FORMER Ballarat Red Devils technical director Paul Smalley believes the club has made a mistake in deciding not to pursue a place in a new top-level state soccer competition that will begin in 2014.
But it will be a bigger mistake for the sport in the region, he says, if someone else doesn’t take up the mantle to apply for a licence in what will be a Victorian B-League competition.
Smalley arrived in Ballarat after concluding his contract with Portsmouth in England, following stints as a coach and manager in Europe and America.
He ended his association with the Football Federation Victoria state league club on Saturday after the last match of the season.
He says he was blindsided by the club’s decision earlier this month not to apply for a B-League licence but was hopeful that someone else seizes the opportunity for the sake of soccer in the region.
“It is a missed opportunity by the Ballarat Red Devils,” Smalley said.
“There are other clubs in the state that are desperate to have this opportunity.
“The Ballarat Red Devils have decided to move in a direction that does not fit with the reason that was sold to me towards the end of 2011.
“I did not become aware of the change until I found out in The Courier.
“I am concerned about what it means for football in the region.
“What is going to happen with the development side? What’s going to happen with the Lady Devils? What happens to the senior team if the development just stops?
“What needs to happen is a plan for the transition period as well as a professional process looking at another opportunity for the B-League in the region.
“If it doesn’t happen soon the game itself will be hindered in its growth, participation and development for coaches and players. The interest in the sport would decline and the football community will be impacted because there is no pathway for players and other sports will attact them away.”
Smalley insisted he was supportive of what Ballarat Red Devils president Andrew Burgess was trying to achieve for the sport in the region but thought there were others who were not acting in the best interests of the sport.
He said, during his time as technical director, the Haymes Red Devils had made enormous steps forward in terms of professionalism and were on the cusp of considerable on-field success.
The club had also seen three young players given the opportunity to trial at professional clubs overseas.
“Within the context of the National Competition Review, it seemed appropriate that the Ballarat Red Devils would be the suitable candidate on the basis the club fulfilled many of the criteria already,” Smalley said.
“In Football Federation Victoria meetings the model the Ballarat Red Devils had created was already being used as an example for prospective B-League clubs.”