Reported in the Argus, Saturday 13 May 1933
‘Might Adopt Soccer or Rugby.”
A possibility that the Victorian Football Association might abandon the Australian game and take up soccer or Rugby unless it can make satisfactory arrangements with the Victorian Football League for some form of amalgamation was discussed yesterday by the president of the Association (Mr. Liston).
The Association, Mr. Liston claimed, should be regarded as the senior football organisation of Victoria. “Thirty-six years ago,” he said, “the Victorian Football Association was dealt what was believed to be a death blow. The eight so-called stronger clubs seceded and formed the League. The Association was expected to pass into the realm of forgotten sporting organisations; yet it lived and prospered. Other outer suburban clubs were brought into the fold, and its strength was maintained. Then Richmond angled for membership of the League andd at last succeeded in entering the charmed circle. This blow was easily survived. When, about six years ago, the League invited Footscray, North Melbourne and Hawthorn to join it, many who had persistently endeavoured to wreck the Association believed that at last its days were numbered. They were wrong. Melbourne’s outer suburbs grew, while many of the inner industrial suburbs showed signs of shrinkage. To-day the Association contains only two clubs of pre-League days — Williamstown and Port Melbourne — but with 12 good clubs on its list it has never been stronger in membership and enthusiasm. As the Association does not make a business of football it does not pay its players the basic wage.
The club secretaries are fortunate if their enthusiasm is rewarded with an honorarium, and the game is mostly played as it was in old times for the sheer love of it. The Association teams are built up almost entirely from the junior ranks and when these juniors become ‘stars’ covetous eyes are cast upon them by officials fiom the highly prefessional League clubs and if an embargo be placed upon the order of their going bitter epithets are hurled at the senior, but allegedly inferior body.
“The Association has produced many famous footballers. In the whole history of the game it is doubtful if two finer players ever donned uniforms than the late “Billy” Hannaysee of Port Melbourne and Jasper Jones of Williamstown. At least two famous League coaches in W. Monagle (Carlton) and J. Caldwell (South Melbourne) made their football debut with Williamstown, while the premier League teams, as the years have passed, have in- variably possessed numerous players taken over from the Association. To-day endless turmoil exists because of efforts by League secretaries to take the best Association players.
“Four courses face the Association. The first is that it might join the League on the basis of two sections with the lowest club in the first section and the highest club in the second section changing places each year. This is the system adopted by the Soccer Association in England and it works well and fairly. The League however wishes to preserve its 12 clubs intact. The Association will not join up if its clubs are always to be regarded as ‘untouchables.’
Thus one choice may go by the board. The second is that the Association might continue on the present lines. Certainly, the players would get little more than their tiavelling expenses, but most of the players at any rate for the first few years, play for the love of the game. The third possibility is that the Association might declare itself a purely amateur body. There is strong support for amateurism in sport at present. The fourth possibility is that the Association might deem it wise to throw in its lot with either soccer or Rugby. With 12 good grounds practically at their disposal, no doubt the promoters of either of the two overseas games which have made tremendous strides in recent years would gladly welcome a coalition. Association players would make ideal Rugby footballers, and the prospect of trips to the other States, to New Zealand and to England would be a great incentive to the players to change back to the original code from which the Australian game came. Whichever of these four choices the Association makes it cannot but be strengthened. It is very much alive for an organisation whose death was decreed towards the end of the last century. It would be strange if the secession of 1897 ended in a coalition in 1933. The question is “With which code will the coalition be made?”
And while it may seem a bizarre piece of brinkmanship by Liston, it needs to be remembered that he was simultaneously a senior office holder in both the VFA and soccer. Liston’s idea was also an exasperated dig at the VFL who refused to acknowledge the VFA’s struggle for grounds and support. As a “what if” kind of exercise it makes for interesting speculation. Had the VFA gone to soccer what would Victoria’s sporting landscape look like today?