THE Gippsland Soccer League has issued a plea to its former central division clubs to rejoin its ranks and contest a “New League” in 2016.
The league, which has been discarded by its 13 central clubs in preference of the newly formed Latrobe Valley Soccer League, sent out an affiliation letter this month and a statement on its website to invite teams back into the GSL for 2016.
A full competition for men, women and juniors, reduced affiliation and registration fees, free community coaching courses and comprehensive administrative support were among the GSL’s offer.
Meanwhile the LVSL, which broke away from the GSL citing irreconcilable issues with its governance, appears set to deliver its season with the backing of all 13 former central division clubs.
This comes after a Football Federation Victoria mediation process failed to reach a compromise between the two leagues to keep both entities as one.
As it stands, the GSL will govern its south division, while LVSL will take command of the central clubs.
A statement released by LVSL president Wayne Taylor said while some progress was made during the mediation process, it was not sufficient to warrant reconciliation just weeks out from the planned season start.
“While making a lot of progress and definitely addressing some of the issues of the clubs, at this stage there are two major concerns that have left the clubs unconvinced,” Taylor said.
“As the 2016 soccer season is looming large, the clubs voted and decided to continue planning the 2016 season under the banner of LVSL while allowing FFV further time to address the remaining issues.
“We are well on track to being able to deliver the 2016 season at all levels and age groups without any compromise or delays, whilst delivering clubs and players a significant cut in the financial costs of participating.”
LVSL remained tight-lipped about the nature of the “two major concerns”, but it is understood lingering qualms with the GSL’s governance remains key to the stand-off.
FFV had advocated for the retention of a single governing body, to help attract more funding, provide a stronger competition and more consistent elite pathways for players and referees. However, a statement from FFV chief Peter Gome conceded the competitions would diverge for at least the 2016 season, each with the backing of the federation.
“We accept that there will from time to time be differing opinions between the clubs of those regions (south and central) and therefore differing, and sometimes competing, views and opinions at association level,” Gome said.
“For these reasons, the two groups of clubs have for the immediate future, decided to provide their own separate governance structures.
“FFV will continue to support football for all clubs in the Gippsland area and will continue to work with all relevant stakeholders in relation to the future governance and support of football in the region.”
The GSL posted a statement on its website on January 8, which indicated the league planned to “deliver all regular season, cup and finals competitions in the central and south divisions in 2016 consistent with previous seasons”.
It also advocated for a single entity being responsible for community level football in Gippsland and acknowledged a need to improve communication between the GSL and member clubs.
“The significant history and growth of soccer in Gippsland should not be fractured to chase quick fix solutions,” the statement read.
“Rather the board supports all members working together to deliver a great 2016 for participants and planning for making the game stronger in future.”
The GSL has since conceded that “some clubs believe that their interests are best served outside the GSL”, but has offered a “New League” to any wishing to return to the fold following the unsuccessful mediation process.
A statement on its website and affiliation letter dated February 5 claimed the GSL “has at all times met its commitments and governance obligations to all former GSL central clubs while they were affiliated with the GSL”.
“It made a genuine offer to the clubs that was mediated by the FFV to provide a way forward in the interest of football in Gippsland. The offer was rejected and the affiliation has now expired.
“We understand that all clubs would prefer to be part of a well-structured, resourced and organised league.
“With this in mind the GSL is offering an opportunity for clubs that want to continue within the certainty and benefits provided by the GSL an opportunity to be part of a ‘New League’.”
The reunion of the two warring factions appears unlikely so close to the start of the season.
LVSL vice-president Matt Edey said the breakaway league’s competition was due to start next month, while negotiations with FFV and the GSL would continue on the side.
“What we’ve elected to do is start the season up, run it for 2016 (as the LVSL) and in the background we’ll try and negotiate something for next year,” Edey said.
“We start playing in the first week of March and we’re ready to go. The fixtures are done, the draws are done the junior coordinator is in place, it’s all happy days.”
The LVSL was formed late last year after 10 central division clubs unanimously voted to pursue a new structure separate to the GSL.
The remaining three clubs, including Sale United, have since joined the movement.
Attempts to contact the GSL for comment have been unsuccessful since the formation of LVSL.
Taylor said no club had indicated any intent to take up the GSL offer.
MEANWHILE, the oldest trophy in Victorian soccer has become a hot potato after the GSL declared exclusive ownership of the Battle of Britain Cup.
It came as the LVSL plans to run a cup competition of the same name.
The GSL has refuted its right to do so in a statement last Thursday.
Signed off by the GSL board, the short release stated the cups are “named and approved competitions run by the GSL” and the rights to those competitions were held by the GSL.
“Other organisations cannot unilaterally lay claims to them without the GSL being prepared to transfer such rights.
“Clubs who choose to leave or ‘divorce’ the GSL and not affiliate have no automatic right to participate in such competitions without the invitation of the GSL.
“To represent it in any other way could be considered misleading and mischievous.”
LVSL president Wayne Taylor said the newly-formed league was not deterred by the assertion.
“LVSL will be holding cup competitions in line with previous years,” he said.
“Currently it is our intention to hold cups using these names as these cups have been fought out by the existing clubs over a large number of years.”
A subsequent statement from the GSL on its website claimed Football Federation Victoria had confirmed it was the only organisation “that has the right to organise a Battle of Britain Cup competition”.
JUNIOR soccer will not be affected by a change of league governance, the LVSL has promised.
The newly-formed administration has assured stakeholders it is “business as usual” for junior and senior competitions.
The only structural change is the distribution of age groups, which will deliver under six, eight, 10 (Mini Roos mixed gender), 12, 14, 16 and potentially 18 boys if numbers permit, along with under 13 and 16 girls’ competitions.
The junior competitions will begin April 16.