Monday, 24 February 2014

Silly Second Divisions

This week's trip to the SLV didn't yield too much to add to the work in progress that is the Statistical History. Opting to take a spell from the early 1920's Second Divisions that make no sense (Is it a Second Division? Is it a Reserves League? Is it one League? Is it divided into two Sections? Is it a bit of all of these?) I started looking for details on the Dockerty Cup Finals that are lacking in information at the moment.

Firstly, there is the return to action after World War I, the 1919 edition. All I had was the date, September 6 at Middle Park, and a final score of Footscray Thistle 2 Windsor 0. One was an own goal, the other scorer not known. No line-ups at all have been revealed, and nothing was found yesterday. Worryingly, with The Sun and The Sporting Globe not yet in existence, I'm running out of places where more information may be found.

From just after a War, to slap bang in the middle of one, the 1942 Dockerty Cup Final is also scarce for detail. Every report gives the same information, on September 5 at Olympic Park it was Prahran A who defeated Moreland-Hakoah 3-0. Glasson got two goals, the other coming from H.Gray. No other players get mentioned in reports of about three sentences. Another cause for concern is that even the VFL coverage in the papers was greatly reduced. There was a push for sport to be abandoned to aid the war effort, so it seems everyone was trying not to draw too much attention to themselves.

I ended up checking out Nimrod's coverage of the 1946 season in The Sun, looking for Division Two results. It was a classic season of the times, with the Division split into North and South Sections with a mixture of senior and reserves teams. There didn't always seem to be a full complement of results, and it takes a few weeks into the season to work out how many teams are in each Section. This also gets turned on it's head mid-season in the North Section when Hakaoh B seem to disappear. They are probably replaced by the R.A.F. (or R.A.A.F. as it does vary) who start to appear in July. In the South Section, Flinders Naval Depot also seem to join in a little late. Curiously, Northcote High School Old Boys fielded a team in each Section, with no indication as to which was the senior side.

So the tables I made on the basis of these results are all over the shop. In North Section I've got 5 games out of Hakoah B, going up to 14 for Moreland B. Still, it's pretty clear Coburg took the title. In the South Section it ranges from 6 games for Flinders Naval Depot through to 15 for their Northcote. Park Rangers took the title.

Other items of interest include the Second Division having it's own Cup that year, the Final seeing Sunshine United beat Park Rangers 2-1 after extra-time. Shellackings were commonplace, and in an epic 15-1 win over Hakoah B (you can see why they packed it in) T.Sharp racked up a solid 8 goals.

I've added a few new pages to the blog, where you can download some of the documents I have scanned. The old Soccer News magazine has it's own page, and I will be going through them again as I add them to the page to check if any clues to the 1942 Cup Final are found in the early post-War editions. If anyone has access to any copies that I can scan to add to this library, don't hesitate to get in touch.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

The Great Football Swindle

Despite the shambolic implementation of the NPL in Victoria, it must be happy days at the FFV offices in St Kilda Road after they have pulled off a million dollar swindle as they try and claw back the heavy financial losses of recent years.

The restructure of the senior men's competitions will allow them to take an extra million dollars in team entry fees from clubs this season. 

The cash influx starts at the top, with the expanded elite tier of the NPLV and NPLV1 bringing in $1,120,000 in license fees from it's 28 clubs. $40,000 is the price of being elite, which includes all player registrations. It's a massive gain on the $166,800 paid by the 12 clubs in the final VPL.

It is the community clubs, though, that face the biggest rip-off. With State League One now divided into North West and South East divisions, it will bring in $218,400 to the FFV coffers, a big step up from the $105,600 of 2013. These clubs can be considered very hard done by, paying $9,1000 each. That is approaching what VPL clubs were paying, for what effectively now the third tier of Victorian football. 

It is a third tier they can't be promoted from. It's hard to see what improved services they will get from the FFV, given it has taken until late February for them to be informed of what League they will be in this season and fixtures still being drafted. I can see the NPLV having a dedicated website, or section of the website, but I can't envisage what the SL1NW and SL1SE clubs will get to justify such an impost. On top of that, they still have to cover the individual player registration fees.

State League Division Two will bring in $189,600, up from $182,400. Another small increase comes in State League Division Three with $153,600 eclipsing the $148,800 of 2013. Whereas State League Division Four raked in $249,600 in  2013, this year it will bring in $259,200.

As a consequence of the top tiers being expanded, there will be less money coming from State League Division Five. $124,000 falling short of the $165,300 from twelve months ago. It's a shortfall that can be easily borne, who cares about a fee of $3,100 per club when you can squeeze so many into the $40,000 and $9,100 categories. 

Can we expect the FFV to try and shoehorn more clubs into the upper divisions in the coming years given the bonanza of the current re-branding? How far away is State League Two from going from two divisions of North West and South East to four divisions of North, South, East and West? Not very far when they need to hear another KA-CHING! from the cash registers.

In recent years the VPL went from having a dedicated weekly newspaper and highlights show on Channel 31, as well as a weekly game being streamed live on the internet to nothing. One would expect the restoration of such services to be in the pipeline to justify the substantial amounts paid to them by clubs.

The million dollar question really is what will the clubs get for their money?   

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The Great Schism 1927-28

The local game was split in 1927 when the Metropolitan District League was introduced. This was the landscape prior to the revolution:

Division One 1926
Footscray Thistle, Melbourne Thistle, Melbourne Welsh, Naval Depot, Northumberland and Durham United, Preston, Spotswood, St Kilda

Division Two 1926
Albert Park, Brunswick, Caulfield, Collingwood City, Coburg, Essendon City, Newport, Prahran City

Division Three 1926
Austral, Box Hill, Brighton, Middle Park, Moonee Ponds, Sunshine United, Union Jack, Werribee United

Division Three 1926
Bentleigh, Box Hill United, Croydon, Heidelberg, Lancashire & Yorkshire, R.A.A.F., Springvale

The 1927 District League comprised the following teams:

Box Hill, Brunswick, Collingwood City, Essendon City, Footscray Thistle, Prahran City, Preston, South Melbourne, St Kilda, Williamstown

Melbourne Thistle, Melbourne Welsh, Naval Depot and emerging clubs Sunshine United and Heidelberg all joined the breakaway Melbourne and Districts Association League. Their Association was not affiliated with the overall ruling body, the Victorian Amateur British Football Association. Both The Argus and The Age seemed reluctant to acknowledge the breakaway group, not publishing their results or news. Whenever they felt the need to mention them, it was never by name only via a reference to "the unaffiliated" league or competition. Former powerhouse Northumberland and Durham United seem to have faded into oblivion,

The District League, run by the Melbourne Soccer Football Association (affiliated with the V.A.B.F.A.) was set up with clubs having their district zones from which their players had to come from. Maybe the excluded clubs chose not to participate because they wanted to keep their players who lived in zones outside their own? Without knowing how the District League clubs were selected, we can't tell if all these clubs were omitted, or if they opted out themselves. That may have been the case with Naval Depot, who were a strong Dockerty Cup side before they made their mark in League competitions. The tyranny of distance to their Crib Point base saw them late to the party in joining the Melbourne leagues, and even when they found success in them returning to a more local competition was often mooted.

The main source of news and results we get from the Melbourne and District Association in 1927 and 1928 is from The Sun. It intended to run two divisions, Sections A and B, with a Grand Final between the two champions. They also had their own Cup, often abbreviated as the Melbourne Cup rather than it's full name as the Melbourne and District Association Challenge Cup. This also had a reserves version.

As mentioned previously, the Grand Final was abandoned when Section B champions Naval Depot were suprisingly put into the draw of the Dockerty Cup by the V.A.B.F.A. Section A champions Heidelberg refused to meet Section B runner's-up Melbourne Thistle in the Grand Final, and before the arguments were resolved the season was over. Naval Depot lost in the Dockerty Cup Final, but did take the Melbourne Cup with a 4-1 defeat of Sunshine United before they departed the M&DA.

In 1928, the expanded District League was divided into Northern and Southern Sections, with an affiliated League, the Suburban League, below them. Naval Depot, Sunshine United and Heidelberg were all back in the fold. The Melbourne and District Association League reverted to a single division, including the newly formed Caledonians and a re-formed Lincoln Mills. Caledonians won the championship as well as the Melbourne Cup. Naval Depot also completed a League and Cup double, claiming the District League Grand Final as well as the Dockerty Cup.

It was a turbulent time and the hostilities were bitter. The District League took umbrage at the M&DA continuing with their League on weekends set aside for State team and other representative games, affecting their gates. The M&DA even staged their own version of the Local International of England v Scotland. Eventually Harry Dockerty sought to make peace, with increasing talk towards the end of 1928 that reconciliation was on the cards.

Indeed peace was brokered. An initial plan included 1929 having four equal sectioned Divisions. There would be play-offs and a Grand Final to determine the Champions, and the top two in each section would then be placed in the new First Division for 1930 and the lower leagues set by similarly including the next two teams down in each section. That didn't come to pass, and the First Division of 1929 included the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 7th placed teams from the District League Southern Section, the 1st, 2nd and 8th placed teams from the District League Northern Section as well as Melbourne Thistle from the Melbourne and District Association League.

There must have been some great politicking from District League strugglers St Kilda (Harry Dockerty's old club) and Williamstown, the 7th and 8th placed teams who somehow managed to get into the eight team First Division. M&DA League champions Caledonians were unlucky to be placed in the new Second Division. Though not all results from that season are available, those that are show them having won all 16 of their games, scoring over 100 goals in the process. Melbourne Thistle, also with only 16 known results (there should have been 20 games in an eleven team competition) would only have finished third or fourth behind them.

So by 1929 the first attempt at running Victorian football along zonal lines was dead in the water. After 1930 Naval Depot would once again depart the Melbourne scene, returning for a one off year in the Second Division of 1935. They would again return post World War II, now known as Flinders Naval Depot, but would never recapture their former glory. A tradition of clubs at loggerheads with the governing body and dirty politics had been born.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Seasons Lacking Closure

In the course of researching the history of local competitive football, several black holes have emerged. Sporadic media coverage means we may never discover the answer to some puzzling questions, especially that whilst the papers often reported about match results and informed about upcoming tribunal meetings, the upshot of those meetings was rarely covered ins subsequent editions.

The Second Division of 1921 is a little murky. Published results do not give us a complete table, but newspaper reports tell us that Brunswick, Welsh United and Melbourne Thistle A all finished on 22 points. they would have finished in that order had goal difference been employed, but in those days it was not. So instead play offs were to be used to determine the champion.

On September 24, Welsh United defeated Brunswick 2-0 in what was listed as a "semi-final". A fortnight later, in what was labelled a "final" Welsh United drew 1-1 with Melbourne Thistle A. And that seems to have been that, with no more soccer appearing in the papers from that point on. Was the Championship ever resolved?

It may well not have been, and the answer may not be hidden in an old newspaper somewhere. The season was not always able to be completed before the grounds and players were lost to cricket. One such instance was the Dockerty Cup of 1920, in which the Final was never staged. The semi-finals were played on July 31, with Albert Park beating St Kilda 1-0, whilst Northumberland and Durham United defeated Footscray Thistle 3-2.

The drama in this one involves Northumberland and Durham United having fielded an ineligible player in that game, with the Council ordering the game to be replayed as a result. This was scheduled for Middle Park on August 21, but United failed to appear for the game. The following week they defeated Melbourne Thistle 1-0 in the semi-final of the League Championship play-offs, reaching the Final against St Kilda the following Saturday. The League Championship Grand Final was drawn, necessitating a replay. That may have been enough to have extended the season too far, or the problem may have been with resolving the matter of United refusing to replay the semi-final.

Old VSF Yearbooks contain the only documented history of the game we have, and for the 1920 Dockerty Cup they have listed the following: Finalists - Albert Park, Northumberland and Durham United (Game Abandoned).

Another unresolved issue was the District League Reserves Championship of 1928. The Southern Section was won by Naval Depot, who were to meet the Northern Section champions in a Grand Final. Only the Northern Section Championship required a play-off between Footscray Thistle and Williamstown. The two teams could not be split, with Thistle finally scraping a 1-0 win in the fifth replay of the tie. Having reached November, the plug was pulled on a clash with the Naval Depot for the overall title.

There's and even bigger head-scratcher with the 1928 season, but I'll save that for the next blog.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

A Shambolic History

Friday was just another day in a long line of shambolic episodes from those that have run the game in this state. It was the day the FFV had promised to make significant announcements about this year's NPLV, but yet again it came up with a website update two minutes before close of business which failed to deliver.

On Thursday various clubs hit the internet to announce they had been accepted, but come Friday the FFV were only able to deliver a list of 30 clubs offered licenses. No further structure of the competition was revealed, with speculation that the league may be divided into two divisions (either First and Second or North West and South East) or left as a massive single division in which teams played each other only once.
Maybe next week we will be a little more the wiser, but I'd advise against holding their breath.

There is a history of poor administration in the state, but the well meaning honorary officials of the past should be given some allowances when compared to well-staffed FFV of today. Still, 1927 was a particularly chaotic season.

It was the year of a major schism in Victorian football, as the old First Division became the District League, in a predecessor of the zonal top flight the FFV have been trying to implement recently. There ten team District League, and the six team Sub-District League below it, were run by the Melbourne Soccer Football Association. Dissenting clubs who did not like the changes formed the Melbourne and District Association League, which was divided into two equal divisions, Section A and Section B.

The District League was well covered in the newspapers, with results from the Melbourne and District Association League not always being published. Only players from the MFSA league were eligible to play for Victoria or Australia. 

Both competitions began in April, and it wasn't until the end of the season that things became ridiculous. The Dockerty Cup does not seem to have been planned with much notice (when are the NPLV fixtures coming out?) and it's commencement in late September ruined the Melbourne and District (M&D) Association League season. Naval Depot, you see, the reigning Cup holders, were playing in the M&D League, not the District League. In fact, they had wrapped up Section B and were due to play Section A champions Heidelberg in a Grand Final for the League Championship. 

In what seems to have been a bit of a suprise, the Naval Depot were included in the Dockerty Cup draw. Or was it an act of sabotage? The game clashed with the M&D League Grand Final, and when they chose to play the Dockerty Cup tie, the M&D League expunged their record from the it's competition. It got worse though, as Heidelberg refused to play the new Section B winners Melbourne Thistle, demanding a game with the Navy or nothing. Which seems to have been the outcome, as I've yet to find any indication there was a Grand Final played.

Prahran won the District League Championship, with Naval Depot beaten 5-2 in the Dockerty Cup Final by District League runner's-up Footscray Thistle after extra time. The next season Naval Depot joined the District League and claimed a League and Cup double. The feuding leagues came back together in 1929 with four divisions of eight teams competing under the one umbrella.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

An Honour Disrespected

In the course of compiling a history of the results of senior men's football competitions in Victoria (for draft click here) I've also started a few files for other relevant information. One such file is a list of  the bodies and committees governing of the game in this state, which can be found here:

From early newspaper reports I have included the names of any people awarded life membership of any such body. In later years the Victorian Soccer Federation Yearbooks contained a current list of life members, and I have included any people added each year since the initial list published in 1968. When I say current, I mean the Yearbook lists those able to enjoy the privileges of life membership i.e. those still alive. Names do drop off the Yearbook lists, and I'm assuming that's because those that have passed away no longer being included rather than people having been stripped of the honour.

Obviously life memberships of the VSF were often awarded to those that had worked in the service of the organisation. Which is totally understandable, but leads to an imbalance. The VSF may have run the game, but they did not own it. It would have been nice if a few more people from outside the organisation were awarded life membership in honour of their service to the sport.

We know the AFL automatically confers life membership on those that have played or coached a combined 300 games. This has avoided what happened with VSF life membership, which is top heavy in VSF officials and light on for players, coaches, referees and those who's work as officials was restricted to club duties as opposed to being involved in VSF politics.

It's a shame more of these people weren't given life membership. It's a massive oversight that all Victorian-based members of the 1974 World Cup Finals Socceroos squad were not instantly given membership (sure Peter Ollerton would had to have had his stripped after he assaulted referee Jim Fearn). The likes of Billy Vojtek and Jimmy Armstrong should surely have been included. Referees like Eugene Brazzale, Gerry Connolly or Dennis Voutsinas too.

This week, the Football Federation Victoria called upon nominations for life memberships for new inductions to be made at the upcoming Annual General Meeting. Whilst honouring people for their efforts is good, restoring the honour to previous life members would be better. There is no list of those awarded life memberships on the FFV website. Is their any prestige to an award where one can be forgotten about so quickly? It seems like a lack of respect to me.

Has the FFV Hall of Fame overshadowed those that have received life membership? Hall of Fame inductees get a mention on the FFV website, whilst the names the life members must rest in an unmarked grave somewhere.

Would it be too difficult for the FFV to add a page to their site to truly honour their life members? The names, dates of birth (and death for those that have passed) of recipients and perhaps a brief line describing what the did for the game should not be too hard to muster. If anyone actually cared, that is.

Until the memory of former life members are given due recognition, should we consider present inductees as being put through an exercise in lip service and a token effort at thanking them for their services? If the FFV is genuine in respecting these people, it needs to do more.