Off the back of the Matildas World Cup success and after state federation annual reports suggesting a sizeable increase in the number of coaches participating, Australian coaching education and wellbeing has never been more of an integral part of our local game.

In an interview with Soccerscene, Rourke discusses her career journey to the present day, her overall ambition for the future of local coaching in this role and how she will empower female coaches as the game surges in popularity.

About yourself, how was the journey to becoming FCA CEO? What roles have you done and what is your background in football?

My background is in policing believe it or not. Majority of my career to date has been involved in various roles of policing from patrol work to investigations so that’s the big backbone of my career and is what ultimately brought me over to Australia from England. I came out and joined the police here, got recruited whilst I was still in England because they were on the search for specialist skills.

I’ve been involved in sport my entire life. Back in the day when I was a teenager, I played for Bradford City and Huddersfield Town so I’ve been involved in football for as long as I can remember as a player. I eventually got stolen by Rugby League and played for England.

When I got to Australia and left the police, I got into various different jobs including a Management Executive role, one with Tabcorp and ultimately, I ended up becoming an administrator for the NRL which is where I get my sports admin background from.

I’m also a chairwoman for a centre in South Australia called The Marjorie Jackson-Nelson Centre for Women’s Sport which is a government-funded project that will initially go for four years where we are doing a 12-month course for females to try and bridge the gender gap across all sports, all levels and all roles.

It’s not been an obvious career where I’ve worked in sport or football my entire life, but football is by far the first sport that grabbed by attention, and my career background would probably surprise a few people.

Do you have an overall plan or ambition for coaches in Australia as the CEO of FCA?

I think we need to try and offer something like the PFA does, I think a big goal for us this year that we will try to achieve is standardised contracts in the APL and NPL. We need to be securing the futures of our coaches in order to keep the talent in Australia and also to foster coaches from Europe and across the world to come over here, and that only happens with the introduction of standardised coaching contracts across the professional leagues.

That includes formalised grievance procedures, dispute resolution, tribunals. I just think it is long overdue, we really need to be safeguarding the development of our coaches but also their wellbeing. That’s got to be our starting block, we need to secure that and then hopefully we can float it out to the APL and across community football. If we don’t take care of their wellbeing, we are going to lose coaches and without coaches, there is no football.

Working with the A-Leagues and the FA on coach development is one of our most important goals. We’ve got to be driving change forward and offering similar services to the PFA who are a great organisation to learn from.

For the local game, what’s FCA’s role in encouraging a growth in the number of local coaches?

We do a lot of coach education so the FA have moved to the UEFA way of coach development, so it used to be that coaches obtained points in order to retain their licences but now its hours. We’ve been working closely with the FA to understand what it looks like and ensure that we can deliver meaningful coach education to our coaches, and we do that free of charge to our members. We host workshops and webinars with top coaches to help with that.

As a woman in power, are there any moves that you’re making to bridge the gender gap for coaching in Australian football?

I’m not sure when FCA brought me in they had a female in mind, they just wanted fresh eyes and someone enthusiastic, and I do this role because I love it and am passionate about the game, I still play and heavily involved with coaches and community football. They wanted to bring someone who had the knowledge of the game that’s got a lot of sports administration experience behind them which I do have.

The FA have invited me to a Women’s football summit in June and I think that really shows there is progress with the FA for the fact I’ve been invited. Obviously, I want to increase opportunities for our female coaches, we’ve only got two head coaches in the A-Leagues. It was good to see Emily Husband get announced as coach of the year and we’ve got Kat Smith who didn’t have a job until a few weeks out from the season when Western United snapped her up, so we really want to drive and show the female coaches the pathway.

Being a woman does it encourage that? Of course it does for me because I know what it’s like to be an athlete or a coach and not have those opportunities so a big part of my role will involve creating more stabilised roles for our coaches but also creating the pathway for women to nurture the talent we’ve got.

We need to see more female coaches in NPL teams and in the A-Leagues for sure and I think Emily [Husband] winning coach of the year is a great start, I can’t celebrate that enough.

Peter Parthimos talks origins of Futsal Oz and its current status

Futsal in Australia is a sport that despite its chaotic, fast-paced and unmissable nature, tends to get misaligned within the plethora of sport the nation enjoy upon a commercial scale.

Participation is immense across multiple sporting organisations who operate indoor futsal competitions. Futsal Oz in particular, is the pinnacle of the latter.

Regarded by many as the premier futsal competition across the country, talent from futsal-rich nations across the globe now reside within clubs participating in both of the men’s and women’s competitions respectively.

Futsal icon Falcão, Brazilian and former Bayern Munich winger Douglas Costa, “The Doctor” Andre Caro – are just some of the many icons within the sport in whom have taken to a futsal court founded by Parthimos. With newly-founded talent emerging, the sport is on the precipice of unimaginable heights.

Peter Parthimos embodies futsal through his instinctive and optimistic nature. The Futsal Oz founder has spearheaded the growth of the indoor variation of football to unparalleled heights in Melbourne.

His ambitions surrounding the sport are on the verge of coming to fruition. But before we showcase where exactly futsal within Australia may be steering, Peter took us on a comprehensive journey immersed in the origin of Futsal Oz, its current status, and development he has overseen throughout his tenure as a founder.

What is the origin story of Futsal Oz?

Peter Parthimos: In 2003, at the age of 29 – after a five-year hiatus from both outdoor and indoor football – I was invited by my friend Evan Robotis to join a social futsal team. Despite initial reservations about the rock-hard size three ball I remembered, I quickly fell in love with the game, intrigued by its potential and the joy it brought me.

After a match, my curiosity about the league’s structure led to disappointment upon discovering the lack of professional organisation and support. This realisation sparked an idea: We approached current indoor providers and the governing body to develop the sport. Unfortunately, none shared my enthusiasm. Consequently, in 2004, we registered the business name Futsal Oz.

Our first steps included securing a venue, and by chance, my old high school in Brunswick High School had a suitable gymnasium with a full-size basketball court.

After almost two years of negotiations with the relevant standing committee, we established our first Social and Junior Leagues in 2006, and in 2007, we launched the V-League Premiership, now known as Series Futsal Victoria.

Our team’s dedication and hard work paid off. In 2008, we opened the purpose-built Brunswick Futsal Stadium on Victoria Street, allowing us to run futsal leagues seven days a week and developed the culture we know today.

In 2013, we opened a second futsal stadium in Mt. Evelyn, and in 2014, we opened a third stadium in Thomastown.

At this stage, Futsal Oz and Series Futsal had grown into a thriving community, driven by the vision to elevate futsal to a professional level and share its joy and potential with others.

How did Futsal Oz reach its current distinguished current day status?

Peter Parthimos: Futsal Oz’s journey to where we are today has been marked by dedication, innovation, and a relentless pursuit of excellence. Here’s a look at how we got here and where we stand today for those unfamiliar with Series Futsal and Futsal Oz.

In 2007, the V-League Premiership, now known as Series Futsal, was established. The opening of the purpose-built Brunswick Futsal Stadium in 2008 marked a significant milestone, enabling us to host leagues seven days a week.

These facilities provided top-notch venues for players, fostering a vibrant futsal community and enhancing the overall experience.

Series Futsal has grown into a premier futsal competition, attracting top talent and offering a highly competitive platform for players all over Australia.

Futsal Oz has introduced various initiatives, including professional coaching, youth development programs, and extensive media coverage, further popularising the sport.

In 2015, we started developing our own software sports management system called WeFroth. This enables players, managers, parents, and fans to see all tables, fixtures, and team and player statistics live – goal for goal.

WeFroth is a complete sports management system that can run any sport – including features such as live scoreboard, point of sale, inventory control, and rostering.

Upcoming features include messaging services, online shopping, and a dynamic website designed for user friendliness.

This project is very exciting and offers new franchises the opportunity to set up their very own Futsal Oz franchise via subscription. This is the future of sports management, and we are at the forefront of this innovation.

Futsal Oz and Series Futsal are at the forefront of the futsal scene in Australia.

We operate multiple futsal stadiums, including those in Brunswick and Thomastown, each equipped with high-quality courts and amenities.

Comprehensive leagues cater to players of all ages and skill levels, from grassroots to elite competitions.

This includes Social Leagues, Junior Leagues, and the prestigious Series Futsal. We are committed to nurturing young talent through our youth development programs, offering quality leagues, coaching, and structured training sessions.

Futsal Oz is a hub for the futsal community, providing a platform for players to connect, compete, and grow. We host regular tournaments, events, and social activities to foster a sense of community.

We offer extensive media coverage of our games and events, including live streaming and commentary, ensuring that futsal reaches a wider audience.

Our vision is to continue elevating futsal to new heights, with innovation of our software with plans for further expansion, franchising and collaboration with governing bodies, creating pathways to FIFA-hosted competitions and leagues, enhancing player development programs, improving refereeing and ongoing community engagement.

Did Futsal Oz experience setbacks throughout the pandemic?

Peter Parthimos: Despite being heavily impacted during the COVID-19 period, Futsal Oz had to realign its vision and direction, leading to further develop software that can include new private ownership and making available the dream for enthusiast just like myself to run and operate their very own Futsal Oz via a software subscription which can be done from any part of the world.

We have done all the development from start to finish, which will allow a smooth operation for anyone who wants a career as a Futsal Oz owner.

Futsal Oz and Series Futsal have evolved and become synonymous with quality, passion, and growth in the futsal world. We remain dedicated to advancing the sport for all who love and play it, both as a junior grassroots sport and for social league enthusiasts.

What is an aspect of the business you are most proud of?

Peter Parthimos: I am grateful to be able to discover and develop talented people on and off the court, seeing players come in as a junior and developing into leaders, some working alongside me and other leading their clubs.

I am also grateful of the amazing community we have discovered over the last 20 years, we have seen couples get together, we have seen their children develop and without doubt we have seen unbelievable respect for all cultures from all walks of life.

I speak on behalf of my wife, Effie, that we are both very grateful that we’ve had the opportunity to raise our own children, Evangelia, Elias and Nicholas in the Futsal Oz environment and business whilst pursuing my dreams and goals.

As difficult as this may have been at times, I always had my family close by. Overall, I am extremely proud of the Futsal Oz family we have all discovered.

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