As sport across the world attempts to put a brave and in-control face, on the problems, perhaps red-alert panic in some cases, facing their product, you could be forgiven for assuming that the football community in this neck of the woods can relax, having faced similar challenges on a regular basis.
Before anyone starts penning a letter to the editor, I realise the COVID-19 virus poses a major threat to lives, and society as we know it, and in no way do I attempt to downplay its imposing shadow, but when it comes to financial hardship, lack of resources, threats to existence, few can compete with the city's flagship round-ball teams over the past 40 or so years.
Others who worked at the coalface of that struggle for survival, often run on the smell of an oily rag, and patched together with goodwill, good intent, volunteer hours, and the odd loan, could paint a far more accurate picture of the hurdles overcome, and the mistakes repeated, than your scribe. But you can almost certainly bank on their knowledge being overlooked by those whose existence depends on having all the answers.
Nobody, as Fox analyst Andy Harper noted on the weekend, can honestly tell you what football, and the A-League, will look like post virus. But it will survive. The question is will it thrive? It will in most parts of the world, but in Australia? We shall see.
I can't tell you about the future, but in harmonious sync with the Herald's proper journos covering the Knights, we shall have a hazy stroll down memory lane, through the eyes of a naive kid, turned somewhat cynical observer.
In life we are aware of things pre-war and post-war. History records things as BC or AD. In football it is pre-Bosman and post-Bosman. Jean Marc Bosman won a lengthy legal battle to become a free agent at the end of his contract with his Belgian club. Previously clubs basically controlled a player's right to work, until their terms (transfer fee) were met.
They could do this while reducing your weekly wage in Europe, and worse for the part-timers in the old NSL here in Australia, who usually only earned during the 30 or so weeks of the season. They could do it while not paying you, or worse, when they had no intention of re-signing you. Camouflaged slavery, anyone?
Life is often about timing. Once the Bosman ruling came into effect, the pendulum swung almost completely in the players' favour.
Research tells me that the ruling was made in December, 1995. I was heading towards 33, a yard and a half slower, and a stone heavier. Thanks a lot! Still, some justification for not having set myself up in life!
In 1983, we (KB United ) were well in contention to win the league, and with three games remaining we faced a tough run in. Sydney City and St George, both in the race, at home, and Heidelberg away.
Joe Senkalski scored a worldy against City in a 1-0 win, and the boys were pumped about bringing a first-ever championship to the town. Then on the day before the St George fixture, the board came to the players to tell them that they wouldn't be able to pay their sign-on fees that were due.
Talk about killing a vibe at a crucial moment. We lost 2-1 to St George, and then lost 2-1 in Melbourne in the final round to finish fifth. A number of the senior players were well annoyed, as a top-four bonus, written into many contracts, also went begging.
The cracks had started to appear. I think I remember a cheque for half the sign-on being returned by the bank, and suddenly the federation and Adamstown Rosebuds were stepping into the breach. Not long after I left the federation offices with my $5000 in cash! Pat Clarke, a good administrator, and a gentleman, was the man handing out the money, and he was quickly nicknamed Pat Cash by the younger players at the club.
A month or so late, after a few preliminary (I thought) chats with Marconi coach Les Scheinflug, I opened the Newcastle Herald to read that I was signing for Marconi that day! News to me. Three hours later the Marconi officials were in my parents' house, telling me that Newcastle were about to fold, and they would sort the transfer after I had signed. My coach Ken Kaiser was working in a mine underground, and uncontactable, there were no agents, so I went to the federation office with my dad.
Talk about negotiating with all the power! Forearmed with information from an inside source Marconi knew that unless the Newcastle club could find $12,000 that day they would fold. They told the Newcastle officials when they asked for $30,000 they knew the situation. My value depreciated quickly to $13,000 in one sentence, and the mortgages on three of my teammates' contracts were torn up in my presence. Imagine that scenario today!
Six weeks into the season KB United were no more, and the playing group dispersed. Newcastle Rosebud took their place. Within 18 months that hybrid, hastily formed to keep football in the town alive at a national level, shocked the highly fancied Melbourne Croatia to win the national cup competition.
The roller-coaster ride was off and running.