Time to Leave Home

Football West Chairman Liam Twigger has penned a letter to 40,000 participants in the sport asking for their support for a Home of Football; Yet, being pedantic Mr Twigger continually refers to the sport as “soccer” in his letter.

He states “we would encourage all stakeholders to remind local councillors, politicians and business leaders of the valuable role soccer plays in the lives of children, families, friends and community.”

It is a good move to try and garner support for such a bold project, but one has to say that the timing seems so wrong.

Mr Twigger quite rightly states “In another funding anomaly, Football West is the only major sporting code in WA that has not received any Government funding for the purchase of a head office and the governing body had to secure a $700,000 loan facility to finance the acquisition.”

One would think that having done this they have in fact now weakened their case for a government-paid facility.

Two and a half years ago when Football West pushed their “For Football’s Sake” campaign one felt they had a case, as they worked in offices which were simply a disgrace at Gibbney Reserve. After that campaign all went quiet, although obviously behind the scenes the powers that be were still building a case for such an establishment. Having moved to their own offices one has to ask why they need such grandiose plans and why should a Governement in an economic downturn spend that money?

The argument that other sports received money does not really carry any weight. Basketball, and Rugby Union benefitted from the Government funding them new headquarters because their previous home at Perry Lakes was sold by the Government to become a housing estate. It was more profitable to do that than to try and maintain the Athletics stadium which pervious governments had let fall into disrepair.

Ironically for many years Football had its then various bodies headquartered at Perry Lakes. When they merged the various sections of the game under one banner, Football West, the board opted to leave and house everyone under one roof. That decision cost football dearly.

Football West are seeking $30million in funding from the Government to create what Mr Twigger states will be “a proper facility to benefit all participants.”

In his letter he outlines the supposed benefits to all in the game:

“•Education and training resource centre for coaches, referees, administrators and volunteers seeking improvement at both community and elite levels

•Venue with artificial surface for senior, amateur, junior and schools matches

•Modern facilities and training base to entice the world’s biggest clubs and national teams for friendly matches, providing tourism exposure

•Continued development of exceptional players

•Improved administration to guarantee: i) better delivery of all programs, ii) expansion of inclusive development programs that cater for new migrants, people with disabilities and disadvantaged community members, iii) cost-savings due to a streamlined and more efficient organisation.”

How will such a venue improve administration beyond how it should already be improved following the move to the new offices last year? Surely that comes down to management.

The venue with an artificial surface, is that going to be free to use for all in the game, Senior, Junior, amateur and schools? How far are schools really going to travel to play there? In the original plan tabled two years ago by Football West they had this down as a revenue stream and that teams would have to pay to use this facility. They also stated that they intended to host NPL, or as it was then State League matches there, therefore denying the home team revenue from the bar and canteen.

A training base for the World’s biggest clubs, with the new State of the art stadium, surely they would be given use of that if they were coming to Perth and there would be no need for such a facility. Or they could train at NIB stadium. Certainly when Wolverhampton Wanderers came to Perth they were impressed with the facilities and they trained at the WACA!

The question is, is this genuinely money being well spent? Could not the $30million be spent better to benefit football?

Football West has been hassling clubs to improve their facilities around the state, and in many cases quite rightly so. Some clubs are currently being barred from being promoted when their performances have warranted it because their grounds are deemed not up to scratch.

Rather than having one central facility for the game’s administrator why not spread the money around and benefit more people, throughout the state and metropolitan area? Imagine what could be achieved if each club in the top two divisions of the top competition was given $500,000 – $1million to upgrade their facilities. They could then rent out their grounds to schools in their area, and have juniors and amateurs play on an artificial pitch if installed. This would create a revenue stream that may help these clubs survive. Rather than having a couple of pitches centrally located we would have them in key areas for the benefit of so many more people.

The remaining money could be filtered down to the other clubs to improve changing rooms and their facilities so that the whole playing experience at all levels and in all areas was a more enjoyable one.

Football is the people’s game, so if there is to be such a windfall let us see that money spent on people in all areas not just in one location.

One of the key problems at the moment facing the ground reform process being pushed by Football West is that very few clubs own their grounds or their club rooms, they are merely tenants.

As mentioned earlier Mr Twigger wrote in his letter “we would encourage all stakeholders to remind local councillors, politicians and business leaders of the valuable role soccer plays in the lives of children, families, friends and community.” Most clubs do this on a regular basis and ask for any assistance that they can get.

Will many of these councillors and business leaders support a whizz-bang home of football in an area away from theirs? Most unlikely. Would they support investment at a venue within their area that could have all the benefits Mr Twigger mentions? Very likely.

The Home Of Football one feels has passed the sport by for the time being. The staff and administration were forced to bite the bullet and invest in offices wholly owned by Football West. Surely it is better now to look at trying to gain money from the government to be invested in the communities where football is being played, where such a facility will not only benefit communities but will also help grow the game.

Which is more achievable? A monument to the sport, or satellite centres that benefit communities?

Football has always been about community and identity. It has thrived on that for centuries.

As much as it would have been great to have a focal point that was a home for the game, one feels that that need has gone, and if such money can be obtained it should be spent in the areas that really need it.

Time to Leave Home
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