"Where is WorkSafe Victoria in all of this? How can James Hird be at the helm of the club as the head coach when 4000-plus injections have been given to playing staff, none of which anybody can tell us what it was."- Former head of WADA John Fahey.
Back in the world game's fold
Paul Daffey looks back at some of the moments that shaped Australian sport.
What: 50 years in FIFA's embrace
Where: Soccer fields throughout the nation
The legacy: A big step towards world acceptance of Australian soccer
This year is significant in Australian soccer because it marks the 50th anniversary of FIFA's decision to lift the ban on Australia's affiliation. The great and good of the sport are gathering at Crown Casino in Melbourne on Tuesday night to celebrate the occasion.
At the time of Australia's reaffiliation with the sport's world governing body the occasion drew little comment. And yet it came at a time of unprecedented upheaval in the game in Australia. Only the formation of the A-League in 2003 would match it for scope and effect.
Soccer was very much a minority sport in Australia in those days. And FIFA wasn't such a behemoth. But times were changing, with a greater emphasis on international competition, and Australia's re-entry into the FIFA ranks enabled it to play against international rivals. A decade later, in 1974, it won its way through to the finals of the World Cup.
Roy Hay is a historian who, with his co-writer Bill Murray, this week handed in the manuscript of A History of Football in Australia, their book that took 12 years of research and writing. Hay said the seeds of Australia's FIFA ban were sown during European clubs' tours of Australia in the 1950s. The tours were planned as money-making ventures, with the touring team pocketing the gate from attendances. They played against state teams and club teams as well as the Australian team.
At a time when most club matches were played before small crowds, these touring games attracted several thousand. In 1957 two teams toured: FK Austria and Ferencvaros of Hungary. The Austrian team played 11 games for nine wins and two losses; the losses were to Australia and Ferencvaros.
But FK Austria's tour proved costly. Not only did it lose money, reportedly £5000, it lost half of its team when Australian clubs recruited its best players over the next two years. They included Leo Baumgartner, the "Little Professor of Soccer", who was recruited by the Prague club in Sydney.
Baumgartner, like many recruits, stayed in Australia. He died last month after a lifetime of helping the game through coaching. Australian clubs recruited mainly from Austria, the Netherlands and Malta. In Melbourne, the Dutch club Ringwood Wilhelmina attracted several stars including Sjel (Mike) de Bruyckere, who played eight internationals for the Netherlands. Prague in Sydney won the NSW state league in 1961 and '63. Wilhelmina won the Victorian title in 1959.
The recruitment of its star players so alarmed FK Austria that it complained to FIFA. It was miffed not so much about the loss of players, but because the Australian clubs had not paid transfer fees. The Australian Soccer Football Association, the game's governing body at the time, claimed these players were migrants who had come to Australia for a better life. After settling in, they looked around for a football club. Some of them just happened to be skilful enough to play in the state leagues.
“The reality was that the players were being bought in as what we would now call marquee players,” Hay said. “When their original clubs in Europe found out, they jacked up and went to FIFA and said, 'Look, we need to get transfer fees because we're losing our best players to Australia'. “The Australians made all sorts of claims to FIFA, none of which cut any ice. FIFA said, 'Well, you either pay the transfer fees according to regulations, or we'll suspend your membership.' And that's what happened.”
Almost as soon as Australia was disaffiliated in 1960, Sir Stanley Rous, the new FIFA president, began paying visits to Australia to try to woo it back to the fold, but strictly under FIFA rules. Rous was a tall, patrician figure who had been secretary of the Football Association in England before becoming FIFA president. Under his leadership FIFA was working hard to assert its faltering control. Colombia was another country that had been disaffiliated, in its case after a Bogota club, the aptly named Millionaros, had led a breakaway. In Australia, Rous found an administrative mess.
It had begun in 1956 when the Hakoah club in Sydney had been so enraged when it was refused promotion to the state's top level that it broke away from the then governing body, the NSW Soccer Football Association. (Frank Lowy had become involved with Hakoah after emigrating from Hungary.) In subsequent years several clubs – not all of them associated with migrant communities – joined Hakoah's breakaway and formed the NSW Soccer Federation, to be affiliated with the Australian Soccer Federation.
This happened around Australia, with breakaway clubs forming state bodies that affiliated with the Australian Soccer Federation. The old body, the Australian Soccer Football Association, continued as a mainly amateur organisation, while the ASF was semi-professional. Some club games in the breakaway league attracted large crowds. Matches in Melbourne between clubs such as South Melbourne Hellas, Juventus (later Brunswick Juventus) and Jugoslavian United Soccer Team (later Footscray JUST) during the 1960s attracted crowds of 20,000. All players had jobs, but some were receiving handsome payments to play soccer. Rous, who in Victoria dealt mainly with the Victorian Soccer Federation president Harry Dockerty, reiterated that FIFA would deal with only one body.
The union of the two national bodies took place in 1962 at the instigation of the NSW Soccer Federation. The united body took the name of the Australian Soccer Federation, which had by then asserted itself over the original body. The NSW Soccer Federation body expected to have its nomination, the Sydney gynaecologist Henry Seamonds, installed as the inaugural president of the united national body. In a reflection of the game's interminable politics, however, the Victorian and Tasmanian federations ganged up to have their nomination, Theo Marmaras, installed. Marmaras, known as the "Oyster King", had barely shaken hands with his new constituents when the Victorians and Tasmanians relented in the face of NSW's rage and enabled Seamonds to be installed.
“The Oyster King was in charge for about 10 minutes!” Hay said. In 1962 Seamonds had a heart attack and died during the lunchtime recess of a meeting at Soccer House in Fitzroy Street, St Kilda. William Walkley, an executive at the petrol company Ampol, was named as his replacement. Under Walkley's tenure, tireless ASF committeeman Michael Weinstein was given the job of talking with FIFA about re-affiliation. One of the considerations was how much the Australian body should pay to compensate the European clubs for lost transfer fees. The negotiated figure was £18,500. Walkley sent Weinstein to FIFA headquarters in Zurich with a cheque.
“Whether Walkley paid it or underwrote it I'm not really sure, but the deal was finally settled,” Hay said. FIFA welcomed Australia back into the fold by lifting its ban on June 1, 1963. Australia was able to seek qualification for the 1966 World Cup. It bungled its bid, losing 6-1 and 3-1 to North Korea after a preparation of playing local sides during a training camp in Cairns, but the process of becoming an international contender was under way.
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What they should do ...
... is be more authentic. The Central Coast Mariners have won everything in the A-League, and impressed in the Asia Cup. They also lose over $1million a year as a business and, like many AFL clubs, need a financial top-up from the sport's governing body. One of their problems might be identity. These Mariners don't lather themselves in blubber, deal in doubloons, ride clipper ships or pearl dive. They don't scrub a poop deck, kick starboard or astern, or hoist sails. Nor, for a coast, do they surf. And! there is very little Mariner quality about inflatable sauce bottles – unless they need buoyancy. Comparatively, the Melbourne Victory has worn a gold-plated shirt that glowed in the dark, possesses ambition to win the Asia Cup, and had Harry Kewell when he was cool. Those are traits of victory. In fact, what they should do is learn from the Victory. - LUKE MORRIS, Bendigo