In the early 1960s, Sydney, and for that matter, NSW football went through some very dramatic administrative issues.
We have mentioned this before but it is worthwhile recording the actual events, so far as we can ascertain. After all, the major players at that time are no longer with us so we have to rely on historical documentation, one thing Sydney football is not known for.
1959 was the last season that long serving league secretary, Ken Ferguson held the position in an honorary capacity. Ken was an employee of the NSW Railway and with 24 years continuous service for the league, decided not to recontest the position. He was 55 and thinking of the need to consolidate his superannuation and other government entitlements.
The then president of the NSWAFL, Alf Snow (pictured top) said of Ken “In this state the name Ken Ferguson is synonymous with Aussie Rules . It is difficult to estimate the value of Ken’s work for our game. In my opinion the greatest single factor in keeping the game of Australian football going during the dark days of 1941-42 was the enthusiasm and work which he put into the task.”
Ken’s retirement came at a time when the league was moving into the appointment of a permanent secretary (general manager) with offices at Trumper Park, Paddington. Ken declined the role but with his shorthand and typing skills, he remained on in the minor position as Minute Secretary.
So as the league moved into a new period it did so with a brand new secretary, Jack Holman, who was almost an unknown in Sydney football. Also new was the shipping executive president, Wilf Holmes, from Western Australia.
Besides this the league adopted a new management system where all power and authority was vested in the office bearers and an elected board of management.
Some on the Board had served in previous administrative positions with the league while others were new to the job. They met every Monday Night during the season.
Prior to this club delegates held sway on major decisions of the league. This system, adopted in many leagues and associations throughout the country, does not always produce a fair and balanced view on issues because of possible club bias.
The other former sub-committee which was morphed into the management was that of league finance committee. This was one group which did have some power.
So the league sailed into 1960 with virtually a new team and new structure.
It appears though that the treasurer was not keeping up his job and the finances became a mess. It was recorded that for half of 1961 “receipts had not been written up and bank deposit slips did not show particulars of deposits.” After the league treasurer resigned, his replacement was scathing in his report on the league’s administration.
The clubs were part funding the fulltime secretary’s salary of almost $29,000 (in today’s money) along with the Australian Football Council. The latter though stopped payment when the state of the league’s finances were revealed. This resulted in the suspension of the secretary. In August 1961 Joe Boulus was appointed temporary league secretary, on a salary of $650.00 (in today’s money) per week, plus expenses. This continued until one week after the grand final. By November his salary had dropped to $277.00 a week. Some in the league thought the organisation did not need a fulltime employee and were not in favourinf the continuance of the position.
Ern McFarlane, for years a Newtown FC stalwart who replaced Wilf Holmes after only one year at the helm said of season 1961 that it was “the most turbulent and troublesome in the history of the NSW League.”
However, like many disasters, “from chaos comes order.” But it took its time.
From 1956 certainly through to the mid 1960s the league consistently recorded deficits. The period of 1960-62 was particularly challenging and one would imagine any normal business in a similar situation would have been declared insolvent. 1960 – £473, ($13,1107 today) 1961 – £619 ($16,782), 1962 – £543 ( $14,768).
By 1966 Ferguson had retired from his clerical position with the Railway and was appointed to the post of fulltime secretary of the league. He was honest, meticulous with an eye for detail. Although aging, the very experienced Ferguson held his own at the league and the game again began to move through another era.
The days of deficits were over. The league had the financial support of the Australian National Football Council and the Western Suburbs Licensed Club who in particular, poured thousands into supporting the game and its administration in Sydney.
The last picture is a unique combination of Sydney heavyweights from the 1950-60s. From left, Syd Felstead, long term St George president and league vice president, Bill Hart, league president, the grey haired Ken Ferguson and on the right is Eastern Suburbs Club legend, Roy Hayes.