Friday, October 23, 2009

Good on ya Olympia!

Photos (Top to Bottom): White Eagles circa 1961; Olympia circa 1969; Juventus circa 1957; Hollandia 1956; Rapid known as Kingston Cannons and in second division, with its history and tradition in tatters after name change; Caledonians...would have been forced to change their name if they had not merged with Kingborough; Croatia 1964

The decision by Hobart Olympic to revert to their former name of Olympia is a triumph of sanity in Tasmanian football. I hope the other so-called ethnic clubs follow Olympia’s lead.

The Australian Soccer Federation (ASF), which preceded the current Football Federation of Australia (FFA), were out of order in banning ethnic names in the late 1990s. The move would never have stood up in a court of law had it been taken there. The Anti-Discrimination Act clearly disallows such prohibitions, and it probably violated the Trade Practices Act, too. The goons and thought police who instituted the ban had no concept of football history and tradition and the part these play in our beautiful game.

The only reason the ban probably didn't lead to court cases here was because clubs decided not to take the matter to court and meekly acquiesced to the ASF’s directive.

Had clubs taken the ASF to court, FIFA would have suspended Australia, as they do whenever a national association becomes embroiled in court cases with clubs. Australian clubs would not have wanted that to happen, so they meekly complied, despite making some muted protests.

The ban on ethnic names effectively destroyed some of the tradition and history of the world game in this country, and it flew in the face of logic. Other countries - far greater powers than Australia in football terms - have built a great tradition and history on just such ethnic names.

Let's look at Argentina, for example. There we have River Plate, founded by Englishmen early last century. The club wasn't re-named Rio de la Plata, but remains to this day as River Plate, even though there are few, if any, English-speaking members or fans involved with the club. Yet, it has a great tradition and is a world-famous club. If the club had not involved the local community all those years ago, it would probably have ceased to exist.

In Argentina, one also finds clubs called Arsenal and Everton, with not an English speaker in sight. And yet, they have great histories, tradition and support, despite their English names.

Look through the Argentinian leagues and you will find teams with names such Newell’s Old Boys, All Boys and Sportivo Italiano.

Italy provides another good example. There we have AC Milan, founded as a cricket club by Englishmen in the late 19th Century. The club did not change its name to Milano, which is the Italian name for the city, but stayed as AC Milan, and what a glorious history, tradition and support it has to this day.

Spain also provides examples. Athletic Bilbao is the name of one top-flight club, and not Atletico Bilbao, as per Atletico Madrid. The name retains its Anglicised prefix, and does so for two reasons. One is to recognise its English founders, and the other is as a deliberate snub to the authority of Spain. The club is, of course, Basque, and proudly so.

Similar examples can be found around the world.

The ASF’s policy was xenophobic, inconsistent and completely out of tune with Australia’s multi-cultural ethos which, ironically, was a mainstay of government policy at the time.

The argument for retaining ethnic names was simple and based on survival of the fittest. If an ethnic group formed a club, well and good. Eventually, they would only survive if they embraced outside groups and interacted with the local community.

If they did not do this, they would eventually disappear as their own ethnic support dwindled as people got older or left the game.

This natural process of the development of clubs should have been allowed to continue. Changing names was merely cosmetic and deprived clubs of establishing their own great traditions, history and, indeed, unique identity.

Eventually, if such clubs were successful, they would be ethnic in name only and their members, players and supporters would be Australian. On top of this, after a hundred years or so they would have established a proud tradition, as have AC Milan, River Plate and Athletic Bilbao.

Local clubs such as Tilford Zebras, New Town Eagles, Glenorchy Knights and Hobart Olympic all have strong community ties and they have diversified their memberships to outside their own particular ethnic groups. They had to do this in order to survive.

They would have survived even if they had retained their former names of Juventus, White Eagles, Croatia and Olympia because they were already in the process of identifying with their local communities.

Reverting now to their previous names would do no harm to the clubs or the game here.

I earlier mentioned inconsistency. Why, for example, did Olympia have to change its name to Hobart Olympic when Howrah, named after a city in West Bengal, India, was allowed to retain its name when it was clearly of ethnic origin?

This smacked of a poorly considered policy and one which is, I hope, about to end in Tasmania at least.


Brian Young said...

Good to see that Walter remembered the Howrah example. Olympic is "more ethnic" than Olympia anyway. Roll on Juve & Hrvatska. The whole name change thing was a total farce; it just smacked of political correctness. I saw this week that the "ethnic" Liverpool won in Argentina; at least some sort of Liverpool won!!

Brian Roberts said...

I was on the Board when Caledonians were compelleed to become West Hobart Lions.

I consider the compulsory name change contributed materially to their to their demise.

I hope more follow Olympia's example

Captain said...

It could be argued that "soccer" is more acceptable to Aussie "footy" families now that teams are called, for example, Hobart Zebras rather than Juventus.

There are thousands of Aussie footy dads watching their kids play soocer and embracing the sport. For "soccer" to become "football" in Australia there needed to be a generational change.

I think the the policy was based more on clashes between clubs like Macedonia and Olypmia on the mainland with ethnic flags, flares, racist chants and sometimes fights.

The A League appears far more civilised than those NSL clashes.

I wonder what the younger generations think. I thought the change was a good one.

Unknown said...

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I'm not sure if this is the appropriate channel but I have started a NEW BLOG.

Third time lucky ??

I will be uploading lots of things over the summer ......would you mind putting up a little snippet for me?

Thanks heaps!
Address for NEW blog is:

Anonymous said...

It was an enforced change, getting clubs to relinquish their names to insipid names like the zebras it was an attempt to blot out the past to appeal to people to get their children playing for clubs with "non wog" names. I worked as a security guard at the Nth spirit games in Sydney. It was my job to tell fans that they were not allowed to have ethnic flags, yet the spirit fans were allowed to fly their Luton town fc etc flags. This kind of environment is like something out of "farenheit 451" never mind a post war western civilised country The ethnic clubs gave soccer/football a platform for a professional league and without them our game would be looked as an exotic novelty to be laughed at or looked on as a game of "lacrosse" would be. There is no doubt that our governing body has made a massive mistake and if the clubs did not give up their names cap in hand and looked to get a class action against football australia, the courts would have hammered football Australia. Captain , you say Aussie football families are now more attuned to the change because of the lack of violence at games, this isn't true, there was violence after the name changes.Violence pre and post name changes was minimal anyway. In fact tennis has more trouble with crowd violence (the turkish cypriots at baghdatis matches, or serb and croat matches). I used to wear my Sydney Croatia tracksuit with pride, when I played for them because they looked after me and gave me a bit of money for doing so. I was never indoctrinated with their rendition on what was going on in Yugoslavia. The club ust had their act together and treated their players well. I couldn't say the same for any Aussie/pom club I played for

Anonymous said...

Ps made a mistake with the baghdatis comment, that was greek cypriots, not turkish cypriots

Anonymous said...

pps they gave me the money for playing, not for wearing the tracksuit

Anonymous said...

Just a question walter, what are the largest premier clubs in terms of registered players? I would hazard a guess at Clarence, Uni, and maybe Kingborough or even Taroona?

Walter said...

Hey Anonymous, whoever you are, I'm sure you're right.

But then again, who are Clarence,Kingborough and Taroona? Are they Eastern Suburbs, Phoenix, Clarence, Kingborough, Rangers, Calies, West Hobart Lions, Brighton ICL Calies, PO Saints, Taroona St Mirren, or Taroona? Which history are we looking at?

Much simpler just to look at Olympia, Juventus, White Eagles and Croatia and their long and proud traditions. But, if they don't accommodate the local community and build up numbers and support, they'll just die out, regardless of their history and name, and the playing fields will be left to the Clarences, Taroonas and Kingboroughs of this world.

Captain said...

madmcglone - I didn't say dads watch soccer due to a decline in violence. My point is about the great job that John Singleton did with the marketing of the A League.

My point is not about race its about the flags now being Melbourne Victory or Perth Glory regardless of whether the holders are Italian, English, Greek, Chinese or Indian.

Clubs with teams in the U13 - U18s start with Clarence & Kingborough, then a big drop to NT Eagles, Nelson, Taroona and Zebras with Sth Hobart, Knights, Olympia and Uni at the lower end. This may not be an accurate picture as some Clubs may support some schools where Hutchins for example had more teams than all but Knigborough and Clarence.

Anonymous said...

Captain, the great job singo did only really affects the A league which could fold sooner than you think because of the fragile infrastructures of feeder leagues like the state leagues. Crowds and quality of these leagues isn't as good as it was because the clubs have been decimated Decimated by having their identities taken away

Anonymous said...

Exactly the point I was getting at Walter. Maybe the size of these clubs can be seen as directly related to the fact that they did away with their ethnic ties long ago. I would suggest that ethnic cultures (and names) at certain clubs, while historically significant to their current members, serve only to exclude prospective players. Furthermore, as with the A-League example, being able to identify a club with a particular locality will assist greatly in attracting supporters who otherwise would have nothing to do with a particular game/team. Associating with a particular area or suburb is where New Town Eagles and Glenorchy Knights have been successful in recent years, especially in terms of attracting youth players. Just look at their current senior/reserve lists if you disagree. For this reason I highly doubt that they will revert back to their original names.

Anonymous said...

Captain, doesn't Nelson have the third most registered players in the state? Or is it just juniors, i'm not quite sure.

Anonymous said...

Also Walter, was Howrah SC one with ties to the Indian Community, or one based on the Eastern Shore?

Walter said...


These clubs were forced to change their names. Had they been given the choice, they would have retained their original names and still cultivated the local community.

The fact that they changed their names has not encouraged more people to play for them or join them, but they may well have lost some supporters.

Croatia used to have an entire first team of Croatians (look at the bottom photo), but now has hardly any Croatians in the senior team. This is NOT because they are known as Glenorchy Knights but because some non-Croatian players think they are a good club and worth playing for and they would have played for them even if they were called Croatia. What I am saying is that there was no need at all to force clubs to change their names.

Of course Howrah was named after the suburb and not the Indian city, or because Indians supported or founded the club. All I am saying is that the policy was ludicrous and by banning ALL ethnic names, one could argue that Howrah should have been forced to change because Howrah is an 'ethnic' name.

The rule targeted ethnic groups via their names. St George Budapest in Sydney is a prime example - the target was, unfairly, the Hungarian community, which chose to name their club after both a suburb of Sydney and the capital of Hungary, even though by that stage the club probably had no Hungarian players.

Anonymous said...

Captain, none of the countries you mentioned are solely made up of one race. So race isn't an issue. I would also argue that the NSL in the 80s was a better standard than the A league is now. I do think the A league is a good idea, my fear is that it will be tampered with by entrepeneur types such as Singleton who know nothing about football. Moneymen come and go, history remains. Melbourne Victory are a success but their crowds are dwindling. This may be because of the credit crunch, it may also be because Aussies are fickle and have turned their backs because the novelty is wearing off. Look what happened to northern spirit, there were about 1,000 faithful fans left at the end. South melb hellas and Syd croatia attracted big crowds consistently over decades because there was historical relevance attached to their clubs.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps my wording wasn't so clear. The primary focus of my argument is the effect that the CULTURE of a particular club (of which a name is an extension) has upon deterring potential members. I said that the size of Clarence, Kingborough and Taroona (and for that matter Metro) can be seen as a product of them doing away with ethnic ties and thus increasing their potential player pool. This was done by choice (or necessity) but not because of FFA regulations.

Eagles and Knights were meant to be an example of clubs which, compared to the former Juventus and Olympia, were able to associate with a suburb/city and in doing so counter any loss of support/membership (if there was any at all) that arose as a result of the name change. These clubs now have a culture with its heritage in, yet free of exclusionary ethnic ties. I would also add that the forced name change expediated this process.

Walter said...

Hi Anonymous

I am enjoying this discussion.

The culture of a club, and its name, may deter supporters. But, as the ethnic clubs became more Australian in all but name, this culture changed, too.

All I am arguing is that name changes were not necessary. It was using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut. To force name changes upon clubs was overkill and went against the multicultural policy of government and it would not have stood up in a court of law. It was not challenged before the courts.

If a club's culture and name deterred supporters and players, then that club would become moribund. If they changed the culture to one that was attractive to newcomers, they could still retain their name and therefore their tradition and history and still increase support and membership.

The only ethnic ties that Clarence, Taroona, Kingborough and Metro ever had was with Anglo-Saxon culture, be it British or Australian. It wasn't with Continental Europe or South America, so I don't understand your point there. They didn't have to change their names, whereas the 'European' clubs did.

The ethnic clubs (Juventus, White Eagles, Olympia, Rapid) were never exclusive. In fact, they thrived because of the mix of cultures in their playing ranks, as distinct from their supporter base, while the local community clubs tended to languish because they used only local talent. Croatia initially had an all-Croatian team but soon saw the light and signed players from other nationalities.

observer said...

Anonymous, none of the ethnic based clubs in Tasmania ever excluded players from different backgrounds from joining them.The club I am involved with certainly did not , and never will.Depending on how successful the club was, and how difficult it may have been to get a game in those days,could have given the impression that other players from different backgrounds were not welcomed to join.In fact during the good old days of the late 70's 80's and 90's ,many players from these ethnic based clubs were offered to join other clubs (ethnic based). Due to emotional strings and ties , not many moved because they felt some loyalty to the club that they were born in , so to speak.Nothing wrong with that.To suggest that these ethnic clubs back then precluded others from joining is a silly statement and not true , from my experience.

Amazed said...


Soccer Australia had to be seen to be doing something about a level of crowd disturbances that was receiving disturbig levels of media coverage and similarly disturbing levels of Government attention.

I believe the name changes have helped the real football become more accpeted as part of the australian way of life - rather than just something those wogs play.

If changing the names back bring more people back to the game as supporters then I am all for it - provided it does not lead to a rise in the level of disturbances. Not a major issue in tasmania - but certainly has been in other areas.

Anonymous said...

Haha, me too Walter.

However, I think we have moved too close to agreement to go much further.

Observer, I don't think you get my point.

observer said...

Anonymous , I do get your point.As I stated the intention was and is never to exclude anyone.Just as immigrants are expected to accept the culture of Australia when coming to this country , so too should a player who is fair-dinkum about joining one of these clubs,be prepared to accept some aspects of the culture of that club .It goes both ways.

Captain said...

Chalky - not sure mate but Nelson is certainly tapping into the huge potential of Eastern Shore, which has only two Clubs.

madmcglone - you really are mad!

Anonymous said...

Terrific rebuttal there captain, yes It runs in the family. Where"s the largactyl

Anonymous said...


Interesting discussion. Having played and administered before during and after the name changes I doubt there was any significant negative effect on the clubs involved. Many of the Hobart clubs were already highly diversified in terms of backgrounds. But much of the discussion to date revolves around a very small part of the Australian soccer community ... Tasmania. I've lived in Melbourne for some time now, and played for the first few years I was here and the landscape is totally different to that in Tas. The small popoulation in Tasmania meant that diversity was necessary for clubs to be competitive and therefore the name change was not a major impediment. In Melbourne (and other large cities) there are sufficient 'pockets' of ethnic populations to be able to sustain very insular, closed-minded clubs. Almost without exception every club that I played against was of one ethnic background, and believe me, there is pretty much a club from every country on earth over here. The big downside of that is that traditional ethnic tensions are present at many games. I played for the Uni of Melbourne team, which, like many Uni teams was like a United Nations. Our games, in lowly Prov Div 2, often involved violence, over-aggression and referee intimidation. I can only imagine what it was like when two ethnically-tense clubs met. I recall attending a Vic Premier League game between Sth Melbourne and Heidelberg. It was emabarassing. The amount of personal abuse and vitriol was a disgrace to the game. There was no wahy that I would take my children to a game.

So I can understand the reasoning for FFA to want to do away with the ethnic names, but unfortunately it doesn't seem to hve worked over here, particularly as you progress down the food chain, and clubs spring up from nowhere with just two teams.


David Stoddart

Richard Bennett said...

I would agree with Davids comments about the differences with tasmania and interstate experinces.

I think the name changes were a neccessary evil to progress the game as the old NSL was a dying and corrupt product not going to change from within. obviously some forward thinking clubs did suffer because of that and I refer to very professional and diverse clubs like south melbourne for example.

I would put this question to anyone as something to consider, would we be seeing the old NSL clubs and structure being able to compete in the asian champions league now?

there in lies the answer for the changes I think.

Walter said...

Hi David and Richard

Thanks for your comments. Much appreciated.

The violence involving ethnic teams that you both mention cannot be solved by name changes. That is a mere cosmetic change.

Teams engaging in such behaviour would do the same, regardless of names. The only way would be to ban teams, regardless of names or ethnic allegiances, who engage in such violence. But that solution applies to any team, irrespective of its composition, and includes community-based Aussie teams.

The situation interstate is vastly different from that in Tasmania, admittedly, and thanks for detailing that.

Richard, I think the old NSL clubs would have acquitted themselves just as well as the current A-League clubs in Asian competition. There were some very good teams about. They just didn't have the stadiums the A-League has, nor the TV exposure.

Richard Bennett said...

I understand where you are coming from Walter.
I think the violence was a consequence of the tribal club culture and the name was only a small part of that potential conflict and yes any club could be guilty of fan violence. so yes I would agree that should be dealt with by the authorities on a case by case basis unfortunately that didn't occur effectively interstate. I think that point was what David was referring to.
I think that was the problem a lot of insular club culture and little effective administration from the various football authorities to deal with the problems.
I have no doubt that some top NSL clubs would have competed very well in the asian champions league but my opinion is that the asian confederation would never want to be involved with the competition as it was and the old soccer australia did not have the ability to convince them otherwise or the product to sell them.
that is the big difference now.

I do take on board all the points that others have raised and it is probably that my background does not include the knowledge of the successfull tasmanian competitions with both community and ethnic clubs obviously thriving together.

Anonymous said...

I reckon if David would have wandered to another part of the ground, with kids in tow. He could have enjoyed the game in peace. Couldn't imagine the whole ground being a danger zones for families. Would you take your kids to a Hearts match David? From memory you or your dad are Jambo fans. I tell you what, If you think you've heard abuse go to the Gorgie end during a hibs game.The terraces are full of families during these games, in family designated areas. Aggressive behaviour is part of the game. I would be more inclined to blame alcohol for this than anything else.

Richard Bennett said...

madmcglone wasn't part of irvine welch's "acid house" stories based on the life of the out of control hibees supporter? I don't know how you avoid these supporters full stop before, during and after the match.

I'm sure you have read the book or seen the movie being a keen student of football and scottish literature.

Anonymous said...

intersting article here Walter and co

gamish said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gamish said...

It is time someone from the inside of one of these clubs Knights Zebras Olympic and Eagles spoke. I am that person. I have been associated with one of the above clubs for over 3 decades. Rename any of the 4 clubs mentioned above anything you like and they still will retain their heritage. You cannot change history and take away decades of tradition and blood being spilled by the fore fathers of these clubs by a simple name change. However what it did do was rip the heart out of the clubs supporter base. Supporters were floundering around wondering what was next. I had many ask me is this not Australia where we are free of such bigotry and racism? I felt for these people and could only shake my head. Reality is if it were not for the migrants coming here with the round ball our game would not be where it is today. It is nonsense to suggest that such an edict would have a profound effect on the game. It is nonsense to suggest that this would change the habits of a few rogue supporters and make the game sterile. It is nonsense to suggest that such a move made non ethnics more at ease or more likely to play at these clubs. Nonsense to suggest that any positive change the game has seen over the last decade had anything at all to do with the name change thing. All this did in my humble opinion was display an arrogance unseen in public sporting policy and a fundamental lack of understanding of what keeps these grass roots soccer clubs alive and healthy. Reality is Olympics move to rename will not make one difference to anyone or anything but to the heart and soul of the club that is its supporters it could matter lots. Kudos to them for respecting their traditions and history enough to go back to who they really are.

jerrie kruijver said...

here is a bit of irony for you walter.last mondays examiner had whole page devoted to the a league and british footbal.during our season you are lucky to read the local results.

Amazed said...


its good to see that you are able to give a perspective from within an ethnic based club. But thats what it is - a perspective from within - and not surprisingly it details the supporter base drop off following the enforced name changes.

it wasnt about grass roots - about the bigger picture - and it would seem that they did get it right. I havent heard too much about violence/disturbances at matches in recent years?

gamish said...

Amazed, I am perplexed to say the least that you would consider grass roots not about the bigger picture. A bigger picture can only be drawn over a grass roots picture. Not in lieu of or instead of. Any policy which adversely effects "grass roots" must by definition have an adverse effect on the bigger picture. I would also like to suggest that a name change in of itself did not impact as you have alluded to. In my opinion if a cost benefit analysis of the name change thing was done across the board within clubs at all levels then the costs would far our weigh the benefits. I do not think it would even be a close call.

Amazed said...


we shall just have to agree to disagree.

its like so many apsects of the game - everyone sees the same thing yet sees it differently

Anonymous said...

So much for the Bradley report....
This was 2 years ago Violence stemmed from English hooliganism My nephew is a Sydney fc fan, and he informs me that it is the UK element of each fan base who are the instigators of violence. ...

MELBOURNE Victory and Sydney FC face possible disciplinary action after Football Federation Australia (FFA) launched an investigation into unruly behaviour by fans attending Saturday night's A-League clash in Melbourne.

Police used capsicum spray to separate Sydney and Melbourne supporters before and after the Telstra Dome match.

One man was arrested at the game in possession of a flare and at least eight fans were ejected from the 32,000 strong crowd.

Two flares were lit and bottles thrown during what police called a “walk of shame” as fans marched down Flinders Street toward the stadium.

Inside the ground the two supporter groups were separated by venue staff and police, but after the final whistle some sections of the crowd tried to breach the security line and seats were reportedly thrown.

Sydney FC supporters were blamed for much of the bad behaviour.

Acting Superintendent Chris Duthrie said the conduct of some fans was “abysmal” and would not be tolerated.

Troublemakers were dealt with promptly at the Telstra Dome, but flare ups on the way to the ground took police by surprise, he said.

“The walk of shame by these people down Flinders Street, of course we were unprepared for, we certainly will not be unprepared for that again,” Supt Duthrie said.

FFA's head of A-League Operations Rob Abernethy promised a full investigation.

“Although FFA treats such allegations as extremely serious, it is important that as an organisation that we have all the facts before us to make an educated assessment of the issue,” Abernethy said.

“I have spoken with the Melbourne Victory CEO Geoff Miles today and we will be seeking a full event report from the club as well as the venue, security services provider and the Victorian State Police.

“Once all reports have been received we will then review all the available information and then take the appropriate course of action.

“It is disappointing that a minority of so-called supporters may have behaved in an inappropriate manner.”

An FFA spokesman said they hoped to have full reports on the clashes on Monday, and a decision on disciplinary measures would be made as soon as possible.

The off-field problems only add to the woes of the league's glamour clubs, with their 0-0 draw leaving them outside the top four with nine rounds to play.