Who Is Walter Pless?

Walter_Pless

A teacher by profession, but is now in his 37th year as a football writer. Has written for "Soccer Action" (Melbourne), "Australian Soccer Weekly" (Sydney) and "World Soccer" (London), as well as for several Tasmanian newspapers. Currently contributing to "Goal!Weekly" in Melbourne and the Australian magazine "Soccer International". Played for Croatia-Glenorchy, Caledonians, Metro, Rapid and University in Tasmania, as well as in the United States of America. Coached University, Metro and Croatia-Glenorchy.

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Photo:  Brian Downes addresses the media [PlessPix]

Tasmania United may not have a chance to put in a bid for an A-League place for two, three or even four years as Football Federation Australia is intent on consolidating the current 10-team format.

That was the message delivered by the Tasmania United FC Taskforce deputy chairman, Brian Downes, at a media conference yesterday at Wrest Point Hotel-Casino.

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Photo:  Taskforce deputy chairman, Brian Downes, played the issues with a straight bat [PlessPix]

The media conference was held to provide an update on the Taskforce’s progress since the release of a business case and following talks between the Taskforce and Lyall Gorman, the head of the Hyundai A-League.

Downes played things with a straight bat, which was refreshing and appreciated.

“The sense that we had when we met with Mr Gorman was that their absolute priority and focus is consolidating the ten-team competition,” Mr Downes said.

“That was made very clear.  But, expansion, ultimately, is something that they’d be looking at again.  He didn’t say when because he’s not in a position to do so.  He also encouraged us to make sure that we stay in there.

“I sense there’s some real opportunity and we just have to hang in there.  We deserve it and we owe it to ourselves to do that and, if we finish today not knowing where it’s going to go, we would have wasted the last three years.

“Our focus over the next year or two is to work quietly with respect to prospective investors and then, when that time comes, when the FFA decide about expansion plans, we’re in a position to put our hands up and actually put a bid on their table.


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Photo:  Tasmania United Taskforce group's media man, Martyn Wells [PlessPix]

“From a timing point of view, I don’t know when that time may be, but it’s quite unrealistic to expect that we might be in a position to do anything in two to three years.

“We’re taking another two to three years, maybe four years, before we’re in a position to do something and, for a lot of people, that’s a long way away, which it is.

“But, at the same time, that’s a good time for us to actually consolidate our situation as well.

“We, as a group of volunteers who love this game, want to keep the community up to speed with what’s going on.  We want to keep the football community fully involved in what we’re doing and we look forward to further engagement as we go.

“This is a positive situation and we’ve been extremely grateful for the support we’ve had from government.  The report that came out was wonderfully supportive of football in this State and the opportunity from an A-League point of view and we just need to now get our bid together so that ultimately we’re in a position to put that on the FFA table.

“It is positive.  I mean, Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Lyall Gorman made it absolutely clear that their whole focus is to bed down and consolidate the ten teams.  He and his team are working very closely with those clubs to do that, and I think that will happen.

“I’m not saying, or we’re not saying, that there may be more changes there.  That’s, again, up to the FFA with regards to clubs coming or going, but the A-League will exist and continue to exist.  It will grow and there will be, one day, an opportunity for Tasmania.

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Photo:  Taskforce members (L-R) Martyn Wells, Brian Downes, John McGirr, Daniel Hanna, Mark De Vries and Jason Garrett [PlessPix]

“When we’re in a position to put in a bid, we would not put in a bid that is lightly backed up.”

Downes was asked what happened to the sheikh who was supposedly interested in owning the Tasmanian franchise.

“He’s still over there somewhere,” Downes said.  “It’s gone nowhere at this point.

“As opportunities come up, we follow them through and, as I say, if that had occurred, we would possibly already have been there.

“The FFA have moved away from the ‘white knight’ scenario and the Taskforce attitude is very much, ‘this should be something that is shared among a number of investors with a lot of community support’.  That way, it gives us a very strong foundation financially, and also it’s about community engagement and community involvement.

“At this point of time, we would never see a government involved where it actually owns the club.  We see a privately funded model, a model that’s actually got a very strong community base.”

Downes said that expansion of the A-League to more than ten teams may take a while, given the current situation.

“I would suggest that 12 teams may be a goal further down the track,” he said.  “That’s not going to happen for a number of years and, certainly, we would like to see that because that’s obviously an opportunity for us.

“While ever there’s an opportunity, we’ve got to hang in there.  But, we see it as a real positive because it’s just part of the journey.

“If it was so easy, we would have done it two years ago.  But, it’s not easy.  But, it’s worthwhile because it’s what we believe in and Tasmania deserves, or is entitled to have, a team in a national competition.”

When asked about the composition of a Tasmanian A-League team in terms of players, Downes said:  “If we were to form an A-League team tomorrow, I would suggest probably, out of a squad of 23, which is normal, [there would be ] probably one, maybe, two people, if that, Tasmanians involved in that team.

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Photo:  Members of the media at yesterday's media conference at Wrest Point's Boardwalk [PlessPix]

“We generally punch above our weight standard-wise.  We’ve shown that with some of our juniors.”

He pointed out the success of the Tasmanian under-21 side against A-League youth teams in late 2008.

He said that a youth side would be part of the Tasmania United A-League set-up and that team would consist of many local youngsters who would aim to break into the senior side.

Downes introduced the other Taskforce members who were in attendance at the media conference.  They were Daniel Hanna (Chairman), Jason Garrett (Treasurer), Mark De Vries (Secretary), Martyn Wells (Media Liaison), and John McGirr (Member).

Two other members, Ken Morton and Kim Griggs, were not present.

Hanna, the new chairman who took over from John McGirr, is the Director of Corporate Affairs at Federal Group.  Garrett works for KPMG as a Director in the Advisory Sector, while De Vries, a former Olympia player, is a commercial law partner at Simmons Wolfhagen.

“We’re each committed for the next two or three years,” Downes said.  “If the FFA was to, next year, say absolutely categorically there’s not going to be any expansion, full stop, that’s the end of the story, well then, that’s probably the end of it.

“But, I don’t believe that’s going to happen.  And, these other gentlemen don’t believe that either, otherwise we wouldn’t be here today.

“They’ll consolidate the ten teams, and once that’s consolidated, they’ll make the decision about expansion.  There’s no absolute.  I would suggest that 12 teams might be a goal down the track, but that’s not going to happen for a number of years.  And, certainly, we would like to see that [expansion].”