In February 2015 a number of South Hobart FC members attended a forum hosted by FFA for input into the Whole of Football Plan. The meeting was slickly run and the content and discussion limited. It felt like many decisions had already been made. Board members from FFT and employees of FFT were present. Could the discussion be honest and open in these circumstances? Possibly.
We are not sure the point of view of regional football was taken into account by FFA when developing this plan. The unique circumstances of our island State and our lack of an A-League team being two hurdles.
In Tasmania it is not all about the A-League
Football in Australia is a bottom up funded sport. No money flows down, it all flows up to support the governing bodies and national teams. Most clubs are amateur and grassroots.
We are a regional State, tucked down at the bottom of Australia with unique and shared problems:
- We are unlikely to ever have an A-League team.
- Our highest league is likely to be the PS4 NPL State League for a number of years to come. Twenty at least if FFA has their way.
- Although we are a very old club we have not felt acutely the disappointment of being left out of the A-League like some of our sister clubs on the mainland.
- We are predominantly an AFL state.
- Our juniors often play both football and AFL.
- Football is a winter sport in Tasmania.
- Grounds are shared with cricket.
- Our weather is unpleasant at times and not conducive to night football in the winter.
- Our grounds are limited and closed often.
- Clubs are run by volunteers—while not unique to Tasmania—we do not have the resources of some of our mainland counterparts.
- We have a small population.
- Interstate competition is expensive because of “getting off the island”.
Over the past couple of years South Hobart FC has spent over $10,000 subsidising coaching courses. Central Region also assisted with junior coaching courses.
This is money that we felt would be wisely spent for the development of our Club, on licences that were mandated by FFA and FFT.
The people that attended these courses also had to take time off their paid work, take holidays and in some cases, if they were players, miss matches to attend.
Technical Directors had to hold a C Licence and were told they couldn’t coach a team—thankfully our governing body has changed their thinking on this. Unfortunately, many coaches asked themselves the following questions and and decided against the expensive coaching courses. Is it worth losing wages from my paid employment? Is it worth taking holiday from my work? What will I get out of paying a lot of money for my licence? Is it worth missing playing my match?
Put into context very few clubs can afford to pay their coaches for their services so people chose not to coach anymore because the cost of coaching courses was prohibitive and the regulations stringent.
South Hobart FC believes that the recognition of the high cost of coaching courses in the Whole of Football Plan is a great step forward. Yes we need more coaches.
We also believe that good coaching does not come from one system, or country or method. Good coaching comes from enthusiasm, love of the game and a belief in what you are doing. Good coaching comes from loving football.
One of the aspects of Australian football that we love is our flair, individualism and that never say die attitude. Is this being coached out of our players? We certainly hope not.
Facilities will always be a problem in Tasmania. Very few clubs own their own grounds. We are no different. As a club we have lobbied hard and been exceptionally successful in getting State and Federal assistance to upgrade facilities, which in fact do not belong to us. We have to lease these back off the Hobart City Council. They cannot be locked when not in use by the Club. They must be shared. Unlike other clubs, we are fortunate to not have a cricket wicket in the middle of our leased grounds.
We will continue to work hard to make our grounds the best they can be, but the reality is that we will never own them. One of our own teams recently commented “why do we have to share our training ground with 17 other teams, the first team doesn’t?” The first team shares their training ground with three teams. Everyone shares. We are in fact very lucky to have access to three Hobart City Council grounds on a regular basis. If it rains the grounds are closed. We must all work hard and lobby Councils and government to upgrade and gain more space for all teams to never need to have their games called off.
There is discussion about the abolition of State bodies and the centralisation of a single decision making entity for football.
We are a small regional State. Will our regional concerns be taken into account if the governing body is centralised? It works for other sports. Certainly we would like transparency around why our governing body makes the decisions it does.
Would a centralised Board with representation from one Tasmanian take the interests of our State into account? Do they know the idiosyncrasies of our state? Would they care? We are the stakeholders. We have the most to lose and gain.
It is not the role of the governing body to drive Fan engagement for any club. Surely it is the role of individual clubs to grow our own fans. If a club works hard, engages the public and makes itself attractive to people it will grow its own fan base.
Why, in Tasmania, should we be supporting an A-League team which does not engage with us? You cannot turn people into fans, you can encourage, but at South Hobart FC we know we have to work hard to gain supporters. No stakeholder funding should be allocated by the FFA in this direction.
South Hobart FC believes that a National second tier (B-League) competition is likely to be the highest Tasmania can aspire too—although funding, fan base and distance would be prohibitive. So the 20 year moratorium on Tasmania having a second tier competition means we are well and truly relegated to backwater status for a very long time. We are basically being told that our current NPL competition will be our highest, best competition for 20 years.
Is this satisfactory? What about the excitement of promotion and relegation? Why not allow clubs to live and die by their endeavour? If you are good enough, have enough capital and can fulfil the criteria to be a second tier club then why is the governing body recommending that this cannot happen? Natural attrition has always been around for clubs. If you are not good enough you won’t survive. Let hard work be the guiding way on this.
We have felt the “one size fits all approach” over the past number of years with regard to player development in Tasmania. Due to our State’s smaller population, clubs were weakened by our governing body’s removal of talented players. South Hobart FC particularly felt this. The reason mooted [mostly] was that our coaches were not good enough to develop players and that only the governing body and its programs could provide extensive player development through their full time programs.
Players were constantly told that the only pathway to future in football was through State Federation programs. Clubs were made to feel powerless. In Tasmania a child could go from school soccer to FFT and never have played for a club. When you lose a young player to these programs you lose the family too. What was wrong with the development pathway via clubs before? It produced household names.
We are delighted to see that the wheel has turned full circle and players are going to be “allowed” to return to clubs next year. No longer will a family have to choose between a program run by a governing body and their club of origin. This is a definite step in the right direction. Being at a club is not just about being a good player—what about the sense of family, pride, belonging, camaraderie, ownership. Being part of a club is much more than the game itself.
Our young players love to get up at 3am and watch the Socceroos play. They discuss each ball, each loss is felt strongly, each victory celebrated as their own. Our Matildas have punched above their weight. These are the teams that Australia loves and should be the main focus of our Governing body. The brand is strong. FFA should continue to focus their attention on our National teams.
In closing we note that we are not the only club that has expressed concerns, as others have considered or are in the process of considering the plan. Melbourne Knights released an alternative submission to FFA's Whole of Football Plan yesterday. You can read more about Melbourne Knights thoughts here and in the attachment to the left of the article.