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Who will be the next Melbourne Victory CEO?

When Trent Jacobs announced in May that he would be stepping down as Melbourne Victory Chief Executive Officer (CEO), he left a colossal task ahead for whoever is his chosen successor.

Whoever steps into the role will need to act fast, steady the ship and win support from the fans because of Victory’s recent struggles in the A-League. With a review of the structure of the club currently underway by club director and company secretary Caroline Carnegie, the decision of who takes the role will likely be influenced by club chairman Anthony Di Pietro and herself. There are a number of people available who could easily step into the role, bringing with them experience and football knowledge to give the Victory a much-needed soft reboot.

Richard Scudmore, the former English Premier League CEO, is already familiar with the A-League after working as a special adviser to competition boss Greg O’Rourke. Scudmore is an experienced football operator who could bring a wealth of knowledge to Victory’s boardroom. The sticking point is surely the price it would cost to bring in someone of his stature. Whether Victory has the funds, or the will to fork out the dollars for Scudmore is surely the biggest hurdle. However, he would a valuable asset for any club.

Should they instead focus on an experienced hand, who has been at the helm of an A-League team before? Recently departed Newcastle Jets Chief Executive Lawrie McKinna could have the experience necessary to take on the role at Melbourne Victory, and his passion for football is in display for all. After a tumultuous time at the Jets, the Victory job could be a big enough carrot to lure him back into the hot seat, despite rumours of a return to local politics.

Another option would be the former head of the A-League Archie Fraser. He was CEO of St Kilda football club for a time, and was also briefly the Macarthur FC CEO, before stepping down four months into his tenure to pursue a different opportunity. Another experienced football head, he could bring knowledge and professionalism to Victory to help in their much-needed rebuild. Whether he has the passion to re-enter football is the question.

An outside-the-box option could be Jeff Doyle, the former group CEO of Altus Traffic. Doyle is a former professional footballer in the United Kingdom, and he is a known quality to Melbourne Victory because of his involvement through front-of-shirt sponsorship deals. Someone from outside the current structure of the A-League, with time spent in different facets of the game, could prove a wise choice for the Victory going forward. Doyle recently left his role as CEO of Altus Traffic and is a hot favorite for the position within the Victory fan base.

A different angle to pursue could be to promote someone into the top job from within the club. This is unlikely however, as CEOs are rarely promoted from within an organisation.

A decision – and an announcement – is surely imminent of who will be the next Melbourne Victory CEO. Whoever it is will have the mammoth task of bringing success and titles back to one of Australia’s largest clubs. They will need to breathe new life into a club that used to demand success at all levels, which has stuttered in recent years. The pressure will be huge from a fan base hungry for titles which have eluded them since Kevin Muscat’s departure as head coach, while the new CEO will also be supporting a new coaching team headlined by Tony Popovic. Whoever it is, they have their work cut out for them.

Cromer Park’s $2 million redevelopment now complete

Cromer Park has seen the completion of a $2 million redevelopment for its famous precinct in the Northern Beaches suburb of Sydney.

Cromer Park has seen the completion of a $2 million redevelopment for its famous precinct in the Northern Beaches suburb of Sydney.

Funding of $500,000 was secured via the Community Development Grants Program and a further $20,000 was secured through the NSW Government’s Community Building Partnership.

In addition, the combined efforts of home tenants Manly Warringah Football Association, Manly United FC and Manly Warringah District Football Club meant that the long-awaited upgrades to Cromer Park’s facilities were ensured.

Manly Warringah Football Association CEO David Mason was delighted to have finalised the upgrades for Cromer Park.

“The redevelopment of the Manly Warringah Football Club has been on the agenda for the best part of a decade with various projects and plans considered to rejuvenate the facility,” he said.

“The latest plans started three years ago when all football bodies on the Northern Beaches came together to prioritise the project.

“Funding from the football community was put in place and when we received a $500,000 from the Australian Government through the Community Development Grants Program it gathered serious momentum. Construction on the project started in January 2021 and was completed on time and on budget in 6 months.

“We have designed and constructed a facility that makes Cromer Park the true ‘Home of Football’ on the Northern Beaches.”

Building ‘Homes of Football’ is one of five key infrastructure priorities identified by Football NSW in their Infrastructure Strategy document. Homes of Football are essential to improving access to football programs, pathways and development services across the association.

“The Manly Warringah Football Club includes a modern Social Club that will be for the use of the entire Manly Warringah football community and the general public with café, bistro and bar facilities as well as function and meeting rooms for the MWFA clubs, Manly United and registered footballers,” Mason continued.

Cromer Park interior

“We have also constructed a first-class physiotherapy, injury rehabilitation and gymnasium for the Manly Warringah football community and upgraded the administration offices for the MWFA and Manly United.

“The Manly Warringah Football Club is now a first-class community facility providing a focal point and meeting place for the football community for years and generations to come.

“This project has been the culmination of many years of planning and collaboration from all members of the Northern Beaches football community that has been made possible by funding from the Australian and NSW Governments as well as money that has been raised and contributed by the football community.

“It is a wonderful example of what can be achieved when football works cohesively and collaborates with all stakeholders in a unified way to bring to life a vision and dream.”

Cromer Park

Prior to the upcoming 2022 season, Cromer Park No.1 will also receive an upgrade to its synthetic surface after Northern Beaches Council were successful in the recent Greater Cities Sports Facility Fund – Round 1.

Football Tasmania CEO Matt Bulkeley: “It isn’t a national competition without a Tasmanian team in it”

Football Tasmania CEO Matt Bulkeley has been in the job since August 2018, and has had plenty of work cut out for him during a turbulent time in Australian football. He spoke to Soccerscene about his involvement in football, Tasmania’s A-League ambitions, and the future of the game in Australia’s smallest state.

Q. How did you become involved in football?

Bulkeley: I’ve been involved in football all my life, I started playing when I was about six or seven in the Hills district in Sydney. I played football probably until I was about 35, and was involved as a volunteer coaching juniors and seniors. I studied a sports management degree when I finished school and worked for about 10 years in cricket. The opportunity came up for an opportunity with Football Federation Australia in around 2005, and I took that role on and was with the national body for almost eight years. I had some other roles in between before coming back into football in this role. 

Q. What challenges has Football Tasmania faced in recent years?

Bulkeley: We’ve had similar challenges to everyone else in relation to COVID, The interruption of the season, and the need to reconfigure what we had planned to do. We were able to get away a season that was roughly two-thirds of a normal season, we didn’t play all of the normal games. We did get most of our players who ended up playing after the break, which was a good thing. When we did return it was a pretty good season. What our clubs found was that they had good interest, good attendance on game days. People enjoyed themselves, and after that lockdown, it was in a sense even more important people had football to forward to and bring themselves together again. What it did impact was that the National Boy’s Championship didn’t go ahead, so that cohort of players didn’t have that opportunity last year, which was disappointing for them with a bit of gap in their development.

In terms of other challenges, one of our challenges that has been fairly well documented is around facilities. We are the biggest participation sport in Tasmania in terms of team sports, but our facilities have not kept up with that demand. They are dated, they are all a similar age and until recent times that haven’t provided suitable amenities for females in particular, both in terms of the number of change rooms as well as their design. We’ve spent a lot of time in the last couple of years working with all levels of government and our stakeholders to try and unlock more funding in football and had good success with that. There have been commitments of $30 million-plus, maybe closer to $40 million after this last state election, and we are starting to see the fruit from that – better facilities, and more across the state.

Q. Has engaging with state government and politicians been a challenge?

Bulkeley: It has been a challenge, and I think that is because we haven’t been as coordinated as we could have been in our approach, and being able to put forward a needs-based business case on why football needs better and more facilities. We are the biggest sport, we are bursting at the seams, and have facilities that aren’t fit for purpose. On one hand, it was challenging, but on the other the case sort of speaks for itself in terms of outcomes in recent years.

Q. Is a boutique rectangular stadium an aim for Football Tasmania?

Bulkeley: Absolutely, as far as I know, we are the only state capital that doesn’t have a rectangular stadium of any kind. When we have high-level games, including the Western United games, they’ve been played on ovals which as you know isn’t as good of a spectator experience for everyone. It’s really important for our ambitions for having our own A-League and W-League teams, which we are confident will happen. The Liberal state government has been very supportive in recent times under the leadership of premier Gutwein, in terms of supporting those ambitions, and has been very positive around a rectangular stadium. We know that would be very important in terms of that missing link for sport in this state. 

Q. How important would it be to become the first football code to launch a professional team in Tasmania?

Bulkeley: I think it’s just important full stop that we have that pathway opportunity. One of the big benefits we see having a team will provide for males and females in that opportunity locally to play at the highest level in this country without leaving the state. We’ve still got people as young as 14 and their families having to decide to relocate, with half of them staying and half of them going, so this provides a local opportunity for those more aspirational players. Then obviously being the biggest team participation sport it provides that local high-level football opportunity for people to go and watch to get behind. We think we have the football community to support it, but also think it adds value to our community by providing local heroes for our young people to look up to.

Q. What hurdles does Football Tasmania in launching an A-League team?

Bulkeley: It is tied to further expansion to the A-League, and from everything that has been communicated from the APL (Australian Professional Leagues), that will occur. Then it’s working on the infrastructure part of it, ensuring we have government support, and that we work with club owners and put the case for having a Tasmania team forward as a strong environment for a further team to be based. It would add a lot to the competition, and our view has always been that it isn’t a national competition if it doesn’t have a Tasmanian team in it. 

Q. What challenges does Football Tasmania face going forward?

Bulkeley: I think one thing we have worked hard on, in the last period of time, is collaboration. We have and are committed to working very closely with our clubs and associations on the aspirations of football. We know we can only do it together. We’ve made some really good inroads in the infrastructure area. We are working hard on other areas of the game, continuing to grow the game, the female side of the game. We have the highest proportion of female participation of anywhere in the country of almost 29%, which we are very proud of but want to keep building on that. We want to keep providing more opportunities around coach education and development, and similarly with refereeing. So there are lots of opportunities and challenges for us to embrace, but we know we need to work together with our clubs and associations to do that.

Australian Clem Morfuni becomes owner of Swindon Town FC

Swindon Town Morfuni

Australian Clem Morfuni has become the majority stakeholder in League Two side Swindon Town FC, with an ambition of bringing in a new era to the club.

The Robins, who were relegated from League One last season and have just nine senior players contracted – including Australian Jordan Lyden – will be backed by Morfuni for the foreseeable future with the upcoming League Two campaign less than three weeks away.

Morfuni, a previous minority stakeholder in the side, founded his plumbing business Axis Services Group in Australia in 1994. It is now a globally operating business with a financial turnover of $200 million each year.

The acquisition has also signalled the end of a lengthy ownership battle for the League Two club who have fought recent financial hardships. Moreover, the club’s fans have rejoiced across social media at the sight of Morfuni’s long-awaited arrival.

In a club statement, Morfuni acknowledged the importance of having a ‘fans first’ philosophy on and off the field.

“I want to tell the fans that you’ve got your club back, a football club should be the heartbeat of the town and the local community and should be something that the whole town and surrounding communities takes great pride in,” he said.

“Without fans you don’t have a club and I want to thank every supporter (many who I have got to know personally) who have fought for their club and helped me to gain control. I know I am indebted to you and will work hard to make this club a club all our fans can be proud of.

“Last season we came last in the football league in terms of fan engagement; this season I aim to come first.”

Morfuni’s takeover of the club has ushered in a new contingent of executive and technical staff, with arrivals including Swindon Town Supporters Trust board member Rob Angus as club CEO and Ben Chorley and Ben Garner as the club’s Director of Football and Head Coach respectively.

In addition, Morfuni spoke on the significance of building a youthful side, something which bodes well for young Australians seeking a pathway into European football.

“I want a young, forward thinking, vibrant club. I want the average age of the team to come down, that doesn’t mean every player will be young because you need a balance, but I want a young side that plays an exciting style of football and create a club where top young players want to join because of the environment, the opportunities they will be given,” he said.

Morfuni’s full statement can be read here.

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