One of the key challenges universally acknowledged in the Victorian football community is the growing need to access quality facilities.
The introduction of the National Premier Leagues in 2014 by Football Federation Victoria has raised the bar further and set high expectations for clubs participating in both the NPL and NPL1. Many look at successful long-standing clubs like the Melbourne Knights with envy. Knights Stadium remains an icon of Victorian football and this year celebrated its 25th year of service to the club. As the new direction of football at a national level tries to distance itself from the historical ethnic foundations of the game in Australia, one only has too look back at the origin of Knights Stadium to see the positive impact these foundations have had on so many aspects of the game. It was the local Croatian community who purchased the land with the club, making donations and volunteering in the early days to develop the facility.Whilst the glory days of the National Soccer League and its associated large crowds at local venues like Knights Stadium will never be forgotten, it will be some time before the NPL reaches the same heights, if it does at all.
The NPL Victoria’s size and confirmed expansion in 2015 by two additional teams to a total of thirty places a significant burden, both financial and logistical, on clubs to meet the standard. The Knights control their own destiny but for so many others, it is their relationship with the local Council and the competing priority for Council funds that will define the future.
On the other side of Melbourne one such Council that has been pro-actively working towards the future of football and putting their money where their mouth is, and that is the City of Moreland. The council covers an area from Brunswick in Melbourne’s inner north up through Coburg, Pascoe Vale, Glenroy and across to Fawkner. In Jukes Road Fawkner, CB Smith Reserve is centrally located in the heart of a large community area including the Fawkner Leisure Centre, Library, Maternal and Child Health Centre and Fawkner Community House. On the other side of the fence is the John Fawkner College where recent investment has seen new synthetic pitches laid at the school, which is the key partner in the Melbourne City College of Football.
The City of Moreland Council is investing heavily in an upgrade to CB Smith Reserve. Specifically it is putting $6.4 million into developing it as a premier sport and education hub and works are on track to deliver a state-of-the-art community facility that will transform football in Melbourne’s north. The new $4.3 million facilities at CB Smith Reserve will include a new grandstand, function room, kitchen, kiosk, change rooms, media room and flexible learning space. Works to the grounds totalling $2.1 million will also be carried out – including new pitches, irrigation, new lights and a score board.
The City of Moreland has granted three clubs the rights to play at the upgraded CB Smith Reserve. They are Pascoe Vale SC from the NPL, Moreland Zebras from the NPL1 and Fawkner SC from the State League. Goal! Weekly recently spent time with Lou Tona, Head of NPL and Council Liaison at Pascoe Vale SC who spoke about the upgraded facilities and relationship with the council. “Our grand plan is to have Hosken Reserve as our premier facility for training and junior football. CB Smith will be our match-day venue for the Seniors and Under 20s. We have been accepted to play there and it’s a magnificent facility. It’s a municipal facility with class-A pitch, new grandstands, change rooms, scoreboards, the whole lot.” he said.
The commitment made by the City of Moreland in growing the game reflects positive engagement the Council has with the clubs in the area. The mighty dollar is king in any council environment and there are always competing priorities. Commenting on the City of Moreland Council, Tona said “They have just been amazing. They are very strategic and it’s obvious for us to say we want this and we want that but we understand their challenges too. For me, the City of Moreland has been an absolutely massive supporter of the game, as long as you’re prepared to put in as a club. For whatever improvements we’ve had at this club, we’ve put a lot of it in, but the City of Moreland has been right behind us backing us.” The development and upgrades to CB Smith Reserve remain on target ready for the start of the 2015 NPL season.
Written by Skip Fulton and originally published in Goal Weekly.