Season could start in July

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Money matters: Strikers’ president Adrian Scialpi (left), Langwarrin president Tanya Wallace (centre) and Mornington president Matty Cameron have some tough decisions to make.

SOCCER

FOOTBALL Victoria may soon announce a July start to the 2020 season.

Last week Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the federal government wanted to get Australians back into recreational sport “as soon as we can” and the national cabinet of state and territory leaders agreed to develop principles for sport and recreation to get consistency across the country.

FV and Football Federation Australia would have to sign off on a series of bio-security measures and how they would be monitored but it increasingly looks like training could resume in June with a 22-game season starting in the first weekend in July and ending in November.

There would be no catch-up rounds and postponed matches would be played midweek.

FV recently surveyed clubs to ascertain ground availability and Mornington and Peninsula Strikers are the latest local clubs to join Frankston Pines in offering to host matches for clubs who only have winter tenancy.

FV’s competitions department has been entrusted with the task of developing season scenarios but the state body has been forced to stand down over 50% of its staff and it’s believed that just two employees remain in competitions.

They are being assisted by Will Hastie, executive manager of football operations, who along with FV CEO Peter Filopoulos and Matt Green, senior manager business operations, receives a daily briefing from FFA on the federal government position.

FV also is in regular contact with the state government as agreement to start training and kick-start the season requires the approval of Victoria’s chief medical officer Professor Brett Sutton.

Clubs are now faced with an unprecedented set of challenges and the disruption to revenue streams in the current climate will have a far-reaching impact on their financial security.

Langwarrin, Mornington and Peninsula Strikers are the local clubs with the largest wage bill and plans are already underway to address the widening chasm between planned expenditure and expected income.

To an extent Langy and Mornington are cushioned from the full impact of the economic downturn as the bulk of their sponsorship comes from the construction industry but they’ve already taken a financial hit with more expected.

The flow-on effect of a dramatic drop in income seems certain to force clubs to renegotiate terms with players.

“Everything is up for review,” Langy president Tanya Wallace said.

“We’ve had some registration fees paid and some sponsorship but that’s all.

“We’ve discussed this with Scott (Miller, head coach) and at committee level and we’ll have to sit down with the playing group and sort things out.

“We won’t do the wrong thing by the players but by the same token we won’t put the club in jeopardy by trying to accommodate players either.

“It’s going to be a balancing act and we’ll see how we go.”

Mornington president Matt Cameron faces a potential $60,000 shortfall in sponsorship.

“The majority of money we use for wages is raised through sponsorship so things are very uncertain now,” he said.

“Our sponsorship is normally all in by the start of the season but that’s not the case this time round so my discussions with our sponsors will determine whether we need to make any changes.

“Although we’ve made agreements with everyone the landscape’s changed dramatically and in terms of sponsorship I could be down up to $60,000 which has to come from somewhere.

“Raising revenue at home games is another important part of paying players’ wages and how the new season may look with regard to attendances at games doesn’t look promising.

“We also need to look at the huge cost of cleaning and policing things properly and how do community clubs monitor that?”

Cameron isn’t relishing the prospect of sitting down with players to discuss terms again but he understands the likelihood of having to do so.

“It’s obviously going to be a hard conversation but everyone in these times understands that everyone is suffering.

“A lot of this comes down to the relationship you have with your players.”

Strikers president Adrian Scialpi may face the prospect of ditching match payments altogether and the Centenary Park outfit has discussed the issue at executive committee level.

“We’re just starting to get our heads around what the season may look like and how we’ll be impacted by, say, restrictions on crowds for example which would trash your matchday revenue,” he said.

“That money goes towards paying referees and some of it goes towards player wages so if that’s gone then you have to get the playing group together and have a chat about the situation.

“Look there’s probably only going to be one way forward and that’s going to be very limited wages if any.

“Our hope is that if we end up with no money coming in then the players will understand that and we’re not going to be different from any other club as we’re all in the same boat here.

“We’d love to think that football takes precedence over money but the reality is that for some guys it may not.

“We’ve registered most of our guys and really if they want to go and play for big dollars I honestly don’t know where they’ll go because other clubs can’t commit to paying big money any more.”

Scialpi is hopeful that a strong bond between player and club will provide a good outcome for both parties.

“Although we’ve turned over a lot of players in the off-season I’d like to think we’ve created a lot of goodwill in the squad already in the short time we’ve had them together.

“We’ve got some wonderful guys in that group like Danny Brooks, Danny Black and Tommy Hawkins that really keep all the boys together.

“It’s great to have these guys here and I think they will help us through this season because they have an underlying love for the club.

“Wouldn’t it be great if all the clubs kept all their players and we just got on with the season without money being an issue and affecting people’s decisions?”

Scialpi and his committee are acutely aware that a number of sponsorship agreements struck before the covid-19 pandemic won’t be honoured and he accepts the inevitability of that situation.

“Look at someone like Beretta’s (Langwarrin Hotel) for argument’s sake.

“I can’t go back to Jacqui Beretta and ask ‘where’s your money for this season’ because their establishment might not be fully up and running till the end of the year for all we know.

“I mean they’ve got no bar revenue, no money from the pokies and no money from the bistro.”

Like many club presidents Scialpi also wondered what FV has planned when it comes to fees and charges.

“We’d all love to know what they’re going to do with their fees.

“Surely they are going to have to alter their thinking and help clubs now that our revenue streams are so badly affected.”

If clubs are not given any financial breathing space by the governing body it will be interesting to see how they respond.

There’s already been talk among clubs about this and the last thing the sport needs is a battle between the governing body and its constituents.

What would FV do if clubs banded together and simply refused to pay all or part of the fees?

Fining clubs would seem a futile exercise right now while docking points could seriously undermine the integrity of FV’s own competitions.

First published in the Frankston Times – 28 April 2020

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