Oakleigh Cannons well-placed to build on its competitive foundations

The Oakleigh Cannons are a club who are a staple of the top tier of Victorian football.

The Cannons have competed in the Victorian National Premier League consecutively for the past 17 years, gaining promotion when they lifted the State League One Championship in 2003.

Since then, the senior men’s team have won one minor premiership in 2006, however have fallen to three grand final defeats in 2011, 2012 and 2016.

After eight games this season, the club currently sits in fifth place in NPL Victoria and are well placed to once again be up there at season’s end.

General Manager at Oakleigh, Aki Ionnas, believes the club can finally break their grand final hoodoo this year.

“I do believe that we can win it,” he told Soccerscene.

“Chris Taylor has put a very good squad together; all the boys are fantastic. We’re confident these boys can take us all the way.”

If it eventuates it will be a great reward for the club, based on the events of the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Like any other club, it was obviously hard,” Ionnas said.

“For players, kids, juniors, the committee…it was a hard season with no football.

“Kids are used to going to training and playing soccer, your supporters, your sponsors, your members are used to going down to the club, and before you know it, you’re at home in a lockdown.

“So, it was very hard mentally for a lot of people.”

The club was established in 1972 and currently plays its home games at Jack Edwards Reserve, a facility which seems like a perfect setup for a club who plays in the top level in Victoria.

The venue has a capacity of 4,000-5,000 people with upgrades over the years continuing to lift the overall standard of the facility.

“About six years ago our facilities got upgraded with a brand-new synthetic ground as well as a junior pavilion. That was done all through hard work from our chairman Kon Kavalakis, who was responsible in liaising with council and other key parties to get these facilities.

“We’ve recently had a state-of-the art scoreboard that’s gone up last year and started using it this year.

“There’s always work going into the improvement of facilities. Even though the synthetic ground was done six years, we’ve resurfaced it again only a year and a half ago to reach top FIFA standards.”

Ionnas revealed that the club was in the progress of talking to council in regards to further developing the ground, something that the AAFC partner club sees as a priority in the future.

Oakleigh’s General Manager is relatively confident that the club is ready to take the next step and enter a national second division when it eventuates.

“Look, it all depends once we see the final model that it’s financially viable,” he said.

“If it’s financially viable, then yes.

“It all depends on what the model is going to look like and what it’s going to cost. Speaking to a lot of clubs, that’s what they are all waiting for.

“We are an ambitious club, we would always like to compete at the highest level, we’ve got very good sponsors, very good backers, a very strong board who are all business minded and great infrastructure which we will eventually develop further.”

According to Ionnas, the strong affiliation the club has with the local Greek community has positively impacted the fortunes and finances of the club over their history.

“We’ve got very strong support obviously in the Greek community,” he said.

“We’ve had strong support for a long, long time. We’ve had a major supporter in Delphi Bank who has been our sponsor for 15 years I believe. It’s a massive thing for that to happen continuously.”

Ionnas hopes the club continues to be consistently competitive in the near future, across all aspects of the sport.

“Obviously, we want the club to be a strong club irrespective where it is playing, we want to be up there both on and off the park.

“Our chairman and president Stan Papayianneris have done enormous work, each in their own way, to get the club to where it is now. Oakleigh should remain a strong club because it’s got enormous support away from the field.

“We can’t thank everyone enough for supporting the club.”

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Philip Panas is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

German football ends 70 years with Adidas for Nike deal

The German Football Association (DFB) has inked a mega eight-year deal with American sportswear giant Nike and move on from incredible 70-year partnership with Adidas.

The deal commences in 2027 after the next World Cup and runs to the end of 2034 with the company securing kit rights for at least two World Cup campaigns.

Nike were able to blow away Adidas’ offer and the deal was one they simply couldn’t refuse. It is reportedly worth AU$169.3 million a year, exactly double the amount Adidas currently gives the DFB which is $84.6 million.

Adidas has been a DFB partner since the 1950s and has been synonymous with the success of Germany’s men’s and women’s national teams, who have supported the company’s logo during 14 World Cup and European Championship triumphs.

This deal has caused huge public backlash from German fans and politicians who believe it goes against the traditions and history of the sport.

However, the DFB has defended its decision to drop Adidas as Nike made the better financial offer which would help the federation fund the future of German football as it would be invested into the grassroots game.

DFB President Bernd Neuendorf explained the controversial decision and gives his well wishes to Adidas.

“We understand every emotion. It’s also a drastic event for us as an association when it becomes clear that a partnership that was and is characterised by many special moments is coming to an end after more than 70 years. That doesn’t leave us cold,” Neuendorf said in a statement.

“The DFB has to make economic decisions against this background. Nike made by far the best financial offer in the transparent and non-discriminatory tender process.

“The federation will do everything we can to achieve shared success with our long-standing and current partner Adidas, to whom German soccer has owed a lot for more than seven decades.”

It is a huge loss for Adidas’ legacy, losing a long term relationship with the country’s biggest sporting team to its main rival and ultimately showcasing the bargaining power Nike has over the company.

However, the company still has a huge standing in football despite this issue and won’t be too affected by it. At the international level, Adidas has deals with higher-ranked Argentina and Italy and will still supply Germany’s kits at the 2026 World Cup – a tournament which it will also sponsor.

This new deal allows more money to tackle issues in the grassroots game in Germany and help stabilise the system as it looks towards returning to long-term international success.

Nick Galatas on addressing the link between National Second Tier with promotion and relegation

The National Second Tier (NST) competition is building towards its expected start date of March/April 2025, but its final structure has not been settled.

While eight teams were initially announced with representation from Victoria and New South Wales, we are still yet to find out who will make up the rest of the ‘national’ component.

We will at least have an update on this around June 2024, as the Request for Proposal (RFP), Assessment & Review and Completion Phases are all completed.

Association of Australian Football Clubs (AAFC) Chairman Nick Galatas has been a vocal advocate and involved in establishing the NST from its inception, but despite the previously announced foundation clubs, there is still work to do to ensure the NST starts in the best possible shape.

At this stage, eight foundation clubs have been confirmed, but there is a push to increase the number to at least 12.

Despite 26 clubs advancing to the RFP phase, only 8 foundation clubs proved to be a major drop off from what appeared a healthy pool of teams to choose from.

“There were 26 clubs that looked to be in a great position to be selected to start in the new NST,” Galatas told Soccerscene.

“From those, it would be expected to get 12 for a kick-off in 2024 but didn’t pan out that way.”

A lack of structure around how promotion and relegation will work with the NPL does leave some uncertainty for the clubs left out of the NST. Many clubs remain eager to be part of the expected four additional teams to be added for the competition’s commencement early in 2025.

For Football Australia, consistency will need to be applied across the board about how clubs go up and down between the NST and NPL when promotion and relegation commences. Football Queensland has made rules that a Queensland coming into the NST will revert to the competition it was in before it joined the NST. That is inconsistent with the approach of other member federations.

For example, with Preston Lions FC competing in Victoria Premier League 1 in 2024 prior to the commencement of NST, if they get relegated is it one step below to NPL Victoria or the original league they are in now?

Galatas outlined how everyone must be on the same page to form a unified system.

“As a scenario, we can think ahead to, say, 2027 and it’s the third year of competition, which is may also have expanded by then and include Queensland teams,” he said.

“For example, if, say, Preston Lions from Victoria and Sunshine Coast Fire FC from Queensland are relegation candidates in that season, it’s untenable that those teams would face different predicaments if relegated with Preston to the NPL and Sunshine Coast to oblivion.

“Hypothetically if we talk about relegation, everyone agrees that a Victorian-based club would be relegated to NPL Victoria even if originally from a lower league.

“However, when you compare it to a Queensland club, getting relegated means that they go into oblivion, which doesn’t add up. It’s fundamental and accepted practice that a relegated team goes down one rung and it has the chance to come up again.

“Football Australia needs to discuss a relegation scenario with all of the member federations and ensure there is a consistent approach. It will run the competition and must ensure the member federations work together with it and the clubs to achieve this outcome.”

Galatas outlined what he hopes to see out of the upcoming application process, moving one step closer to an Australia-wide competition.

“Instead of the eight confirmed teams we see now, it should be 12 teams from hopefully at least four states or territories to achieve the best competition,” he said.

“I would have liked to have seen a 2024 start date with 12 teams and have all the big players ready to go, but instead we’ve had a delay. But so long as we use the additional time to start strongly, the extra year to wait is not important in the overall picture.

“Having Queensland plus at least one of South Australia, Tasmania and Canberra to include four states from the get-go is the ideal platform to build on.

“Then we can look at Western Australia and the remaining areas as we build – we are just starting. We can grow the competition without rushing into it too much from a logistical point of view.”

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