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Rydalmere Lions FC: Modelling success for football clubs in Australia

In what is often described as a saturated Australian sporting market, where sponsorship dollars are limited and infrastructure development and growth difficult to achieve, Rydalmere Lions FC is setting the standard in New South Wales.

The inner-west club was founded in 1979 as the St. Joseph’s Zgharta Soccer Club and subsequently joined forces with the Fairfield City Lions in 2014; the same year the newly merged club was crowned champions of New South Wales’ State League Division 2.

Rydalmere juniors compete in the Granville District Soccer Football Association and the club was placed at NPL3 level for its first year of play in the newly formed second tier of Australian football in 2016.

The beating heart of the club lies in the migrant Lebanese families who first envisioned a safe and community based club for their children. Those founders saw an organised sporting club as an extension of the family unit and an ongoing connection to community as the most vital pre-cursor to any success that may come their way.

As is common to most football clubs around the country, the challenge of acquiring sponsors and raising revenue to improve facilities and meet the day to day running costs was considerable.

In 2016, as the Lions become a serious championship contender in NPL3, the club had 400 playing members and 650 non-playing members. It had seen only marginal growth from recent seasons and sponsorship remained steady yet meagre.

With the hope of expanding the reach of the club to allow all its members to spend more time involved in the game as a supportive collective base, an advisory committee was established. That committee brought together the best football, business, legal and financial minds from within the Rydalmere FC community and set about strategizing a path forward that would grow the club in terms of both participation and community engagement.

The committee allowed Rydalmere to more professionally and effectively make submissions to prospective partners in the local community. When City of Parramatta Council sought expressions of interest for new tenants to occupy the Rydalmere Central Bowling Club, the club was proactive and aggressive in its negotiations.

The vacant venue sat just a stones throw from the Lions home track at Rydalmere Park and seemed a perfect fit. In the very near future and after three years of planning, the club will re-open the doors of its new home; now rebranded as ‘The F.C’. It will become the Rydalmere Lions’ community base, a place to where football extends beyond the pitch and becomes a hub for not only club members but also the wider Parramatta community.

Most importantly, ‘The F.C’ will now allow the club to more easily meet those objectives set out by the clubs’ founders over 40 years ago, with the vision of shared experience and community lying at the core of any future decisions made at the club.

Further submissions to the City of Parramatta Council led to upgrades of the playing facilities at Rydalmere Park and the New South Wales government provided a grant for an upgrade of the wider precinct.

The entire facelift is valued at somewhere near A$5 million and provides not only a Football NSW compliant artificial turf pitch for the Lions to use during NPL play, but also an array of other smaller sporting facilities, increased vegetation, walking paths and a children’s playground.

The excitement around the development and the club’s pro-active approach to growth has seen a dramatic increase in membership. There are now 525 registered players and over 850 non-playing members; all eager to become part of history when the make-over is complete and the club begins to operate on a daily basis from its new home.

Sponsorship commitments have doubled within 12 months, membership has increased by an impressive 31 per cent and performances on the pitch in season 2020 hold much promise.

The club’s First Grade Head Coach is Gavin Rae, the former Dundee, Glasgow Rangers and Cardiff City midfielder who previously held the top job at Hakoah Sydney City East. It was a typically bold move by the club to enquire of Rae’s services, with a position at NPL1 level his most likely destination.

However, along with Simon Doueihi (Head of Football) and Anthony Harb (Club Technical Director), Rae completes an impressive team that hopes to return the club to NPL2 competition as quickly as possible, after suffering relegation in 2019.

In spite of that disappointment, the commercial success story of Rydalmere Lions FC provides a potential model for many clubs around Australia. Those battling to survive financially, let alone even dream of considerable growth, could do worse than use the simple philosophy of creating a community based hub, one that extends far beyond the play that occurs on a football pitch.

Players, supporters and sponsors have been drawn to that philosophy. When executed professionally and intelligently, such an idea has proven once again to lie at the heart of football in Australia. Don’t be surprised if Rydalmere FC quickly becomes a powerhouse in NPL and junior play. It will be nothing but the residue of a clear vision and some very hard work.

 

Stuart Thomas is a trusted Journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on macro policy within Australasia and industry disruptions.

The FA forced into job cuts amid Covid-19

The Football Association (FA) has been forced into 124 job cuts as they try to fight their losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Football Association (FA), English soccer’s governing body, has been forced into 124 job cuts as they try to fight their losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

FA chairman Greg Clarke has confirmed that all areas of the organisation will be affected, as a redundancy programme will see a large number of positions removed.

“All areas of the FA will be affected,” he said.

“We need to save UK£75 million a year and we’ve got a UK£300 million potential hole to fill over the next four years.”

Of the total 124 jobs to be made redundant, 42 of those will be achieved by stopping further recruitment. It leaves 82 positions that will have to be cut in order to save costs.

It’s been reported that the FA is bracing for a potential deficit of UK£300 million (AU$536 million) over the next four years due to the coronavirus.

“We have a responsibility to preserve our core functions that regulate and serve English football,” FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said.

“We also have a duty to support our men’s and women’s senior teams in their efforts to win major tournaments. That means we have set out in our proposals some difficult choices because we do not think we can afford to do all the things that we did before.

“We believe the impact of this crisis is to force us to focus more than ever on our key priorities.”

Despite the English professional leagues getting their season restarts underway recently, the FA has already lost revenue given it’s the first bit of league action since the nationwide shutdown in March.

“It might seem that football has weathered the storm by getting the top-flight men’s game playing again,” Bullingham said.

“However, unfortunately the past few months have impacted the FA severely and we have lost a significant amount of money that we can never recoup.”

Associations such as the FA have the opportunity to receive a loan from Fifa, under the global governing body’s Covid-19 relief plan. However, it’s been reported that the FA has opted against taking advantage of the loan on offer by Fifa, despite them being forced into the job cuts.

Football Victoria release update after lockdown setback

Football Victoria have announced they are currently considering the implications for football in the state, after the government enforced a lockdown on certain postcodes earlier today.

Beginning at 11:59pm on Wednesday, the postcodes in Victoria that will be locked down include: 3038, 3064, 3047, 3060, 3012, 3032, 3055, 3042, 3021, 3046.

Individuals living in suburbs under those postcodes will be required to return to Stage 3 Stay at Home restrictions.

“FV understands that no football activities can continue in those postcodes, and residents in these postcodes are not permitted to travel outside their postcodes for the purposes of football,” the governing body stated on Tuesday evening.

“We understand this will affect a number of clubs and participants at both the NPL and Community level.

“As a result, FV is now considering its position regarding the resumption of competitions, some of which were due to commence this coming weekend.

“FV’s intention is to continue to run competitions where possible – within part of a geographic footprint if required – where clubs are unaffected by this announcement.

“Guidance to all clubs, participants and stakeholders will be provided as quickly as possible, once further clarity has been established as to how this affects our Return to Play plan.

“We will continue to liaise with Sport and Recreation Victoria (SRV) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to obtain the latest information.

“We understand the football community’s desire to gain further information, however until FV is able to obtain further detail and make decisions on each level of competition, we are unable to provide responses to individual queries.”

Football Victoria also claimed they were prepared to release competition fixtures in the next few days, however adjustments will now be made in line with the recent announcement by the Victorian Premier.

The governing body will provide further updates to the football community on Wednesday.

First batch of matches completed in Japan

Japan’s second and third divisions of football were resumed over the weekend as the first batch of matches have been completed to begin the restart.

In total, 16 matches were played between the two divisions, making it the first competitive outing across Japan since all play was suspended in late February.

The J2 second division held nine matches in the second round of the league, while the J3 third division had seven matches in what was their opening round of the season. All matches were played behind closed doors.

However, for the moment fans won’t be able to attend matches, as one of the main strict protocols that the top-flight J1 League has imposed. They must be followed in order for matches to continue safely in a week’s time.

Measures such as regular testing for players and staff every two weeks, plus new rules when training and travelling are key to getting these competitions up and running.

All clubs will be required to announce if any players, staff members or close contacts have tested positive to ensure that matches can be played under medical recommendations.

Social distancing will be maintained wherever possible, as game day procedures have been outlined. Displaying club flags, handshakes and pennant exchanges are not allowed, while players and coaches need to be two metres apart for group photos.

During the match it is advised that handshakes, hugs and uniform exchanges cannot take place, while appropriate distancing must be kept in goal celebrations. Players are encouraged not to share water bottles and cool off their bodies by using sponges dipped in ice water.

In a cautious approach, fan-made banners and flags won’t be seen in the stands even behind closed doors. It aims to reduce the number of interactions between fans and club staff.These interactions also include the media, with Zoom utilised for post-match press conferences.

The J1 League won’t begin their restart until July 4, as their first batch of matches comes a week later than the other leagues. Depending on the ever-changing coronavirus situation, it is hoped that spectators can slowly return to games in the near future, by building up the crowd numbers.

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