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United Football present three options to Football Victoria to salvage promotion

Football Victoria’s decision to cancel Season 2021 without promotion and relegation is facing a considerable challenge from over 40 Victorian clubs.

Football Victoria’s decision to cancel Season 2021 without promotion and relegation is facing a considerable challenge from over 40 Victorian clubs.

Under the banner of United Football, more than 40 clubs have joined forces to challenge the decision to suspend promotion and relegation in men’s and women’s competitions in Victoria, following the cancellation of the season.

Football Victoria announced the cancellation of the remainder of the season in Metropolitan Melbourne on September 3 2021, in which it also revealed that promotion and relegation would not proceed.

The decision has stirred controversy in the Victorian football community, with a number of clubs who were in the mix for promotion now believing that their efforts have ultimately been wasted.

The United Football Group of Clubs (United Football) represents more than 40 clubs from the top-tier of National Premier Leagues Victoria, right down to State League Five and is advocating that clubs who worked hard to put themselves into promotion contention across men’s and women’s divisions deserve to be rewarded for their efforts.

United Football Chairperson Zak Gruevski, former President of Preston Lions, believes that the clubs are disappointed that promotion has been taken off the table.

At BT Connor Reserve, home of Preston Lions, it has not been an uncommon sight to see over 2,000 people in the stands supporting their team.
Zak Gruevski at Preston Lions. Photo Courtesy of Matt Johnson

“As clubs, we simply can’t tolerate this anymore,” Gruevski told Soccerscene.

“We invest money into our clubs, we work hard to create an environment that leads to success and in the context of a completely lost 2020, to not reward the clubs that have been ambitious in 2021 is not acceptable.

“Our own governing bodies want us to improve as clubs. Football Australia and Football Victoria have set out plans for the growth of their top-flight competitions, so clubs that have invested and improved themselves should be rewarded for that effort, especially with almost two-thirds of the season played.”

“The Football Australia Performance Gap recommends expanded NPL competitions that allow for 30 games per season, so this isn’t just us making things up as we go along to suit a few vocal clubs. Promotion is an important part of the game achieving its competitive and developmental aims.”

United Football has now held several meetings with concerned clubs, and last week delivered a written submission to the Football Victoria board that argues clubs have been misled and that Football Victoria did not adequately prepare for a range of COVID-19 related scenarios, particularly given the cancellation of the 2020 season.

Whilst the clubs acknowledge the cancellation of the season is in light of prolonged, ongoing lockdowns in Victoria, they strongly believe that promotion and relegation was consistently communicated as going ahead, even as late as August 9, 2021 and that promotion – at the very least – should still be honoured.

“You could see from a mile away that the season was going to be affected by COVID,” Gruevski said.

“Like most clubs, for the first few games of the season, all activities were. Checking in, managing numbers in and out of the ground, and as the season progressed that burden became heavier.

“Everyone experienced the effects of COVID in 2020. We lost a whole season and we came into this one with written commitments that promotion and relegation would exist for 2021.

“Even as late as August 2021, when clubs were provided the roadmap out of lockdown, promotion and relegation was still a live issue.

“The scene was set by Football Victoria as early as May 2020 with the release of their ‘Guiding Principles’, where the commitment was that as long as each team played each other once, that would constitute a season for promotion, relegation and prizemoney.

“That didn’t happen, but it didn’t happen because Football Victoria did not incorporate it into the rules of competition and then decided in between lockdowns to play the fixtures based on the calendar instead of the unfulfilled rounds, meaning some teams played each other twice and some didn’t play at all.

“Why, as clubs, should we have to pay for these mistakes? Why should we now have to recomplete an entire season?

“Football Victoria has confirmed that it wants to revise the rules of competition to avoid this happening in 2022, which we’re happy to work with them on, but it doesn’t solve the issue we face right now.”

Gruevski added United Football was also questioning the validity of Football Victoria’s decision, with clear precedent around the country to maintain promotion and relegation, or at the very least, complete a league restructure.

Capital Football decided to honour promotion and relegation despite the early cancellation of the season, whilst Football New South Wales decided to opt for a restructuring of its leagues in light of the cancellation of its competitions.

United Football has received commitments from more than 90% of its 40+ affiliated clubs to contribute to the costs associated with challenging this submission, and work has already progressed with the appointment of a legal team.

In addition to reviewing written material issued by Football Victoria, United Football’s legal team worked on a written submission, which was delivered to Football Victoria on behalf of the clubs on Monday September 20.

The submission, sighted by Soccerscene, notes the group’s commitment to try and amicably resolve the issue with Football Victoria and presents three options for the state governing body to consider:

  1. Promotion and Recognition of Champions based on current standings or points per matches played method, with or without relegation.
  2. Restructure of the leagues to achieve the desired effect of promotion/relegation, completed in line with the 2021 Football Australia Performance Gap Report.
  3. Align with Football Victoria principles and fixture the outstanding games between teams who have not played against each other to complete the season and award promotion and relegation. Given the current COVID situation, it is recognised that this may be the least likely scenario.

Gruevski has had confirmation that the submission had been received and was discussed at Football Victoria’s most recent board meeting and is being reconsidered at an extraordinary meeting being held this week.

“I am satisfied that Football Victoria has heard our concerns and are taking steps to give this further consideration,” he said.

“But the clubs have been very firm with me and in turn our legal team. If we don’t hear back this week, the Group is determined to then proceed with other options.  The Group has reserved its rights to pursue all avenues to reach a satisfactory resolution to the matter.

“One thing is clear; this issue is not going to go away.”

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

LaLiga initiative to support grassroots football worldwide

LaLiga

LaLiga has announced the launch of LaLiga Grassroots, in a bid to further advance and improve its bespoke sports and training projects, as well as promote LaLiga’s know-how and methodology.

This initiative is part of a series of international sports projects that LaLiga have been running since 2015 across multiple markets, and its most outstanding new feature is a series of programmes which are set to take place in Spain. The programmes will mainly be held at ESC Madrid, regarded as a state-of-the-art and world-beating sports complex.

Juan Florit, head of LaLiga Sports Projects, will be in charge of the technical and sports side of LaLiga Grassroots.

“LaLiga Grassroots was conceived as a new specialised unit conceived by the Sports Projects team and the International Business and Development team,” Florit said.

“Our activities will mainly focus on the holistic development of young players, international training programmes for professionals in the sector, and projects to promote and support LaLiga clubs when it comes to their academies and running international tournaments.”

This new project represents a further step in LaLiga’s creation and execution of sports projects, an area through which it has enjoyed great success over the last six seasons.

The project is set to find positions for nearly 750 Spanish coaches, as well as provide training for more than 20,000 coaches and 175,000 players in the more than 400 projects carried out across 38 countries.

Javier Hernandez, Head of Business and International Development for the project, was excited to see LaLiga Grassroots finally launched.

“The work we’ve carried out over the years in training players and coaches internationally has taken things to the next level, not only for those who have worked with LaLiga, but also for the league itself and its clubs,” he said.

“We’re convinced that now, with the creation of LaLiga Grassroots and the new programmes that we’ll be running at the ESC Madrid Center, we’ll be able to create better opportunities for everyone.”

Football West CEO James Curtis steps down to usher in new leadership

Football West

Football West have announced that James Curtis will be stepping down from his position as Chief Executive Officer, after more than five years in the role. As he makes his transition, Football West have now commenced their succession planning.

The decision taken by Curtis reaffirms Football West’s dedication as an organisation to fostering long-term growth through the benefits provided by leadership succession.

Football West Chairman Sherif Andrawes praised Curtis’ strong leadership and commitment to delivering a long-term legacy for football in Western Australia, since commencing in the role in 2016.

“James has been an outstanding CEO and his focus on driving long-term growth, investment and community benefit have contributed to a bright future for football,” Andrawes said.

“His commitment to working with all parts of the WA community and government to engage with football and being a leader driving diversity, inclusion and engagement has ensured football is positioned well for the future of the game.

“With significant achievements including funding for the long-awaited WA State Football Centre, securing the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in WA and establishing the Football Futures Foundation, there have been many successes during his tenure.”

Curtis conveyed that it was the right time to step down from the role and to transition leadership, with Football West strongly positioned for leveraging record growth.

“We have built a great team across Western Australia that is well positioned to continue building on our strong foundations. After more than five years in the position and rebuilding from the impact of COVID-19, we are ready for a new CEO to implement and deliver our future strategy,” Curtis said.

“I have enjoyed working closely with our Board and our valued partners across government, corporate and the football community to deliver major milestones for the game in WA and establish strong partnerships across Asia for WA football.

“We have a vibrant and passionate football community that will continue to grow on the back of strong clubs and volunteers and our dedicated Football West team.”

Curtis will continue his involvement with football as a Non-Executive Director of Football Futures Foundation – which is chaired by Nick Tana, and supporting the transition to find the new CEO.

Football West has commenced an internal and external search for the company’s next CEO.

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