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Former South Melbourne FC president weighs-in on second division

Former South Melbourne FC President George Vasilopoulos has provided his insights into the National Second Division, stating he believes many issues which prevented its formation in the past still exist.

But despite the financial and geographic barriers, Vasilopoulos remains optimistic that the inception of a promotion/relegation system could reignite Australian football.

“People have been wanting to do it since the National Soccer League was established in 1977. Can you imagine how exciting it would be? People would fill up stadiums to see their team challenge for promotion,” he said.

“It would give football fans a new lease on life. There would be more sponsorship, more members, and more support.”

Reenergising the A-League is a current priority for the game’s leading administrators. With average crowd numbers stagnating over recent seasons despite growing participation, Australian football is at somewhat of a crossroads.

“The A-League started very well. I was so pleased to see large crowds attending the games but over time hit a bit of a downturn,” Vasilopoulos said.

“It takes time to build things and I am keen to see how it will play out, but recently crowds have gone down. This naturally leads to a reduction in sponsorship and money. Administrators have to work harder to find dollars which creates pressure.”

As an administrator for almost 30 years, including a 13-year period as President of South Melbourne FC from 1989-2002, Vasilopoulos attended many meetings to brainstorm a second division’s viability.

Unfortunately, the league never materialised, and he believes many of the issues that administrators faced then are still obstacles today.

“The second division has always been discussed. It would be a huge benefit for the sport, but the issues today are the same – there is a tyranny of distance in Australia and the key question remains, how will it all be funded?” he added.

“We could never come up with a legitimate strategy to make it work. Flying teams and their staff regularly over long distances is extremely expensive, not to mention accommodation and all of the other costs associated with it.”

The feasibility of a National Second Division may lie in modern solutions, with a conference style system touted to minimise travel proving a popular idea.

“Conferences with the winners playing off in a tournament is a brilliant idea. That would generate interest for fans and viewers who would know there is a massive prize at the end of it all,” Vasilopoulos said.

“You see how people react to knockout football with the popularity of the FFA Cup. There’s a lot of interest in seeing lower league clubs challenge for the cup but having a prize like promotion at the end of it would take it to another level.”

With a conference system a legitimate option to solve travel concerns, administrators are beginning to piece together a realistic model for the division. Although much work remains to be done, the formation of the Australian Association of Football Clubs (AAFC) Championship Partner Group will only bolster funding and support, with the group’s 35 member clubs aiming to launch the second-tier in 2022.

“Having these strong, historic clubs like Marconi, Sydney Olympic, South Melbourne, Heidelberg and so on supporting the division will only help to get it off the ground. Generating that interest in the grassroots is important but if these clubs want to go up, then someone must come down and creating a system that involves relegation may be a real challenge,” Vasilopoulos said.

“Relegation may make it impossible financially. There are a wealthy people behind these clubs who contribute a lot of funding. Would a person want to put money into a club, millions of dollars if they are at risk of being relegated?”

“It’s difficult because there is definitely merit to a second division with promotion and relegation, but clubs would need financial support.”

Vasilopoulos added that a short-term solution could involve promotion without relegation, at least in the interim to top up the league and build momentum before eventually bringing in relegation down the track once the system has matured.

“From this season there will be 12 teams in the A-League. If they want to bring in a system slowly, they could have promotion playoffs for the first few years without team’s in the top league facing relegation,” he said.

“In the old National Soccer League there were 14 teams. We could create a system where for the first few years the winning second division team gets promoted and builds the league’s numbers up. This would give FFA time to create a sustainable system over time.”

For more information on the Championship Partner Group, visit here.

 

Acun Medya Group secures Hull City takeover

EFL Championship side Hull City AFC has been purchased by Turkish production company Acun Medya Group, headed by Acun Ilicali.

EFL Championship side Hull City AFC has been purchased by Turkish production company Acun Medya Group, for a fee in the reported region of $37 million AUD.

Acun Ilicali, a 52-year-old businessman and owner of Acun Medya Group, was introduced to fans at the MKM Stadium prior to the club’s 2-0 win at home over Blackburn Rovers.

The takeover brings the controversial ownership of the Allam family to an end, much to the delight of fans after a roller coaster 11 years in charge.

Despite overseeing two promotions to the Premier League, an FA Cup Final and Hull’s first-ever foray into a European competition through the UEFA Europa League in 2014, the Allam family became increasingly unpopular with the fans.

The unpopularity of the Allam family is due to many different reasons, however it all started when the family proposed a name change to ‘Hull Tigers’ back in 2013. The move was ultimately blocked by authorities a year later, which frustrated the Allams and they then put the club up for sale, straining the relationship with fans and seeing a decline in attendances at home fixtures.

The new ownership will look to win back supporters and turn the negative tide.

Acun Medya Group Owner, Acun Ilicali:

“I am happy that I have fulfilled one of my biggest dreams. We are starting a beautiful journey with Hull City. We have many big dreams and goals to achieve together with our fans,” he said.

Outgoing Vice-Chairman Ehab Allam:

“During our tenure, we have worked hard to create a sustainable model and successful academy set-up, giving the club the foundations it needs for the future,” he said.

“There have been lots of ups and downs over the last 11 years or so, but we will take some very fond memories with us… We have taken a very business-led approach to running the club and I truly hope Acun can rebuild the relationship with the fanbase and also bring back the success on the pitch that fans crave and deserve.”

Hertha Berlin pushing hard for stadium upgrade

Top-flight German football club Hertha Berlin has reiterated its intention to develop a new stadium nearby to the Olympiastadion.

Top-flight German football club Hertha Berlin has reiterated its intention to develop a new stadium nearby to its current home, the Olympiastadion, releasing fresh renderings of its vision for such a project.

The club has been attempting to progress plans to develop a new home for several years and in February 2020 stated that the OlympiaPark would be the preferred location.

In November 2018, Hertha confirmed it was targeting an opening date in July 2025 for a new-look Olympiastadion, with preference to be building a completely new stadium rather than renovating the current one.

The current Olympiastadion has been home to Hertha Berlin for almost 60 years, and has a capacity of around 74,000. However, the club is seeking a more intimate stadium for its fans, as well as the inclusion of an athletics track.

Hertha’s former stadium commissioner, Klaus Teichert, withdrew an application for a decision to be made on the location for a new stadium, with Brandenburg also put forward as a potential location.

Hertha Berlin Chief Financial Officer, Ingo Schiller:

“We have entered into talks with the new government and are working hard to set the course for our new stadium in 2022,” he said.

“The stadium is the club’s most important project, especially in terms of the economic situation.”

There is a lot of political support necessary for the project to get approved, as the potential worksite currently includes residential apartments, a big reason for negotiations coming to a stall at times.

A resident spoke to local radio station rbb24:

“You talk about ir, but not with us. We are still not prepared to sell our apartments in Sportforumstraße or to negotiate about them,” they said.

“It is very unfortunate that our residents in Sportforumstraße are once again unsettled by this uncoordinated approach.”

Hertha Berlin and backers of the new stadium have been in negotiation with Berlin’s sports senator, Iris Spranger, with talks to continue over the next month.

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