Sunday, March 04, 2007
It was, understandably, a warm and fuzzy piece, with much nostalgia and deserved acknowledgement. But lurking just beneath the surface was the issue which still clearly excites passions in state league circles: the enforced “relegation” of the clubs which developed some of our finest players, in the wake of the A-League.
Tom Doumanis, Soccer NSW’s former president, articulated the role of clubs such as Olympic in the new Australian football environment clearly and well. A hint of bitterness, however, was quite discernible in some of the other interviewees – Les Scheinflug especially.
I felt that there was a somewhat unfair implication that the state league clubs are doing the work that the A-League clubs are neglecting; that is, youth development. The truth, as I have stated previously, is that the A-League cannot afford a full-fledged youth competition just yet.
Which begs the question: why is it possible for the state league clubs, then?
And therein lies one of the nasty little secrets of Australian football, which I felt SBS’s little item might at least have touched on.
The state league clubs, in general, fund the quality of their first teams with bloated junior registration fees. Parents hoping for their kids to be developed in the stables that produced the likes of Brett Emerton, Tim Cahill and Jason Culina tend to pay through the nose for the privilege.
There are plenty of state league clubs doing a great job nurturing the Socceroos of the future, but it’s hardly an altruistic pursuit.
In some cases, the revenue accrued through the social clubs attached to the football clubs helps to support the senior sides as well. But even at these clubs, junior registration fees are high.
One final point: a first-time viewer might have been led to believe, on the basis of SBS’s piece, that the state league was almost exclusively the preserve of ethnically-based clubs. In fact, half of the clubs in this year’s NSW Premier League are “non-aligned”.
Having said all that, felicitations to Sydney Olympic, a club I’ve followed, on and off, for the last seven years, and always enjoyed watching. Just this afternoon, although they went down 3-2 to Bankstown, they produced some pleasing football despite the scorching conditions…including another superb goal from Shannon Cole, a youngster A-League clubs would do well to keep an eye on.