Speaking with Soccerscene, Football Victoria CEO Peter Filopoulos claims the current period presents the game with challenges but also opportunities for the future.
Filopoulos, a highly experienced administrator across a variety of sports, believes nothing in his career compares to the impact the COVID-19 pandemic is currently having.
“This is the biggest disruption that’s faced sport, not just football,” he said.
“In my time of 30 years in sports administration, I’ve never seen anything like it before.
“But I also see this crisis as an opportunity for football to position itself at the backend of this.
“To be able to build a platform for us to change the way we do business and the way we do things, that’s what I’m looking forward to.”
In unprecedented times, Filopoulos said the organisation, alongside collaborative efforts with the FFA, are filling the void for football participants through alternative means.
Initiatives which focus on the mental and physical wellbeing of the footballing community have been implemented in recent weeks.
“We’ve been driving some digital content, which is fantastic,” he said.
“We’ve introduced the #LiveLoveFootball at home campaign.This is a series of skills, videos, activities, quizzes, podcasts, throwbacks, classic moments and more.
“We’ve also got Skills Hub through FFA, that helps the grassroots football community stay active and connected through this time.
“FFA recently launched this online skills hub developed in association with all of us federations, with the #PlayAtHomeChallenge.”
With all football activity suspended until May 31 at the very least, Football Victoria has been in constant contact with local councils, in regards to supporting grassroots football clubs in the state.
According to Filopoulos, around ten councils have already provided rent relief for clubs during this period, with hopefully more to come.
“We are working with the rest of them,” he said.
“We’ve written to them and we’re speaking to them to help support our football clubs in the time of need.
“Not only on the rent relief, but also to try and access facilities post the winter season, for when we resume football activity and (most likely) encroach on the spring season.”
The state governing body has been in consistent dialogue with all levels of government on a number of fronts, including financial assistance.
The organisation recently sent all of its member federation clubs a government assistance overview for the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The Football Victoria CEO explained he is also working with other sports in a bid to garner support from government.
“We’ve all got the common challenge and the common problems,” he said.
“So, we are working as a conglomerate to lobby government.
“Government’s going to be looking towards us for social economic recovery in the backend, we need to be in a financial position to have the capability to do it, so we need the support.”
With recent suggestions a possible rebuild of the game could be close, Filopoulos believes a national second division and connected football pyramid will be a reality in the near future.
“That’s something Football Victoria are very big advocates of. (We are) working with FFA closely to try and deliver that sooner, rather than later.
“I think we’ve got a very supportive CEO and Chair at FFA, it’s a matter of now putting those plans in motion.
“I’d like to think that we can accelerate that strategy at some point, once we are out of this crisis.”
A key to that strategy in a prospective national second division is the involvement of broadcast partners, with Football Victoria having already begun talks about their own product to streaming services such as Optus Sport and Kayo Sports.
“(Discussions) are still progressing, but given that we’ve got no content really to upload or share at the moment it’s gone a little bit on the backburner, hopefully we can resume these discussions at some point.”
For now, however, planning continues behind the scenes at Football Victoria for when football does return.
“In terms of when we get back, we are looking at a number of scenarios at the moment,” Filopoulos said.
“Depending on when we can start, we believe we will be able to complete certain competitions.”
One thing’s for sure, football will bounce back.