Sport survives on emotions. The emotions that the players draw from us with their performances live with us for many years. The successes and failures of the teams that we support see us ride a rollercoaster of emotions. Anyone who has played sport, followed sport and supported a team will know all about such emotions.
Having suffered disappointments many can empathise when other fans and clubs suffer; that is unless it is your arch rivals are the ones losing a Cup Final or being relegated.
It is upon such rivalries and losses that history is built, history and tradition. Many European countries have over one hundred years of football traditions, the same can be said of South America. Australia is still a babe in arms by comparison. That is why it is so important that the clubs that have been a part of that history survive, and why we acknowledge their past and their contribution. We cannot afford to see them simply become a name in the record books.
It is therefore sad, but not surprising, to hear that one long-established club in Western Australia, and one of the founding clubs of the Soccer Federation of Western Australia back in the 1960’s may well be playing its last season in the semi professional competition, the National Premier Leagues of WA.
In the 1970’s the Athena Club moved to what had been the Velodrome for the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, now know as Litis Stadium, and became Floreat Athena. The ground has witnessed many great games, not only between Floreat Athena and their league rivals, but also between Western Australia and teams from overseas. The stadium is as much a part of Western Australia’s football history as the club.
It is understood that 2017 could well be the last season that Floreat Athena plays at Litis Stadium. The ground has been allowed to fall into disrepair in recent years and the cost to fix some of the problems, along with the rent and the cost of running an NPL side are believed to be the reasons why the club has had to accept that it may no longer be able to stay at a ground it has called home for almost the past forty years.
The City of Vincent has granted the club an extension to submit its Masterplan for the stadium to June 2017. At the same time the lease on the stadium was extended until December 2017. So a great deal is hinging on the proposal to be put forward, also whether the club can raise the required funds to develop the stadium and keep running as a NPL club.The clock is ticking.
The club was established in 1951, and by 1960 was playing in the State’s top competition. Since then it has won four State Championships, and five State League Cups while calling Litis stadium home. They have had the likes of Socceroo Stan Lazaridis and Vas Kalogeracas play for them in recent times, and before that, from England, John Sydenham and Steve Stacey.
Now the club’s whole future is believed to be in doubt, and all of the history that this club has been a part of could be lost. If Floreat Athena feel that there is no longer a future at Litis Stadium then they must search for a new ground that meets all of the NPL requirements set out in the NPL-WA Compliance document, or explore the possibility of sharing one in order to maintain their NPL status.
The writing may well have been on the wall last season when the club had to “borrow” youth teams to be able to meet the NPL requirement to field a team in all age groups from Under 11’s to under 15’s.
If the club’s finances are in as bad a state as rumoured, they will have another deadline to meet as well as the council’s in August. Football West has stated that clubs looking to be promoted from the State League to the NPL have until August 4th 2017 to present Football West with “the most recent audited copy of its financial statements. The club’s audited financial statements must not be more than 12 months old.” Therefore one would expect that the same deadline would apply to the current NPL clubs to ensure that they are in a financial position to continue playing in the competition. That is if Football West is indeed checking the financials of the clubs.
Are Floreat Athena the first of many to be counting the cost of playing in the National Premier Leagues of WA, and having to comply with so many rules and regulations?
The Club’s own website states that “with the introduction of Perth Glory into the National League in the mid-1990’s, interest in the local State League began to wane, however, Floreat Athena managed to maintain its strong supporter base.” It would however appear that with next to no marketing of the NPL competition, even that loyal supporter base has dwindled, or is regrettably not big enough to cover the club’s financial costs.
Ironically, while the older heads at the club were wary of the impositions that were to come with participation in the NPL, younger Members of the club’s committee at the time of application were more gung ho, and were convinced that this was the way forward.
What is sad is that this club played a key part in the Greek community. It has played a key part in the football community of Western Australia. It is almost unthinkable to imagine a competition without Floreat Athena in it. That is not the case yet, but without a ground their NPL status is on the line. Without a ground their ability to bring in money as a club will also be restricted, as the Western Knights found out when they were forced to play their home games at Wauhop Park rather than Nash Field in 2012. The cost saw the club relegated.
Should we be surprised by this situation? Not really, as the NPL structure was one adopted from the Netherlands where it failed and was abandoned. The reason it was abandoned was because it saw several clubs go broke.