Why the FFA have made the right call on grassroots soccer

The grassroots level is where our stars are born, where we discover our love for the game.

It’s arguably the most important level of the game and without it, the sport of soccer in this country would be next to nothing.

In light of the recent coronavirus outbreak that has been dominating the headlines worldwide, the FFA originally decided to continue games at the community level, without crowds.

From a certain point of view, it made sense.

Local clubs thrive on matchdays and to play fixtures as per usual, just without any supporters.

Only players, coaches, officials, registered ground staff and media were going to be allowed attendance.

But this week, the FFA have overruled this decision, instead opting to postpone all fixtures below the A-League until the virus outbreak reaches a manageable level.

One which would allow fans to go to games without running the risk of contracting COVID-19.

It’s hard to argue that the FFA have made the incorrect decision.

As much as we want to watch our favourite clubs play whilst we sit at home, cheering them on, it’s hard for clubs to warrant fixtures being played without gameday income.

As fans, we can often take our purchases and financial commitments to clubs for granted. It’s easy to do so, especially if you’re a long serving member of the club.

At the start of the year, prior to the outbreak, many fans would’ve felt paid their membership fees, bought their attire and anything else without thinking twice.

Just the beginning of another season.

But now, with all those fees paid and no games to help bring more money in, clubs would struggle.

Clubs rely heavily on food, drinks and ticket purchases to keep them afloat during the season. It’s a reliable source of income that doesn’t need much attention, if any.

People will always buy tickets on the day, buy their own dinners and even a few drinks if they’re in the mood. It’s a given for most clubs and it is an easy way to make profit.

However, with no fans at games, things change drastically.

Players, coaches, ground staff and club media still have paychecks to be met. Referees are in the same boat.

Power bills don’t come cheap and with games being played, you can bet those bills would take their toll, especially night fixtures where lights are required to be on.

Furthermore, by playing these fixtures, you run the risk of people contracting the virus.

Yes, it’s not as risky as having hundreds or thousands of fans enter the stadiums/grounds.

But the chances of it happening, albeit slim, are still higher than we all wish it was.

Clubs will still make significant losses from this outbreak, make no mistake about that.

Some AFL clubs are reporting that they may be in for financial losses of more than $5 million, a staggering amount.

Clubs across the Serie A, Bundesliga, La Liga and the Premier League will also make losses.

Community level clubs are in the same boat. But it’s certainly smarter and above all else, safer to have these games postponed until the time comes when we can all shake hands again.

When we can go outside without having to worry about what might happen.

When we can live our lives as per normal.

Many fans will be staying at home during these bizarre times and limiting how often they leave the house.

As much as they’d love to see their sides play whilst in the comfort and safety of their own homes, it simply isn’t the way.

Fans will simply need to find other ways to entertain themselves as their local clubs will have to join many more around the world, in a period of limbo.

Although the decision would have been one they did not make lightly, FFA CEO James Johnson and his team have certainly done the right thing in postponing.

By running these fixtures, it’s simply running the unnecessary risk of spreading the virus and that’s the last thing needed right now.

Johnson has been thrown out of the frying pan and into the fire as CEO, but he has made a good start in trying circumstances and let’s hope he stays on this trend.

However, he and his team need to continue making these tough calls.

Next up, postponement of the A-League.

Once again, it’s merely common sense.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Let us know and get involved in the conversation on Twitter @Soccersceneau

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Caelum Ferrarese is a Senior journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on micro policy within Australasia and industry disruptions at grassroots level.

Everton agree to 777 Partners takeover amidst seasons of turmoil

Goodison Park

Everton have agreed on a deal with 777 Partners, as the U.S. private equity firm is looking to taking over from Farhad Moshiri in a deal reports said was worth more than 550 million pounds ($1.06 Billion AUD).

Everton have no doubt been going into turmoil over recent years, between battling close relegation races twice, getting into Financial Fair Play trouble regarding their financial losses and struggling to pay for the new Bramley Moore Dock stadium in full before its completion in 2024.

After another slow start to the new Premier League season, it has left the club in a spot of bother regarding its ownership. Majority owner Farhad Moshiri has been publicly open to selling the club since the end of the 2022/23 season, claiming he could not keep up with the finances after the Everton annual financial report showed losses of over £430 million ($817 million AUD) over the last five years.

Founded in 2015, 777 Partners is an alternative investment platform that helps bold entrepreneurs transform visions into enduring value. The Miami-based company has subsequently branched out into sports club ownership with a vision to play a key part in football in the near future as mentioned on their website.

777 Partners have a number of clubs in its portfolio that have all been acquired over the last four seasons, including Italian side Genoa and Belgian team Standard Liege, while they also have stakes in Bundesliga 2 club Hertha Berlin and more recently A-League side Melbourne Victory.

However, even in their football ownership infancy, there has been major controversy surrounding their lack of investment into players for the clubs they own, as well as a general lack of care for on-pitch results which could spell major trouble for Everton.

Hertha Berlins recently held out banners in disgust for 777 after their shocking start to the Bundesliga 2 season, months after getting relegated from the first division under 777 owner Josh Wander with a dismal 29 points in 34 games, a club record low. The banners read  ‘Josh Wander, the only thing we assure you of is our disapproval of you’. In early September, Standard Liege fans held demonstrations inside their ground with banners such as ‘No money, no ambition’.

Another issue that could play a major role in the success of this takeover is the owners’ and directors’ test that must be passed by all potential owners of premier league clubs. Co-founder Josh Wander was charged and arrested for cocaine trafficking in 2003 and only ended a long period of probation in 2018. Wander admitted in an interview on Sky Sports Italia that this charge would come under additional scrutiny for the owners’ and directors’ test and could be a big roadblock. There are also a number of legal claims against the company still outstanding.

The future looks increasingly bleak for Everton with the poor reputation and record 777 Partners has with its current clubs and this takeover may do more harm than good if that is even possible. Staring down a possibly first-ever Premier League relegation, this change might be better than sitting still under the failure of Moshiri and Kenwright, but there is a rightful lack of optimism surrounding a lot of the club at the moment, especially with the loyal fans.

Kimon Taliadoros resigns – experienced CEO now needed for Football Victoria

Kimon Taliadoros

Last week, Kimon Taliadoros resigned from his position as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Football Victoria.

He also served as Chairman of Football Victoria for five years before his role as CEO.

Taliadoros stated in regards to his exit decision via media release confirmation; “After much reflection, I have decided to step down from my role as CEO of Football Victoria.  It has been a privilege to serve the game. I am grateful to the selfless volunteers and dedicated staff that provide the resilience and energy that drives football in Victoria every day.”

Throughout his tenure, Taliadoros played a strong part in guiding the development of the Home of Matildas facility at La Trobe University – which also acts as the governing body’s headquarters.

Stage one of the precinct, an overall $101.1 million investment by the Victorian Government, was completed just before the beginning of the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

An overview of what the facility is eventually set to include, is listed below.

  • FIFA and AFC compliant elite training facility
  • Five pitches including
    • Show Pitch – Premium FIFA standard Hybrid
    • 1 additional Premium FIFA standard Hybrid
    • 3 FIFA standard synthetic pitches 
  • 400m2 high-performance Gym
    • Cardio
    • Weights
    • Additional Rehab/pilates / yoga multi-purpose space
    • Sprint track
    • Hydration station
    • Med ball wall
    • Warm-up / kicking zone
  • Sports Science / High performance
    • Prehab/rehab zone
    • Sports science lab
    • Doctor / Physio / Psychologist consulting suites
    • 2 Massage spaces
    • Strapping bench
    • Coaching hub/office
  • Elite-level Recovery / Wet Area
    • Hot & Cold Plunge Pools
    • ‘Endless River’ recovery pool with swimming jets
  • Multiple change rooms including a purpose-designed circular Matildas locker room
  • Referee change-room 
  • Auditorium / Theatrette and 3 configurable team meetings rooms with pitch markings in the carpet (team walk-throughs)
  • Approximately 800 seat grand-stand with additional terrace/balcony for standing room and/or functions – overlooking the main pitch
  • Function spaces and bar overlooking the main pitch (with commercial kitchen attached)
  • Public Café and match day canteen
  • Matildas and FV historical/interactive displays and memorabilia
  • Media production centre
  • Broadcast spaces and capability
  • Players dining room
  • Player’s lounge, study space, and 2 sleep rooms (sleep/meditation/prayer / quiet rooms)
  • Property office and laundry
  • Football Victoria offices within the main administration building
  • Public amenities throughout – including Changing Places, all abilities, gender neutral and parents facilities
  • Purpose-built international standard Futsal pitch (Stage 2 – subject to funding)
    • This facility will support wheelchair football, rugby, and other indoor events
    • The Futsal pitch will also provide an indoor training/game warm-up space

Taliadoros was also was responsible for the governing body’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, working around the impacts of lockdowns and reduced competition across the state. The organisation was also the first sporting entity to commit to 50/50 gender equity under his reign.

In the interim, the FV Board has installed Karen Pearce OAM – the current Head of Equity, Growth and Inclusion at the governing body, as acting CEO. She will continue in her current role as well taking on responsibilities of the CEO’s office in an acting capacity.

The board has initiated a recruitment process for a permanent CEO – and it’s an opportunity for the governing body to appoint an experienced individual, with fresh ideas, to take the game forward in Victoria.

The success of other governing bodies, such as Football Queensland, are an appropriate guide of what to do next for Football Victoria.

Rob Cavallucci and his organisation recently delivered a new home for football in Brisbane’s North, after an agreement between the governing body and the Brisbane City Council.

The facility will provide young footballers in the state with further development programs, to improve their skills at a young age.

It is just one of a number of initiatives that Football Queensland have implemented, since Cavallucci took over in 2019.

On the back of a hugely successful Women’s World Cup, participation numbers are set to soar in Australia and it’s important for the governing body in Victoria especially, to take advantage of this.

Increased funding from governments should be on the agenda to cater for the boom, with a lack of suitable football pitches across the state still an issue for many participants.

Improvement on a commercial front is also necessary.  The organisation should be focusing heavily on signing sponsorship deals for their major competitions and events across Victoria – something that they can definitely capitalise on.

To accomplish this, the game in Victoria needs a CEO with a wealth of commercial experience, with an extensive network to tap into – to take the state’s game to the next level.

Transformation is needed in the governing body now, before the momentum of the Matildas’ home World Cup achievements wear off.

Proactive business decisions must be made by the incoming CEO, instead of reactive, if the game is to grow into its full potential across Victoria.

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