A LETTER ABOUT SYDNEY FOOTBALL

Bruce AndrewWe have come across a letter apparently written by the secretary of the NSW Australian National Football League Advisory Board in 1958 to the secretary of the Australian National Football Council (ANFC), Bruce Andrew (pictured).  Click here to read.

The NSW Australian National Football League Advisory Board was a group set up by the league, ostensibly to advise them on the direction they should take on various issues and other associated subjects.

Society president, Ian Granland, a former secretary of a Sydney club and later CEO of the NSW Football League said “When I first started going to league meetings in 1966, I saw the Advisory Board as a bunch of old blokes who formerly had an active interest in the game but were virtually put out to pasture on a committee which, from my understanding did not do much.”

“Some of its members were formerly on the league executive and they also managed to rope in businessmen from interstate who had an interest in the game but were not actively involved in Sydney.”

“I was only 17 when I attended these league meetings at their 64 Regent Street Chippendale rooms and at first I found it all quite daunting and at times, intimidating.  I knew of the Advisory Board but I really never saw that committee have any influence on the game.  They probably got free tickets to games and were invited to special events for their effort.  Other than that, I felt their contribution was negligible.”

These monthly meetings were for club delegates and in the old days it was some type of achievement to be elected one of the two club delegates where you got to represent and speak on behalf of the club.  In my case, there was no-one else!  Normally about 50 attended these meetings and at that stage of my path in football I just had to sit and learn.  The way in which football in Sydney is administered these days, such meetings do not occur.

The letter we have published is not signed but was probably written by the then secretary of the Advisory Board, Bill Wood who was the president of the Western Suburbs Club from their re-admission to the league in 1948 to 1953.

He is quite candid in his remarks to Andrew, a former premiership wingman from 1928, who held the quite unique distinction of being a vice president of Collingwood at a time he was playing.  He was ANFC secretary from 1950-76 and made several trips to Sydney in an effort to find a way to better promote the game.

Incidentally, it was Andrew who arranged for the ANFC to purchase land in Cairns in 1957 which would go on to become the multi million dollar complex, Cazaly Stadium.

However back to the letter.  In it Woods says how the game did not show any chance of progression or development in Sydney and cautioned Andrew from having the ANFC invest money into Sydney other than help with the appointment of a permanent fulltime secretary (general manager).  It must be said here that the ANFC did not have bundles of money, their access to money was restricted.  It was the major leagues in other major states that had or had access to finance.

What ‘football’ failed to do then was to get the Melbourne clubs, or VFL, to capitalise on the 1956 changes to the NSW Liquor Act which permitted the granting of an infinite number of liquor licenses to clubs, where they could install poker machines by investing in Sydney clubs to achieve this end.  For the first twenty years or so after that date, poker machines were virtually an untaxed source of insurmountable income; almost a license to print money, if the clubs were administered correctly.

Woods says in his communication what is still common in Sydney and for that matter in a number of leagues and clubs throughout Australia “…. and it generally falls to one or two officials in each to do most of the administration”  However he goes on to qualify his opinion in stating “I do not for one moment hold the view that the officials elected to the League over the years have been or are incompetent, but rather the opposite, the weakness being due to their inability to give sufficient time to carry out all the duties associated with their various offices.”

Football has changed in Sydney but probably needs more to increase its profile.

One subject the Society has been encouraged to pursue is to document exactly why Australian football failed to take on in Sydney and to some extent, Queensland.  But this is another story and one officials have in their diary to undertake, perhaps after the publication of the book on football in Sydney during WWI.