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.”

Avatar
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.

Football Australia bolsters leadership with key new appointments

Football Australia has confirmed the appointments of Briana Harvey as General Manager of the Women’s National Teams and David Mason for the role of General Manager of the Men’s National Teams.

These strategic appointments are part of Football Australia’s ongoing efforts to strengthen and enhance the leadership and management of its national teams, ensuring both the women’s and men’s programs benefit from experienced and dedicated leadership.

Harvey has an extensive background in sports management, having held key roles at prominent organizations such as Hockey Victoria, the Australian Football League, Hawthorn Football Club, and, most recently, at the GWS GIANTS Football Club. Her diverse experience across these major sporting bodies highlights her expertise and leadership capabilities in the field.

Mason’s deep involvement with Australian football stretches back to 1998. Throughout his career, he has held numerous management positions in media and communications, football operations, and club administration at Northern Spirit, Parramatta Power, Sydney FC, and Football Australia.

His extensive experience across these diverse roles has equipped him with a comprehensive understanding of the sport’s landscape, making him a valuable asset in his new role.

For the last seven years, Mason has served as CEO of Manly Warringah Football Association and Manly United FC, one of Australia’s largest football associations. Returning to Football Australia, Mason brings with him a vast reservoir of knowledge in local, regional, and global football.

His experience is complemented by a deep familiarity with Australia’s National Football Teams, positioning him to make significant contributions in his new role.

Beginning on August 12, both Harvey and Mason will take charge of the strategic, operational, and administrative aspects of Football Australia’s Men’s and Women’s National Teams. Their responsibilities will include planning and managing budgets, as well as coordinating overall annual match schedules.

In their roles, they will ensure that all logistical and operational needs are met, driving the success and efficiency of the national teams’ programs.

Their leadership will be pivotal in shaping the future of Australian football on both the national and international stages.

Head of National Teams Gary Moretti expressed his excitement of the designation via press release.

“We are delighted to have secured the services of both Briana and David who as individuals and collectively bring a wealth of industry knowledge to Football Australia,” he said.

“Briana has a strong corporate pedigree with extensive experience within elite level sport. Her background and passion for women’s sport will be an invaluable asset to our National Teams both now and in the future.

“David is a football person and has contributed to the sport at all levels for almost three decades. In addition to his strong football acumen, David brings significant business and operational experience from his highly successful tenure as a CEO within the football industry.

“Along with Andrew McKenzie (General Manager – High Performance), the appointments of Briana and David will strengthen the management and future prospects of our National Teams as we look to create an elite performance and operational environment featuring a world’s best-practice focus.”

CEO of Football Australia James Johnson added how their experience and wealth of knowledge will ensure operation excellence via press release.

“The appointments of Briana and David are strategic moves that align with our vision to enhance the performance and success of our National Teams. Their combined experience and leadership will play a crucial role in ensuring operational excellence, so we remain competitive on the global stage and continue to inspire the next generation of football talent in Australia.”

Football Australia – National Teams Senior Management

Head of National Teams: Gary Moretti
General Manager – Women’s National Teams: Briana Harvey (commencing 12 August)
General Manager – Men’s National Teams: David Mason (commencing 12 August)
General Manager – High Performance: Andrew McKenzie (commenced 10 July)
General Manager – Football Analysis, Data and Insights (to be appointed)

The creation of four new leadership positions within the National Teams underscores Football Australia’s commitment and investment in its Senior and Youth National Teams, as outlined in the XI Principles for the future of Australian Football. Every position plays a critical role in advancing, overseeing, and ensuring the sustained success of all High Performance and National Team programs and initiatives.

Football South Australia extend collaboration with SAASL

Football South Australia and the South Australian Amateur Soccer League (SAASL) have extended their collaboration, strengthening their cooperation in developing football in the state.

There was a meeting held recently where key representatives from both organisations discussed ways to continue their growth of the game in the state at all levels.

Since the partnership began in 2018, the two parties have made a meaningful impact in the South Australian football community.

Several key initiatives have been launched through this collaboration which include:

Referee Development: Football SA’s Referees Department is now responsible for assigning match officials for all SAASL games. In 2024, the strategic emphasis by Football SA and SAASL on referees has led to a notable improvement in match official coverage for Senior Divisions in both Saturday and Sunday leagues.

Officiating Initiatives: Football SA has introduced various initiatives to recruit new referees and support young officials, such as State Championships and specialised mentorship programs. Meanwhile, SAASL is actively working on strategies to enhance their Club Referee program, offering a clear pathway for both new and returning referees.

Respect Campaign: The Armband Campaign to protect young referees has been successfully launched. Embraced by clubs, participants, and the football community, the bright orange armbands worn by referees under 18 serve as a clear reminder that these officials are minors.

Venue Support: ServiceFM Stadium has been the venue for major SAASL events, offering a professional environment for amateur league matches.

Streamlined Registration: SAASL players will keep registering via a consistent Player Registration System, which enhances administrative efficiency and ensures the integrity of player registrations.

Shared Competition Management System: Offering uniform and efficient Competition Management Processes across all competitions, enhancing efficiency for clubs, referees, and association administrators.

Enhanced Player Protection: SAASL players are covered by the National Insurance Scheme, which offers essential protection for clubs, administrators, volunteers, and participants.

Michael Carter, CEO of Football SA spoke very highly of the partnership and its effects on the game in SA.

“This extension represents more than just a renewal of our agreement,” he said in a statement.

“It’s a testament to the evolving and strengthening relationship between Football SA and SAASL. We’re working closer together than ever before, and the results speak for themselves.”

George Fotopoulos, President of SAASL and SAASL Board members and Executive Officer Darcy Evan shared a similar sentiment about the excitement of this continued long-term partnership.

“We are pleased to continue our partnership with Football SA. Our ongoing affiliation has seen a significant improvement in our Referee coverage in 2024, that is due to the collaboration and hard work of both the Football SA and the SAASL administration teams. We look forward to further opportunities the partnership will provide,” SAASL confirmed in a statement.

Overall, this partnership enhances the infrastructure, safety, and quality of football in South Australia, encouraging greater participation for players, coaches and referees which is helping the sport thrive at all levels.

Amateur and grassroots football success is the core to any good footballing foundation and this prosperous partnership continuing is a brilliant result.

Most Popular Topics

Editor Picks

Send this to a friend