A letter to the footballing public.

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.

http://www.melbourneknights.com.au/news/knights-release-alternative-whole-of-football-plan/

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.

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5 comments

  1. Very well said.

  2. The A League is dead as far as l”m concerned. The Frank Lowey experiment was just an illusion For Football to survive, we need to get back to grass roots like it was up until the 90’s. Ethnic clubs made the game. Teams had pride and spirit and as a result the league was able to give Australia some of the best home grown talent ever. Viduka and Kewell, are just 2. Smaller division clubs nurtured players for the big league and will continue to do so if there are incentives. Bring back the NSL and lets see teams like the Knights and United prove again we are pound for pound the best of the best.

  3. Excellent article. I used to go to Sth Melb games and refuse to go to A-League games. The old traditional clubs produced a lot of very good players so they must have been doing something correct eg Viduka, Postecoglou best Australian coach ever produced spent his entire junior and senior career at Sth Melbourne, Kevin Muscat at George Cross, Schwartzer/Okon/slater/Bosnich/Emerton all from Sydney clubs, and there are many others. The traditional clubs need to be returned to the top league.

  4. The a-league is here to stay. 2nd division and promotion relegation is the only way to bring all football together. Great article.

  5. I see a fairly sizeable problem for any kind of NATIONAL 2nd division and that is finance. If it includes clubs from all 5 mainland states, ACT included, one of the biggest expenses clubs will face is that of travel and accommodation on certain trips.

    If the 2nd division is mooted to be a regionally split one, it fails the test it being a national competition as such, not altogether but not what the football public would want. As a spectator, I want to see the best vs the best as often as possible. If you have 3-4 strong clubs in a division and the rest stand no chance, it diminishes the contests.

    I don’t know what format people are thinking of for the 2nd division, So I am not closing the book on them.

    My fear for a 2nd division is driven by the experience of the A-League clubs. 3 of which have failed in the 15 years since its inception. We can’t afford to provide fodder for the enemies of our game and the sceptics, even within our game, to attack us with.

    However, imagine this and consider the costs difference between a nationally travelling 2nd division and this format.

    All current A-League clubs would join their state’s NPL 1 competition

    Promotion/relegation would operate in each state NPL level as it currently does.

    ALL NPL competitions will have 14 teams.

    Finals series would continue to find the state champion with prize money going to the winners and top 4.

    There would then follow one or two weeks break after the grand final.

    The resumption of football after that would decide the Australian champion for the season and the further 2-3 clubs that would represent the country in the AFC Champions League.

    In order to do that. The top six clubs in the home and away season from each of the 5 mainland states, ( ACT would be the NSW NPL so they’d get there if they qualify), would gather in two cities or more, as is decided.

    The Tasmanian and the NT’s champions would join those 30 NPL clubs and they’d take part in a World Cup 32 teams formatted tournament in order to decide the champions and 2 or 3 other clubs destined for international football the next season.

    Benefits:

    No interstate fixtures during the home and away season should result in better crowds as fans would be able to more easily travel to away fixtures.

    Travelling costs would be negligible by comparison to a national 2nd division.

    26, home and away. – 3 weeks state finals – two weeks break, 7 weeks for the end of season tournament.

    Depending on the scheduling of the end of season tournament, it would be 36-38 weeks season.

    Maximum 16 weeks without football.

    More matches should develop better players

    Tournament pressures should toughen and acclimatise our potential international representative players; Socceroos, Olyroos, et al

    Clubs would have to field a reserves grade, NOT an underage team that would play the earlier fixture on matchdays.

    Squads would number 35 players in total, hopefully with a sprinkling of up and coming talent. It would provide a great platform to develop more and more talented players.

    The inclusion of the current A-League clubs would require 11 reserve grade squads to be established. Some clubs already have NPL squads but others don’t so there would be more opportunities for talented players to show their talent on a bigger stage.

    Television:

    Home and away matches would be played Friday through Monday inclusive.

    SBS can be offered to televise a minimum of 3 matches per weekend they’d televise matches in the state they choose

    Fox can be offered as many matches as they’d like to broadcast without changing an agreed fee.

    NPL already televises their competition so that would also come into the mix. They’d stream any match they chose if it wasn’t covered by the other broadcasters.

    TV is a complex aspect of this format but the cherry, the prize, if you will, for the broadcasters is the end of season tournament. Ad revenues at that time of year should be worthwhile to them because there would not be any other football code on at that time of year able to be watched in prime time.

    What does it tell you? Football is a winter sport.

    Let’s play it then and stop watching players walk through the first half of matches so as they don’t faint in the 2nd half of a match played in 30+ degrees.

    Here is the season we could have next year:

    The NPL’s in each state would begin Friday, February 12 38 weeks later, on Tournament Final day, it would be Sunday, November 7

    The most important/attractive part of our football season would see our sport watched by more people than ever before because we’d have no other football code competing with us.

    As a football fan, I don’t want to see my team travel away to Melbourne or Brisbane or out west to Adelaide and Perth with no fans. The most pitiful spectacle on televised football is seeing a handful of away fans that would number enough to fill a 14 seater bus.

    I want to be seated next to 6 or 8 thousand of my club’s supporters whilst on one end of the ground, there are 2 to 3 thousand visiting fans or more

    In your neck of the woods, imagine a neutral. You’re playing The Victory and South Melbourne is playing Melbourne City Which game do you got to as a neutral?

    You’d be watching the on-demand stream of the other, no matter which you chose. And do you not think we’d be doing the same in Sydney or Perth?

    Some of us will be watching on-demand streams from all states so that we can become familiar with their teams and see what our club might be up against at the end of the season.

    And do you think scouts might not be watching a lot of games to identify the talent they’d like to acquire?

    It would create a very active transfer market and it would be a great incentive for clubs to find and develop young talent. ‘There’d be money in them there feet’

    In my opinion, 2nd division IS a risk. My proposal is as close as possible to risk-free, financially speaking.

    I’d love some feedback on this from your club and others that have read this letter and this comment.

    I can be found via Linked in or Facebook and Twitter.

    Linked in: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rubens-camejo-49203a2b/

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