Club losses top $260,000

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Presidential pronouncement: Seaford United boss Willie Lynn thinks the season should be cancelled. Picture: Darryl Kennedy

SOCCER

THE combined loss of sponsorship for 12 local clubs fielding senior teams under the Football Victoria banner will top $260,000 this year.

Langwarrin, Mornington, Peninsula Strikers, Skye United, Frankston Pines, Baxter, Seaford United, Somerville Eagles, Rosebud, Aspendale Stingrays and Mount Martha have lost sponsors in droves due to the economic impact of the coronavirus shutdown.

Chelsea is the only local club not to suffer through lost sponsorship while many clubs have offered carryover deals for the 2021 season.

The total represents the largest ever financial hit to the local game.

Each club was contacted last week and provided a figure for sponsorship loss on the proviso that individual club losses were not published.

The final figure does not take into account the full impact at one local club of the current suspension of all soccer activities and the uncertainty of the format surrounding the 2020 season.

That club had an in-principle agreement with a real estate agent that if any club member or member’s friend sold a residential property through that agent the club would receive $10,000.

This deal potentially was the biggest sponsorship agreement in the club’s history.

Chelsea was the only local club to have banked all its sponsorship money by the end of February a few weeks ahead of Football Federation Australia’s suspension of all soccer activities.

“We don’t have a major sponsor as such but we have a lot of small sponsors and a very enthusiastic person in charge of sponsorship who collected the money in January and February,” Chelsea president John Zeccola said.

Unlike most of his counterparts at other local clubs Zeccola thinks the season should go ahead and welcomed a return to training and competition.

“I think it’s important for the kids’ mental health to simply get out there even if it’s only for half a season,” Zeccola added.

“From what we can tell our parents are keen to start and we’ve only had eight requests for refunds from around 400 members, that’s juniors, seniors and masters.

“I know for a fact that our seniors are absolutely chomping at the bit to get back on the park.”

However the prevalent view among local club presidents was that it may not be worth having a season this year.

Here’s a selection of what some of them had to say:

Daren Jones, Skye United:

If we can’t have matchday revenue then it’s a waste of time and they should cancel the season. I think some clubs will have to consider closing down altogether.

Bray Hodgkinson, Baxter:

I think it would be good to see football in 2020 but the difficulty of playing out a full season defeats the purpose. You play to win, and if you play each team once, for example, with no promotion or relegation [then] it’s a waste of time in my eyes. Plus I can’t see how FV will expect us to make money without crowds and being expected to pay fees as well as referees, etc. So honestly I don’t think it will work. I don’t think a regular season could be possible with ground availability [issues] and multisport players going into summer. I’m interested to see how FV thinks it could work.

Willie Lyn, Seaford United:

I want to stress that this is a personal view but I think the whole season should be cancelled. I think it’s too risky. In the unfortunate event of someone getting the virus does that mean the whole club shuts down? If you can’t generate cash and still have to pay referees and have other expenses then you wonder if it’s all worthwhile. And what happens if some of the players you’ve already registered don’t want to come back and play? We might end up having trouble fielding seniors and reserves.

Derrick Berends, Aspendale Stingrays:

It’s really getting to a point as to whether it’s worth the hassle. We have members pulling out in the young age groups already. There’s a big difference between training with distancing measures and playing contact sport against other clubs. Anyone paying players and coaches would have to consider whether it’s worth it because there will be no canteen, no bar and no fundraiser revenue for the whole year. The other issue is the professional sanitising of toilets on possibly a daily basis. We are still required to have them open and now properly sanitised each session. Training restrictions mean we need to spread training out across more days to accommodate all teams. It could cost thousands of dollars each week to properly sanitise two venues five to six times. This will be the difference between us starting training or not.

Melissa Osorio, Rosebud:

I’m 50/50 about whether we should start up again. I want to start up for the kids and I know that my kids are just dying to get back into it but it’s going to be very expensive to bring in all the protocols they want. I was talking about this to my VP the other day and we’re struggling to get what we need so it’s a real challenge.

Dean Whitehead, Mount Martha:

It’s too early to make a call on the season. We’re looking at the cost and time involved in going back to training. If restrictions are eased on June 1 we have to consider whether it’s worth jumping through the hoops right now. We anticipate maybe two players per team could choose not to return and if that happens then it becomes a problem for us.

Late last week FV released its return to training conditions.

Hygiene protocols are extensive and compulsory.

A snapshot of the conditions reveals that all clubrooms must be closed during training expect for toilets and there must be tight control of access.

An accurate record of all attendees (including parents/carers) must be taken at every session for the purposes of contact tracing. This includes full name, FFA number where applicable, phone number and date and time of attendance.

All surfaces, equipment and objects (including around entry points) must be wiped down after each training session with appropriate anti-bacterial/disinfectant wipes or soap, particularly those frequently touched.

Hand sanitiser dispensers must be provided in prominent places around the venue (including entry and exit points) and must be regularly refilled.

Toilet facilities must be regularly cleaned with disinfectant and there must be prominent signage that not more than one person is permitted per toilet facility at any one time.

Training protocols include player groups of no more than 10 plus a coach with activities contained within a specified area (half a pitch) while maintaining physical distancing of 1.5 metres and no heading, tackling, handshakes or high-fives allowed.

Most local clubs have been taken aback at the cost and logistic challenge of compliance.

While the guidelines make no mention of monitoring and policing they state that FV can sanction clubs that breach them.

“Failure to meet these conditions may void your insurance policies under the national insurance program, may be dealt with under FV’s Grievance, Disciplinary and Tribunal Bylaw, and critically, may delay the return to competition.”

FV has also been involved in season scenario planning and is expected to make an announcement this week.

The possible structure of the season has been a hot topic on social media.

Frankston council and Mornington peninsula shire council are expected to announce tenancy arrangements this week paving the way for clubs who choose to return to training to do so.

It’s expected that Football Federation Australia will lift its suspension of all soccer activities currently in place until 31 May.

First published in the Frankston Times – 19 May 2020

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