How long is it since South Melbourne relocated to Sydney and went on to become the Sydney Swans?
If you said thirty-three years you would be right.
They have now established themselves as part of the Sydney sporting scene, trend setters in a number of ways and accepted by many whom 30 years ago could not spell Australian football. Of course now its the turn of GWS to make their mark in Sydney.
But those who orchestrated the move, who pushed the VFL into playing outside of Melbourne, a move which eventually led to the creation of a national competition? Who were they? Well, they now have all but gone.
You might ask, who was it that came up with the Sydney idea and why?
The VFL president at the time, Allen Aylett, (pictured) certainly was in the box seat for the change and history will probably recognize him as the man responsible for change.
Allen is now 82 and there is no doubting his footballing talent. He played 220 games with the North Melbourne club, captain and later president leading North to change its image from also-rans into that of a football powerhouse.
But the VFL had to tread on egg-shells in their effort, not so much to make a presence in Sydney, but to convince their clubs of the move, to overcome the straitlaced Victorian Government’s ‘no football on Sunday policy’ (apart from the VFA) and at the same time appease the struggling grass roots football fraternity in Sydney.
In 1980 the fractured NSW Football League administration met with Aylett and VFL General Manager, Jack Hamilton with regards to the possible establishment of a VFL club in Sydney.
The then erstwhile secretary of the NSWAFL, Kevin Taylor, a fastidious administrator who left no stone unturned in documenting a record of the meeting, gave a very factual account of the gathering in the league’s 1980 annual report which can be read here.
More specifically, Kevin’s record of the meeting and what was said is set out here.
Let us not forget that certainly in the first year of South Melbourne’s move to Sydney, the VFL: rostered a Sydney Football League match as curtain raiser to the main game, paid the Sydney Football League $1,000 as compensation (for what is unsure) each time a VFL game was played at the SCG and most importantly negotiated with the VFL television carrier to telecast the match Australia wide.
And how will history judge Allen Aylett, the dentist who gave so much of his time and energy to change only to have his wings clipped by the VFL in 1983. We hope people see Allen as a true champion and leader of our great game.
Alas these memories are soon cast aside as life moves on through time and some other issue grabs the attention of the footballing public. But never so much as the time of the VFL’s move to Sydney.