The Cove's Response to 12/2/14 Meeting


To All Sydney FC Fans:

By now everyone who is interested has had a chance to read and digest then club’s statement regarding our meeting with them where we raised a number of issues with them.

We want a club that is fully capable of making the next cycle of decisions about Sydney FC’s future, whenever those decisions happen, we believe that those decisions are critical to the club’s future and will determine the fate of the organisation for the foreseeable future We believe that if the wrong choices are made and the wrong plans put in place, the opportunity to achieve the potential that this club so clearly has, will be lost for a very long time.

We strongly urge Mr Traktoventko, majority shareholder, someone whose commitment to our club and whose integrity we deeply respect, to use his expertise and extensive contacts in the football world to appoint an appropriate independent expert to lead a full review of all aspects of Sydney FC, to develop a skills and capabilities improvement plan for the club and to execute that plan.

We believe that this is the best way to ensure that the club will be able to get the next cycle of decision making and development absolutely right, whenever that may happen and to ensure that the club has the greatest possible opportunity to achieve the massive potential that our beloved Sydney FC so clearly has.

We have no desire to discard the positive developments that have been achieved in the past 2 years, we want to see them built upon.

It is common practice in the business world to bring in external expertise during periods of significant change, to provide a pragmatic and objective perspective. A practice we urge Sydney FC’s owners to undertake.

Once again we’d like to thank the Club’s Senior Management for the seriousness with which they took our issues, their honesty with us and their extensive efforts to address our concerns under difficult circumstances.

Click Here to Read Our Full Response to the Questions

To All,

Before we go through our reactions to the questions it’s worth making a few comments regarding the club’s attitude towards our protests and their efforts to respond, since this has drawn criticism from some quarters.

We met for 3.5 hours with 4 of the members of the board of directors. We believe that our questions were taken seriously by the club, we believe that the club were open and honest with us and made every effort to address our concerns during that meeting. Some of what we were told was in confidence, some required a lot of context, neither of which lends itself to a 2 page statement. Some people may be disappointed with the level of detail provided below, we are erring on the side of caution when it comes to confidentiality, it’s important to us not to accidentally harm the club.

We thank the club for that honesty and effort, we believe that everyone at the club is committed to the club’s success and is working as hard as they can to deliver on the potential of Sydney FC.

Ad Astra Per Aspera

So on to the questions:

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1a There is a widely held perception that the club doesn’t have a football philosophy and lacks a clearly defined plan to develop a winning and attractive football style, this in turn leaves the club lacking a football ‘identity’ how does the club respond to this?

The club described their football philosophy, which was revealed in the recent strategy presentation, it depends primarily on having the right coach and players, and the club believes that their coaching recruitment policy will get them there. The club stated that the philosophy, and the core of the strategy, had been in place since 2012.

1b – From the outside, player and football staff hiring appears haphazard, poorly planned in the context of a football philosophy, and often reactive, player and staff turnover is high compared to other HAL clubs and stability has been an issue as long as the club has existed. Can the club walk us through the current process for player and staff selection, describe to us who is involved, what role they play and what specific process is used to review and validate the success of these activities?

The club was supportive of the incumbent coach. The club were adamant that they followed due process in appointments, and rumours about there being no selection process are simply not true. The club stated that it sought opinions about candidates from external experts. The club are confident that their recruitment process is not the issue.

OUR reaction: Addressing these together, the Football philosophy is there, and while some might consider it clichéd, it seems a suitable one. This philosophy has not manifested itself in the past two seasons, nor at any other time, at Sydney FC. The board has had three opportunities to select a manager who can deliver these outcomes and with all due respect to those managers, it has not happened. Recruitment does not seem structured in any meaningful way and no sign of ths philosophy has made it to the pitch in almost two seasons, despite the resources and freedoms given to the Football Department in order to achieve this. Given the pivotal importance of that role, this is a significant concern for us, especially as this failure has not prompted the club’s management to question their methods.

1c – Can the club tell us how long the current distribution of recruitment responsibility has been in place and whether they believe it has been successful. What changes, if any, are required?

The club stated that player recruitment is completely down to the head coach, they strongly refuted the claim of interference by senior management in deciding who to try to recruit, the head coach identifies players he wants, and Tony Pignata negotiates to bring them in. The club stated that this has been the case since they took over, the club believe it is the right approach to recruitment.

Our reaction: We accept Club’s response and consider this matter closed.

1d – Three years ago the club had a well-staffed highly respected sports science department, with a dedicated recovery programme. There is a perception that has dwindled to a fitness coach and one and a bit Physios. Rumours abound that players at all levels regularly use external physiotherapy and recovery resources against the club’s wishes and without the club’s knowledge. What is the club’s view of this, and what specific plans in place to address any such issues?

The Club absolutely rejected the idea that it was understaffed, or under-resourced, or that players went elsewhere and stated that the departure of Dr. Duncan was a voluntary resignation. The club do get injury analysis, and say we’re on par with other clubs, and with previous years.

Our reaction: The recent PFA analysis and information which has been provided to us in confidence appear to contradict both the statement that players were not going elsewhere for treatment and that injury rates are on par with other clubs and previous years. We hope that the club will further investigate these issues and satisfy themselves that all is as it should be. Who is right or wrong pales in comparison to the importance of the wellbeing of the players.

2a – Since the club won the A-League in 2009/10 (glorious day) our senior men’s squad have failed to make the finals twice and have been bundled out in the first round once, this season seems likely to follow suit, a level of performance that is deeply disappointing. What does the club see as the main causes of that lack of on-field success and what specific actions are being taken to address those issues?

The club could only really address the last 2 years when they were in charge, The club agreed that on-field performance had been disappointing, but that every effort, including player recruitment, staff and other resources have been provided to address this. The club pointed to recent Youth League and W-League team successes as indications that the club was headed in the right direction.

Our reaction: As proud as we are of the performance of our Youth and Women’s teams, our concerns lie with the A-League squad. Performance with the most expensive club squad in Australian football history has been poor and must be addressed.

2b – We have often heard from club personnel in the past two years that the goal is to “make the finals” or occasionally “top four” This has led to a perception that club personnel lack the ambition appropriate for an organisation with Sydney FC’s potential. What are the club’s specific short and medium-term football success goals across all teams and what specific, actionable plans are in place to deliver those outcomes?

The club had clearly defined and appropriate ambitions (1/2/3 in league every year & win ACL in 10yrs) and agreed that the Club had failed to express those effectively. Public statements which contradicted this have been addressed internally.

2c – What is the process within the club for measuring progress towards achieving their ambitions? What timeframes have been set? What action will the club take if we continue to fail to achieve those stated goals?

The club has stated its ambitions and the timeframes for achieving them in the strategy, measuring success against those goals is straightforward. The club also described the importance of succession planning in achieving its long-term goals, as well as the importance of Youth development and the recruitment of players who fit the club’s philosophy.

Our reaction (2b &2c): We’re pleased to see those ambitions articulated and are keen to see them becoming reality. Given the club’s long history of instability, a focus on succession planning can only be a positive thing. Concerns about whether this will happen remain.While the Centre of Excellence and Youth Academy plans are exciting, the is not the first time such plans have been revealed in the past 9 years, making us somewhat sceptical of how close the reality is, especially given the dependence of those plans on continued improvements in the commercial side of the club.

2d – Does the club firmly believe that the board and senior management of the club has all of the capabilities required to deliver on the potential of Sydney FC? Has the club considered bringing in additional proven globally successful football club expertise to assist in realising its ambitions?

The club were confident that they do have the ability to deliver on Sydney FC’s potential, they are planning to bring in more board members to assist, but feel that the skills and knowledge already exist.

Our reaction: We feel that the decisions and outcomes of the past two years cast doubt on this, while we respect the effort, commitment and capability of the Club’s senior management, we feel that the next cycle of decision making is too important to get wrong and feel that the club needs to act in order to ensure that the right decisions are made.

2e – We have been advised that Sydney FC spends less on administration staff than any club in the HAL, which stands in stark contrast to the most expensive squad in Australian Domestic football history. Can the club comment on its non-football staff spending and whether it impacts the ability of the club to achieve its ambitions?

The club refuted the idea that non-football spending was lower than other clubs and presented a chart from an FFA presentation to support their statement that they spent more on non-football department activities than almost any other club.

Our reaction: Much like similar previous questions about funding, the club’s position and the information provided to us, from what we have every reason to believe are reliable sources, contradict each other. It is not realistic or appropriate to expect further detail from the club about such finances, and we have no basis for disbelieving the Club’s management.

3a – There is a perception that the fan-facing social media elements of the club lack the resources to be effective. Overall Social Media presence, fan engagement and communication appear unstructured and haphazard, in contrast to specific highly successful activities like the #sydneyfcfanchat. Does the club have a detailed social media strategy?, is there a fan communications via social media strategy in place and if so what is the plan to exploit social media?

The club were confident that they made good use of Social Media, The club said they don’t use YouTube because they want people to use the sydneyfc.com site, but they agreed that the current site is not as good as it should be. The club do use outside expertise, they have a plan but were very open to suggestions, and took on board comments about the lack of interaction in social media.

Our reaction: This was a positive discussion and we consider this matter closed.

3b – The club has, by some measures had a successful year, record Memberships, record attendances and record sponsorship. However, there is a very common perception that this is due to the ‘ADP Effect’ and that the club will face significant downturns in those numbers when ADP leaves. To what degree does the club agree with this assessment and what specific, actionable plans are in place to address this?

The club agreed that there will be a drop-off when del Piero leaves, but are confident that it will not be a problem and will not interfere with the club’s commercial and membership plans. The club’s intention to continue seeking and signing high quality marquee players will help. The club pointed to strong sponsor, member and crowd numbers, and expressed confidence in the club’s ability to continue to grow these aspects in coming years

Our reaction: We feel that the club may be underestimating the impact of ADP’s departure on all aspects of the club, our concerns remain. Growth in sponsor revenue, memberships and crowds HAS been impressive, but memberships and crowds particularly are affected by the product on the pitch, the rapid and successful implementation of the club’s football philosophy is vital to ensuring that strong position is maintained.

3c – Following on from the previous question, the signing of Del Piero was a coup, brought in fans, and gained the club a global profile. There is a perception that in some aspects there were opportunities missed, particularly on-field, but also in developing valuable relationships globally. Can the club tell us whether they feel that they were successful in exploiting the opportunities that came with such a signing and what the legacy of his time with the club will be?

The club said that they had underestimated the complexities and limitations of a club like Sydney FC dealing with a star of ADP’s magnitude and were clear that it had been a positive learning experience for them. (This was in no way a negative comment about del Piero, rather an acknowledgement of reality) The club feels that this experience stands them in good stead both in attracting high quality marquees and in getting the best for Sydney FC from them.

Our reaction: This was a positive discussion and we consider this matter closed. Signing del Piero broke new ground for A-League clubs, and it would have been far more surprising had they not learned from the experience.

3d – The club has stated publicly that communications to fans have not been as good as they should have been. What is the club’s view on why that is, what specific plans and strategies are in place to address it and how will improvement be measured?

– see 3f

3e – There is a perception that senior management at the club are quick to condem their own active supporters publicly when there are issues and quick to praise opponents and rivals. Similar behaviour is not observed from their equivalents at other clubs. While this may seem trivial it is perceived as a lack of understanding of the rivalries that lie at the heart of football support. How does the club respond to this?

The club agreed that this had not always been handled well, and that they felt that they had already improved, but took on board the constructive criticism.

Our reaction: This was a positive discussion and we consider this matter closed.

3f – Communication of the club’s plans for the future to fans have been poor, the perception is that the club did not consult any fans, active or otherwise in developing the plan, thereby excluding one of the key stakeholders from the process, shared the plan with the press without any thought of sharing it with fans, and only decided to do so when faced with significant demands from fans. Does the club believe that the exclusion of fans in such an important process was appropriate, and what specific, actionable steps are in place to ensure that fans are a primary audience for such activities in future and not treated in a manner that suggests they were an afterthought in the process?

The club agreed they’d fumbled and said they’d do better. The club said we (The Cove) should meet with them more regularly and more formally structure communications so we don’t get complacent because things are ‘OK’ The club skirted the issue of fan involvement in developing strategies claiming logistics made it unrealistic.

Our reaction: This was a positive discussion, and we look forward to more structured channels of communication. We were disappointed that the club does not see fan involvement in the development of strategies as important enough to overcome the obstacles that currently prevent it.

SO WHAT DO WE WANT?

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We want a club that is fully capable of making the next cycle of decisions about Sydney FC’s future, whenever those decisions happen, we believe that those decisions are critical to the club’s future and will determine the fate of the organisation for the foreseeable future We believe that if the wrong choices are made and the wrong plans put in place, the opportunity to achieve the potential that this club so clearly has, will be lost for a very long time.

We strongly urge Mr Traktoventko, majority shareholder, someone whose commitment to our club and whose integrity we deeply respect, to use his expertise and extensive contacts in the football world to appoint an appropriate independent expert to lead a full review of all aspects of Sydney FC, to develop a skills and capabilities improvement plan for the club and to execute that plan.

We believe that this is the best way to ensure that the club will be able to get the next cycle of decision making and development absolutely right, whenever that may happen and to ensure that the club has the greatest possible opportunity to achieve the massive potential that our beloved Sydney FC so clearly has.

We have no desire to discard the positive developments that have been achieved in the past 2 years, we want to see them built upon.

It is common practice in the business world to bring in external expertise during periods of significant change, to provide a pragmatic and objective perspective. A practice we urge Sydney FC’s owners to undertake.

Once again we’d like to thank the Club’s Senior Management for the seriousness with which they took our issues, their honesty with us and their extensive efforts to address our concerns under difficult circumstances.

WHO DO WE REPRESENT?

We represent the opinions of the majority of the members of The Cove, we acknowledge and accept that not all Cove members will agree with our concerns or conclusions. That is the nature of large groups.

POLL FEEDBACK

Recently a poll for Sydney FC fans was created (not by The Cove) and promoted via facebook, twitter and other social media channels. We have been given access to the data, which was collected between Friday 21st Feb and Monday 24th Feb 2014. Over 450 people took part anonymously, which constitutes a statistically meaningful sample. (95% Confidence Level +/- 5% accuracy from a 10,500 population)

While we don’t claim that the poll is a scientific measure of fan sentiment, it clearly suggests that our concerns are shared by fans in general:

The poll is still open and we encourage everyone to contribute to it. – Click Here http://bit.ly/1ep0ALp

The poll is still open and we encourage everyone to contribute to it. – Click Here http://bit.ly/1ep0ALp

The anonymous data has been sent to the club and we’ll be publishing it in detail at a later date.

If you have questions we’ll try to answer them and your feedback is always welcome.

Click Here to Discuss our Response on our FORUMS – http://bit.ly/1fjFvlD