AN entirely new entity should represent Ballarat in a future top level statewide soccer competition, not the Ballarat Red Devils nor any other existing club, according to one of the club’s top administrators.
A Ballarat club representing the whole region must be set up from scratch to unite the city’s soccer community behind one team, Haymes Red Devils vice president Andrew Burgess said yesterday.
It would mean the Red Devils abandon their own ambitions to be Ballarat’s standard bearer and return to their community soccer roots, as Football Federation Australia moves towards a new, second-tier B-League from 2014 that effectively mirrors the VFL’s status in Australian football, as part of its National Competition Review .
“For the past seven years the Ballarat Red Devils has been on a journey to position itself as the representative soccer club for the wider Ballarat region,” Burgess said.
“The National Competition Review opens the door for a club in this region to become Ballarat’s one true representative soccer club. Until recently my sole goal was to ensure the Ballart Red Devils take that opportunity. I no longer subscribe to that view. Having attended forums both in Melbourne and Ballarat, and discussing the initiative with various parties involved within the club and wider soccer community, it is clear to me that this proposal deserves a new entity and a fresh start from which to launch a bright future for regional soccer.
“Should the Red Devils attempt to go down this path, the proposed NCR would force the club to dissolve our community section in favour of being an elite development club only. Forty-plus years of playing history would be wiped out overnight.”
Burgess has been a strong advocate for the Red Devils development as a semi-professional regional club in a similar manner to North Ballarat in the VFL. That development appeared set to continue with FFA’s national competition review that will transform soccer between community level soccer and the A-League.
However, Burgess conceded a Red Devils B-League team might not have the full support of the wider Ballarat soccer community, drawing comparisons between the Adelaide Crows and their support across the entire SANFL competition, and Port Adelaide which lacks support outside its own club roots.
He reiterated his stance that the region must have a B-League club based in Ballarat but said that would be up to “leading business and soccer personalities from this region” to take up the standard.
The NCR is intended to encourage elite player development while making clubs more sustainable.
It will include the establishment of 10-month accredited youth leagues that will overlap the National Youth League competition, in addition to a new senior B-League competition in each state that would likely include teams from Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong in addition to top metropolitan clubs.