Monday, 20 May 2013

Being a Member Doesn't Have it's Privileges

The governing body of football in Victoria is, of course, the FFV. The FFV is the re-branded Victorian Soccer Federation (VSF), a body which was established as a Federation by member clubs to control the running of the game. It's finances came from the affiliation fees paid by the member clubs.
   
Nowadays, the FFV runs the game independently of it's member clubs, indeed often acting against their better interests, but still relying on their affiliation fees. The affiliation fees vary depending on which league a club is in, with the largest being those of the VPL clubs.

In the days of the old National Soccer League (NSL), the clubs from the various State Leagues that participated were still members of their State Federations and remained so by still paying their annual affiliation fee to the respective state bodies. There had even been promotion and relegation between the NSL and State Leagues in the early years. When the NSL ended, Melbourne Knights and South Melbourne, as FFV member clubs, rightfully returned to the VPL as was their entitlement to play in the highest-level FFV competition.
   
Earlier this year, at very short notice, the FFV entered a team from Melbourne Heart Youth in the State League Division Two North West competition for the 2013 season. After a backlash from the clubs, this decision was revoked. It was an incident which showed how little regard the FFV had for it's member clubs, and how it was no longer concerned with their best interests.
   
Melbourne Heart entered the A-League in 2010-11. A private franchise, it is not a part of the FFV and has never paid a cent in affiliation fees to the local governing body. The FFV had no right to place a team of theirs in the competition ahead of any member clubs. That it did left clubs wondering what their membership of the the FFV was worth and if their rights were being upheld. The affiliation fees vary in scale through the leagues, with VPL clubs currently paying almost $15,000 for the privilege of fielding their Senior and Under 21's teams.
   
Should some of these clubs end up in "Community" leagues from 2014 and beyond, can they expect to be paying a fee more in line with the $5,200 that State League Division Four clubs currently pay, or even the $2,900 paid by clubs in State League Division Five? Surely "Community" clubs won't be expected to pay any more than that? Will such a difference leave much of a hole in the FFV coffers, given the heavy financial loss it sustained in the last financial year? Or will there be no relief in exorbitant fees for these clubs?
   
When you consider there are clubs in the system that having been paying these fees for upwards of sixty years, there are those that have invested heavily in the game about to be  treated very poorly with the proposed restructures.
   
Upon the inception of the A-League, it was the FFV which ran and funded the Youth and Women's teams of Melbourne Victory. That's right, a private franchise which was not a member of the Federation was benefiting from programs drawing on funds raised through the affiliation fees paid by grassroots clubs. Unless I was to go into partnership with Mick Gatto, I doubt I could start a business which could be funded in similar circumstances.

In recent years the FFV has made significant changes to it's constitution and the rules of it's competitions. Whilst clubs have invested heavily in paying for the right to compete and rise to the highest level, the FFV now have the discretion to add new entities as they please or as is their plan, to create a new top tier of their own design. Will we see refunds to clubs denied their rightful place at the top?

In the establishment of the NPLV, the FFV is entering very murky waters indeed. It will be cheating the clubs that have paid for it's existence, for an unproven model which may end up doing more harm than good.

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