SOCCER’S MOMENT TO UNITE AND MOVE FORWARD HAS FINALLY ARRIVED
A letter to the footballing public.
Like many organisations in these uncertain times, the Melbourne Knights Football Club management has used this break to take a step back and assess our own operations as well as exploring broader opportunities that lay ahead.
In relation to our own operations for the immediate future – the club is well placed to tackle any challenges that it will face. This is no small part thanks to two things; first and foremost our loyal and fanatical supporter base that has always stood up to be counted in trying times and secondly owing to the fact that the club has for the most part functioned as a lean, efficient and agile organisation having gone through many periods of uncertainty and upheaval in the past.
The club has learnt from the past that to be able to survive challenges that lay ahead we must always be fiscally responsible and strategic in our operations.
Looking outward, the club is keenly following the developments within the broader game with the aim of supporting the recovery of the sport by being involved in the conversation of how to come out of this crisis as a stronger code as a whole.
There has been a lot of talk within the game about the Foxtel Broadcast Rights and the viability of the A-league and some of its clubs along with the broader philosophical discussions about junior development and the entire game generally. The Optus Sport panel of Golden Generation players was a breath of fresh air for the health of the game and we hope that this type of honest and frank discussion continues.
Having been on the outer of Australian soccer’s decision making for over a decade and looking back at the steps we have taken as a club to try and at least help along the discussions we are having now – we feel that our alternative to the Whole of Football Plan published by the club in May 2015 is still a relevant document as a conversation starter.
Whilst we understand that the FFA and its new CEO James Johnson are immediately concerned with the A-league season completing and all the logistics around that, we call on all of those in positions of national significance within the sport that we all take a step back and ask – why are we doing what we’re doing and why are we doing it in the way that we are doing it?
This break has given us all time for pause and reflection. Even amongst those in the highest offices in the sport, it is unanimously agreed that football in this country has reached a crossroads.
We believe we all want something fairly similar: a united game, pulling in the same direction, pushing for new heights.
The silver lining to these difficult months is that all of us in society have realised what we can achieve together is far greater than what we can achieve divided. Put simply- we will never fulfill our potential when we remain so disconnected.
Should we continue with our existing approach – stalemated and inward looking as Australia’s only major truly global sport – there is no chance of progress. As a game, it is clear that every inch of energy has been exhausted and the A-League which has taken up the overwhelming majority of that energy has nonetheless ground to a halt.
Disappointed as much as the Melbourne Knights have been to have been excluded from the pinnacle of the sport for almost two decades, we still aspire to be part of the movement that re-energises not only the A-League but the entire Australian football ecosystem.
For that to happen, clubs like ours want to and need to start giving again to Australian football. Our history and culture is well-documented and we are thrilled that our contribution is being recognised within the court of public opinion. But now, we want to help lead and deliver, more than ever before.
Unfortunately, the current system ensures we are unable to participate in a meaningful way.
Only when our football ecosystem is fully connected, and each club allowed to participate on merit, will we have a fair system that allows us to heal, come together and advance as one.
We know the A-League will be de-escalating cost bases dramatically next season to manageable levels. With it comes the opportunity for us all to re-connect our leagues.
Ultimately, we must create the building blocks of a sport that doesn’t live TV deal-to-TV deal, but thrives – sustainably and responsibly – on the strength of its people. It is unrealistic in a nation such as ours, with so many professional sports, to be so dependent on a singular source of income from a media industry struggling to survive. If we rebuild with sound foundations, all that will come back, and so much more.
Under the leadership of FFA Chief Executive James Johnson, we believe the opportunity has arrived for the A-League to break free of its artificial constraints. By fostering a National Second Division in the near and immediate future, and with a subsequent timetable for an orderly, sensible transition to promotion-relegation, the wheels of progress can finally start turning again.
We believe, along with thousands of others – that once that transition comes to fruition, we can all start doing what we love: getting to games, supporting our team, buying memberships and being part of the sport that has all given us so much.
The colour and life of Australian football will come flooding back, as will a whole new generation of fans, drawn to a thrilling spectacle that can’t be replicated in other sports.
We face a critical juncture. If we use this moment to double-down on existing structures, clinging to dwindling power, we will once again throw away another major opportunity to reset, renew and forge a stronger future – something many of us are sick to death of seeing play out before our very eyes.
If we come together now and carve out a future where the game can finally be reunited, not only will we get through this time, but our road ahead becomes infinitely brighter for everyone who truly cares about this sport.
This is the value of taking a consensus route. We have been granted a generational opportunity to take a major leap forward, one that can ensure the health and prosperity of our game for decades to come. Let’s not waste it.
And should it not happen – we all know that once all of this comes to pass and games start up again – we’ll be taking our kids and grandkids to the juniors and we’ll be there to support the Red, White and Blue at Somers Street in rain, hail or shine.
We love our club too much to let it fall by the wayside and by the same token we do not want to sit idly by in a situation where we can help more than just ourselves within the game.