South Melbourne is a household name in the context of semi-professional football in Australia; and after the Oceania Club of the Century accused of wage theft by both current and former players and staff, the repercussions may spread beyond the realms of the club’s A-League bid.
Clement Tito broke the story for ‘FTBL’ on Friday, and it has been met with disbelief and heartbreak from some South fans, but others are standing firmly behind their club, insisting that until a statement from the club is released they will not be believing anything that they read.
Of course, breaking a story such as this does carry great risks, but as a fellow journalist and someone who’s familiar with the unwritten code of ethics that we must follow, I believe that Tito has done his due diligence by interviewing a variety of sources, including current players, ex-players and ex-staff.
If the story is completely factual, as it appears it may very well be, this isn’t just a blight on South Melbourne; it is a blight on the professionalism of the National Premier Leagues (NPL), and it should be met with serious repercussions following an investigation from Football Federation Victoria (FFV).
This isn’t unheard of at this level and with talks of a second division under the A-League facing resistance from doubters, a case like this doesn’t help the case of ambitious clubs like South or any other semi-professional clubs like Wollongong Wolves and Brisbane City looking to make the leap into the professional game.
Doubters of the advantages of a second division may gladly sink their teeth into a controversy such as this one, and claim that Australian football isn’t ready for a professional second tier.
With that being said, South Melbourne fans have every right to stand by their club until a formal investigation has been held or there is an official confession of guilt from their club; but at this moment in time, South’s A-League ambitions are well and truly hanging by the thinnest of threads.