Last best hope for Geelong soccer

United force needed, Geelong Advertiser, Thursday 23 November 2006, p. 39.

Tucked away at the end of the Football Federation of Victoria press release in yesterday’s Geelong Advertiser was the announcement of what could be Geelong’s last and best hope of a future for the round ball code in the city. At the end of the 2007 season all positions in the Victorian Premier League will be spilled and clubs throughout the state will be invited to apply to take part in 2008.

Instead of any one or more of the existing clubs putting their hands up what is clearly needed is a single application on behalf of Geelong. The clubs have done a great job for their communities over the years, but it has been proven time and time again that none are capable of broader appeal to the latent soccer supporters of this region. Each time in the past there has been a move to set up a single club to represent Geelong the self-interest of the various clubs and organisations has taken over and the initiative has collapsed. It must not happen again.

We have seen what can happen when a single club to represent a city is set up as with Melbourne Victory which has drawn almost 40,000 to a match against Sydney at the Telstra Dome and averages crowds of more than 26,000 this season. Every home game some hundreds of Geelong fans travel to the Telstra Dome for matches and some also attend away games, such is their appreciation of and devotion to this completely new team. These are people who would throw their support behind a united Geelong team and many of them have been trying for long enough to encourage the clubs to put their efforts behind a single representative club.

We also have players of the relevant calibre as is demonstrated every year at the Geelong Advertiser Cup and its successor the Community Shield. The problem is that the talent is distributed through five clubs and the Western Victoria Soccer Association and spends the rest of the soccer year competing in the lower divisions of the State and Provisional Leagues. Most recently North Geelong has come closest to reaching the Premier League in its own right, but even its history, tradition and pool of quality players, has not been enough.

The criteria for acceptance into the new Premier League will be announced on Monday but there is no doubt that they will include levels of administrative competence, financial resources and facilities and the ability to tap a significant local market which will exceed those available to any current club in Geelong. The pressure for change at the top is clear, but it needs to be reinforced from below, from within the Geelong community, if this great opportunity is not be squandered as has happened every time in the past. Planning for a new entity and a credible bid for a Premier League place needs to start now.

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