Saturday, 19 September 2015

The Bastardisation of the Bill Fleming Medal

In 1954, The Argus newspaper awarded a medal for the best and fairest player in the V.A.S.F.A. First Division. Votes were issued on a 3-2-1 basis for each match, coordinated by football writer Bill Fleming. Though the paper ceased in 1957, the medal survived and was presented each year, re-named in honour of it's originator, Bill Fleming.

It was not until 1971 that the V.S.F. introduced it's own award for the best and fairest player in the Victorian State League each season, the Rothman's Medal, which eventually became the Gold Medal. Even then the Bill Fleming Medal survived, though no longer using the 3-2-1 system on every game format but instead taking a poll of the various members of the football media. The referees were used to implement the 3-2-1 system to determine the Rothman's Medal.

The point of difference for the Bill Fleming Medal then became that it allowed the more brilliant players to triumph over those that were simply more consistent. It also allowed for a mark of true greatness when a player was able to win the double of both medals.

For sixty years the Bill Fleming Medal was awarded to the best players in the top division of senior men's football in Victoria. The tradition spanned the First Division, Victorian State League, Victorian Premier League and National Premier League Victoria eras. It was older than the Gold Medal, and most clubs in the state. It was older than the VSF, the NSL or the FFA. This, in a sport that does not necessarily treasure it's own history, was quite remarkable.

This tradition was ended this year, when at the Gold Medal night it was announced the Bill Fleming Award would go to the player voted on by the FFV's match reporters (in lieu of independent media) as the best from the NPLV and WVPL. Not separate awards for each, but one for both. With the winner being Amy Jackson of Boroondara Eagles in the WVPL, the linage of winners of the Medal in the VSL/VPL/NPLV every year since 1954 has come to an end.

It is clear that the FFV has little respect for it's own history. Earlier this year it removed lies from it's own website when caught out attempting to re-write history on it. It drifts between being ashamed of most club's ethnic pasts and then appearing to embrace them as the need fits. We don't like your names or symbols, but look how tolerant we are munching down some souvlakis.

It's sad that a grand tradition (check out the honour roll) needs to be altered to make a political statement or push an agenda. Sadder still that lamenting the loss of such a tradition would see you labelled a misogynist.

Would I be a misogynist if I decried the Melbourne Cup being altered from the traditional 3200m into a 1200m sprint? If someone were to protest about men's grand slam tennis being reduced to best of three sets, are they being misogynistic? Are the AFL misogynists for not opening up their Brownlow Medal to women?

Tokenism is not true equality. If the change to the Bill Fleming Medal was initiated so the FFV could pat itself on the back for being so inclusive, it is a token act to my eye. It could have inaugurated a similar award for the WVPL and chosen to perhaps honour a female pioneer of football journalism (it's not like Bill Fleming himself ever wrote a single word about the women's game), but instead being able to tweet that "for the first time a @wplvictoria player has won the Bill Fleming Award" was the more politically beneficial gesture. Whoever decided that is truly the bastard who bastardised the Bill Fleming Medal.


  1. No, you are wrong! If Bill Fleming was alive today there is no doubt he would be at the forefront of promoting the woman's game! Of that, you can be sure.

    Ok, there is your one comment. You can stop pushing this. :)

  2. I was just hoping to see if someone could explain why the change was necessary without simply crying misogyny.

  3. In Soccer Action in 1982, Craig McKenzie notes that the award was organised by the Victorian branch of the Australian Soccer Press Association.

    1. The question therefore becomes, who's in control now?

  4. That's the question no one seems to want to answer. It's been in the hands of the FFV for many years now. I think one year they may have gotten Costa Koutropoulos of Goal! Weekly to coordinate the votes, but it's been an FFV run award for a while. Which is why they have been able to politicise it with the standard levels of FFV transparency and consultation.

    1. Here is an official explanation I've received on the voting process for 2015.

      "The award is voted by FFV match reporters who have covered both men’s and women’s games. They are asked to give 321 for their best male player from NPL, and 321 for their best female player from WPL (if they had reported on both genders). The award is given to the player with the highest average votes – given the different numbers of fixtures."

    2. It doesn't explain why it was felt necessary to alter the terms of an award after 60 years.

      I've always found it disrespectful to alter awards/honours named after people. But we are talking about the people who handed over the actual Dockerty Cup trophy whilst insisting on calling the competition the State Knockout Cup. Totally classless.

      Is the only area the FFV seem willing to save a few dollars on is trophy expenditure? The monthly NPLV Awards did not last more than two months this season, and there was only one Golden Boot for NPL One, which was very unfair on those in the West league. They only got to play against Nunawading City once, who conceded 4.5 goals a game and had one player score 7 against them in a single game. Not a very level playing field, surely a Golden Boot for both the West and East divisions is not unreasonable?

  5. Another thought, why is it I have to link to an external website for a list of former Bill Fleming Medal winners? How come the FFV does not honour former winners and champions on it's website?

    Since being exposed as lying to push political spin on their history page, there is no longer a history page at all on the website. Pride, integrity, respect and openness are all listed as core values of the organisation, but you are hard pressed to find any examples of them existing.

  6. Thanks for sharing this with all of us.