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Preston Lions FC: A sleeping giant is awoken with new $3 million grant

With one of Australia’s most passionate fanbases and a history of on-field success, it seems inconceivable that less than a decade ago the Preston Lions FC was on the brink of financial collapse. But despite its recent struggles, a resilient leadership team has led the club out of darkness and towards a bright new dawn.

Following a triumphant 2019 season which ended in promotion, the crowning jewel in Preston’s redemptive arc is the announcement of a new $3 million government grant to redevelop its facilities – meaning the club will finally have the infrastructure to match its lofty ambitions.

“The club recognised that we operate in a competitive environment and we needed to significantly improve the state of our facilities if we were going to attract and retain players, coaches, sponsors, members, and families,” said Zak Gruevski, Preston Lions FC President.

“Furthermore, we need to continue to improve our facilities if we are to meet our ambitious plans of playing at the highest level of NPL in Victoria, and possibly in the National Second Division.”

The funding marks a dramatic turnaround for the club. Struggles on-the-pitch saw Preston relegated twice, in 2009 and 2011, and things were no better off-field, with crippling debt almost forcing the Lions into bankruptcy in 2012.

But just a few short years later fortunes had changed again, and this time for the better. Thanks to the dedication of the Debt Demolition Fundraising Sub Committee, fundraising efforts managed to eradicate the debt in 2014, giving the club a new platform of hope and financial stability.

Gruevski, a life-long supporter of the Lions, was elected President in 2015 and has already overseen drastic improvements to the club’s stature and home ground, B.T. Connor Reserve in Melbourne’s north.

“At the time I was elected, our objective was to build a strong and united team of professional and passionate people to create a sustainable future for the club,” Gruevski said.

The club’s main grandstand at B.T. Connor Reserve

“Prior to 2015, the club’s facilities were extremely run down and not fit for purpose but thanks to the dedication of our passionate people including the committee, supporters, and sponsors, the club has been able to emerge from a difficult period to deliver significant improvements.”

Although recent investments have already enhanced the state of Preston’s stadia, the new redevelopments will take the facilities to an entirely new level.

Work is expected to commence in early 2021 and be completed towards the end of the year. Among a raft of improvements, the Lions’ new pavilion will include the following features:

  • A purpose built social area with state-of-the-art kitchen and bar facilities to accommodate up to 220 seated guests
  • Full access viewings onto the main playing pitch with floor to ceiling glass doors and windows
  • External undercover seating for up to 200 patrons
  • Six purpose-built change rooms, with associated medical facilities to accommodate players, medical staff, and officials
  • Media/meeting room facilities with access to high-quality audio-visual amenities including a 6 x 3 metre electronic scoreboard (funded by club sponsors), audio visual (AV) projection facilities, as well as AV throughout the ground
  • Canteen and restroom facilities for patrons (including those with disabilities) accessible external and internal to the pavilion

According to Gruevski, the facilities will create enormous benefits for those at the club, but also people in the wider local community.

“The new pavilion will provide state of the art facilities where the entire Preston family and other visitors can enjoy café, restaurant, and bar facilities in a fully enclosed environment whilst still being able to watch unobstructed. The facility will prove particularly popular for parents and visitors during the week on training nights, particularly in Winter.” Gruevski said.

“In addition, it will provide the club significant revenue opportunities before and after games to accommodate patrons as well as the potential for use on weekends for functions and events.”

The announcement comes during a time where debate has raged around the state of Australia’s footballing infrastructure. A victim of chronic underinvestment, the issue has drawn commentary from some of the game’s leading figures and has been exacerbated by a strong rise in participation rates, causing a strain on grassroots facilities nationwide.

But despite the negative sentiment surrounding Australia’s football amenities, the path forward will be paved by cooperation and goodwill between clubs, administrators, and government, and the Lions have set a positive example in how this can be achieved.

“The club has adopted a partnership model working closely with the City of Darebin to develop a football precinct that the club and the community can be proud of and enjoy for many years to come,” Gruevski stated.

“Whilst the club has contributed to a number of the infrastructure projects at B.T. Connor Reserve, the majority of the funding has come from council. The club has provided the ‘justification’ to council for investment in facilities which had previously been neglected for many years.”

A digital render of the refurbished pavilion.

Prior to the season’s cancellation due to COVID-19, Preston was preparing to compete in Victoria’s NPL 3 in 2020.  It was set to be the club’s first venture back into the NPL system since suffering relegations in 2009 and 2011.

The recent promotion back to the NPL and upcoming redevelopment signal an exciting new era for the Preston Lions FC. The club’s approximate 350 players – and much wider community – have good reason to rejoice, for the facilities-upgrade represents far more than just tangible benefits it will provide.

The state-of-the-art complex signifies that the proud club, which once competed for 13 years at Australia’s top level (the now defunct National Soccer League), is once again a force-to-be-reckoned-with in Australia’s highly competitive domestic sports landscape.

“With significant improvements in facilities and the implementation of quality football programs for our men’s, women’s and junior teams, we aim to attract and retain quality footballers and their families who want to be part of the next phase of the club’s journey to competing at the highest level of competition possible,” Gruevski said.

“The sleeping giant that has awoken is now in a strong position to leverage its wonderful history to create a bright and successful future.”

Tottenham Hotspur announce Science in Sport as their performance solutions partner

Tottenham and SiS

Tottenham Hotspur have named nutrition brand Science in Sport (SiS) as their first official performance solutions partner, signing a four-year deal.

The partnership will see SiS provide the Premier League outfit with products and a dedicated performance solutions framework, custom designed by the company to shape the team’s nutrition strategy.

Spurs will employ staff to work alongside SiS to help develop the programme, which will be led by the club’s lead nutritionist, Emma Tester.

“At Tottenham Hotspur we aspire to be the world’s best in performance nutrition. Since the start of pre-season, we have been working closely with James Morton and the team at SiS to get the products implemented across the squad and begin planning our wider nutritional strategy,” Tester said via Tottenham Hotspur.

“Having access and support from industry-leading experts is of huge benefit to us“We have had great feedback from the players on the range of products available to them and we look forward to developing bespoke products to truly personalise their nutrition programme.

In return, SiS will gain brand visibility on coolers and water bottles, as well as branding promotion at the club’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium home on matchdays and at the club’s training ground.

Spursplay, the club’s recently launched streaming platform, will offer feature SiS-branded content demonstrating how the brand’s products are being used.

Included on the Board is Prof. James Morton, Director of Performance Solutions at SiS, who said via Tottenham Hotspur:

“Science in Sport are committed to fuelling the world’s best athletes and sports teams with world leading science and innovation. With our Performance Solutions programme, we tailor our research, innovation, and world class knowledge to deliver a true competitive advantage. We are delighted to partner with Tottenham Hotspur, a sports team who share the same pioneering values and vision.”

Exclusive content about the partnership will be available on SPURSPLAY, the Club’s new home of live and on-demand video content, including interviews and behind the scenes access to the Performance Framework being implemented. SiS-branded coolers and bottles will also regularly be seen pitchside on matchdays and during training sessions.

Optus Sport to stream Football Victoria’s Nike F.C. Cup Final

Nike F.C. Cup

Football Victoria have made the exciting announcement that Optus Sport will yet again stream the Nike F.C. Cup Final in 2022.

Optus Sport have been the home of the English Premier League in Australia since 2016, and are also home to LaLiga, the Women’s Super League, K-League, J-League and the EURO’s.

The Cup Final will be held on Sunday afternoon, when South Melbourne takes on Calder United at Valley Park Events Centre, Broadmeadows.

Football Victoria CEO Kimon Taliadoros applauded Optus Sport’s commitment and acknowledged their continued support of the local game in a statement released by Football Victoria.

“The appetite for women’s football is growing exponentially and we thank Optus Sport for their elevation of the Nike F.C. Cup again in 2022,” he said in a statement.

“We are thrilled that subscribers across the nation can experience the quality football that the two teams will deliver on Sunday.”

Match coverage starts at 3.30pm AEDT, with the final kicking off at 4pm this Sunday.

Coverage will also be provided for non-subscribers on NPL.TV and Football Victoria’s Facebook and YouTube.

Customers can watch Optus Sport on their favourite screens and devices via Fetch, Apple TV, Android TV compatible Smart TVs, LG Smart TVs, Apple Airplay, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, Xbox, compatible Samsung Smart TVs or desktop, or on-the-go via tablet, mobile, or laptop.

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