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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 3 June 2017
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 3 JUNE 2017 27 SPORT Football’s appetite for expansion While there is a great appetite for all levels of the Australian football pyramid to be unifi ed, there are still barriers that are holding back the game’s development. Cannons and Sharks spring into transfer window action GEORGE STOGIANNOU With the NPL season just over the halfway point, a number of clubs have scrambled into action in response to the recently opened transfer window, resulting in a flurry of player movements in and out of clubs. Amongst the most ac- Socceroos v Saudi Arabia at Adelaide Oval. PHOTO: WHATSONINADELAIDE.NET.AU tive that is a positive thing. "We have more kids playing the game than ever before and we want to give them as many opportunities as possible which means that we need to give them more teams to aspire to play in." Since FFA CEO David Gallop's announcement in October 2016 that the ultimate goal of Australian football is promotion and relegation, NSL clubs like South Melbourne have been leading the charge for inclusion into the A-League. This week South ramped up their intention by flying in former Brazillian national team legend Roberto Carlos and announced that they had opened talks with the superstar to become their manager if they enter the A-League. Matildas' star Lisa De Vanna, recently joined South Melbourne's women's team due to the work of Gabrielle Gilliarno, who is head of South's women's football department and a member of South's advisory board. On that board is also Louisa Chen, one of Victoria's biggest developers and investors in the state and so is former Federal Sports Minister Andrew Thompson. Both sides of government have also expressed support for South's A-League tilt which according to advisory board chairman Bill Papastergiadis was key in developing the club's expansion bid. "The most important example of support is the 40-year licence that was granted to us for the stadium, a deal we did 20 years ago and which had the support of the government and opposition,” he says. "This is a $70 million stadium and it's important because if we didn't have that stadium deal then you know what? We couldn't go ahead with this ALeague deal. "The beauty of Lakeside is it will be full every week. It will be great for the viewing public on television. It will be buzzing and alive and it will be a great experience for all those who attend because they will also be able to participate in the social club, the futsal facilities and all the other things that we've just spent over $2 million dollars on." Papastergiadis believes that having a closed system like the A-League stifles investment in the game particularly by clubs in the lower tiers. "By not having promotion and relegation you've killed aspirational football in this country," he says. "Clubs will not invest if they can't see that investment will bear fruit, they won't invest in infrastructure and they won't invest on their players and their coaches. Creating an A-League with no promotion and relegation to the NPL was arguably a safe thing to do back then, but it's no longer the right solution now." To the frustration of many ALeague aspirants, FFA's timeline and selection criteria for expansion didn't eventuate as expected in April and the date for any new clubs was pushed back to at least the 2018/19 season. Instead the governing body made an announcement that it was more focused on restruc- turing the ownership and operating model of the A-League and W-League. However, the wait on expansion saw an alliance of NPL clubs form with the advent of the Association of Australian Football Clubs. The AAFC is an organisation of over 100 NPL clubs who are seeking representation at the FFA Congress, the formation of a second division and a system of promotion and relegation linked to the A-League. AAFC Chairman, Tom Kalas says member federation clubs need to have a seat at the table. "It's important to bring the NPL clubs in nationally because if we don't support them and invest in them and funnel resources to grow the infrastructure footprints of football we can't build football culture," he says. "By having these clubs recognised and integrated in the football pyramid then they go to councils and go to state governments and say we need to upgrade our facilities. We need artificial grass to help us with our juniors because now we are playing at the national level. That is the strategy, if we bring people together so we can use that type of muscle to grow facilities." While South's facilities are one of its biggest selling points in its quest to make the A-League, fellow member federation Club Sydney Olympic is in a different position. The club has historically never had a home and CEO John Boulous says Olympic needs to see direction from the governing body for it to move forward. "To go to the next level, you need to fit into a game-wide plan and we need to see what the whole of game approach is to expansion at all levels of the game and we need to adequately prepare for that," he says. "Our challenge is that our football program is restricted by facilities. A huge strategic priority for the club is to develop facilities to be able to grow and enhance our football program. Our training facilities are not where we want them to be for our youth players up to the senior players and that is something the club is doing a lot of work on." While NPL clubs like South Melbourne are forging ahead and others are looking to the FFA for direction, Postecoglou broke down the plight that many young footballers are facing in the current climate. "We've got thousands and thousands of kids who are chasing a dream to become a professional footballer and we can only offer them 10 spots a year," he said speaking at a recent fundraising event for the Australasian Football Institute. "They don't just get disillusioned and give up playing the game, my personal thing is that they just walk away from the game and they don't even support a club because they just feel like they haven't had a decent shot at it. "It just doesn't make sense to me that we only have enough room for nine teams in this country, there is definitely a need for expansion. It will be inevitable that it will happen, the timing and where, that is beyond my station." tive during the window thus far has been Port Melbourne Sharks which has acquired six new players including two new full backs Anthony Colosimo and 21-year-old Perry Lambropoulos who leaves Oakleigh Cannons to join the Sharks. Also joining the Sharks are Kiwi attacking midfielder Zane Sole, Roberto Stella (exAvondale FC and younger brother of Francesco) and Sam Beninato (ex-Hume City). The latest player to join the Sharks influx is striker James Papadimitriou who joins from NPL 2 West League leader Northcote City. The Sharks lost 2-1 to South Melbourne in a fiery derby at Lakeside last round and played another derby last night against Oakleigh Cannons, the result of which was unavailable at the time of going to print. The Cannons have also been busy during the transfer window with several players on the move. Speedy Canadian striker Nate Foster departs ending his second stint at the club, after struggling to match the goal scoring form of his first spell at Oakleigh. Foster joins NPL 2 East club, Springvale White Eagles. Two of the biggest names to move during the transfer window are exBentleigh Greens skipper and Hume City midfielder Wayne Wallace. The Cannons have recruited Wallace and they’ll be hoping the 32-year-old’s leadership and strong will to win will bolster the team as it makes a run for a top two finish. Joining Wallace at the Cannons is Brazillian defender Janiel Silva who joins from Whittlesea Ranges. South Melbourne FC has released three players including midfielders Gavin De Niese and Liam McCormick who have departed to join NPL2 clubs Springvale White Eagles and Dandenong City re- spectively. The third to leave is central defender Carl Piergianni who has reportedly returned home to England. South will no doubt look to strengthen its squad as it prepares for a busy schedule of FFA Cup, Dockerty Cup, and League campaigns. In other transfer news, former Heidelberg, Northcote, and South Springvale forward Zois Galanopoulos has joined NPL 2 club Dandenong Thunder. In Dockerty Cup news, the FFV has released the Dockerty Cup semi-final fixtures. Heidelberg United plays Hume City on Wednesday 21 June at JL Murphy Reserve in Port Melbourne whilst in the other semi, two great rivals South Melbourne FC and Bentleigh Greens face off at Jack Edwards Reserve in Oakleigh on Thursday 22 June. The three Greek-based Cup semi-finalists also currently occupy the top three spots of the NPL 1 League table after 15 rounds. Heidelberg, with a game in hand, is outright leader following an emphatic 3-0 win over early pacesetter Avondale FC last week. The Bergers took command by scoring two unanswered goals in the first half through Zahra and Petrie before Ken Athiu scored a penalty in injury time to take his season tally to nine goals. The Bergers will be favourites to keep their winning momentum when they visit bottom team St Albans Saints this Sunday. Bentleigh Greens are in hot pursuit of the Bergers with last week’s 3-0 home win over North Geelong Warriors. Honos, Thurtell, and Brennan were the scorers. This round the Greens played the struggling Melbourne Knights away on Friday night. In other NPL 1 action this weekend, 12th-placed Kingston City travels down the Princess Highway to Geelong to take on 13th-placed North Geelong Warriors in a match both teams will be desperate for the three points to help climb away from relegation danger. South Melbourne’s match against Avondale this round, has been postponed till the catch-up round due to the unavailability of Lakeside Stadium.
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