Hume City FC President Steve Kaya has split ranks with rival NPL clubs fighting Football Victoria's return to match action – and questioned the agenda of the rebel clubs opposing it.
On Saturday, Hume announced on their Facebook page that their seniors would be returning to the training track on Wednesday, May 20 - the first club in the Victorian top-flight to do so.
The club, which reached the quarterfinals of the FFA Cup and won the Dockerty Cup in 2019, was undefeated and top of the table at the time of NPL Victoria’s suspension.
Head Coach Nick Hegarty’s side was looming as serious challengers for what would be the club’s first-ever top-flight crown.
It is understood that Hume is one of four NPLVIC sides actively seeking the competition’s return in 2020, although Kaya is the first club official to publicly support it.
Clubs met with FV for talks on the season restart last Thursday but Association of Australian Football Clubs Chairman Nick Galatas told FTBL beforehand: “It's the united position of our members that the resumption and conclusion of the 2020 senior men's NPL competition isn't financially viable”.
“To take place,” he continued, “it will at least need some level of assistance from FV or the FFA, including measures which will alleviate the financial and compliance burden on our clubs.
"While it's in the DNA of our clubs to get out on the pitch, their feeling at the moment is it's looking too difficult this year.”
Insiders say little progress was made towards an agreement on resuming the season at the meeting, with clubs and the federation in dispute over fees and financial support, which is frustrating Kaya.
“First of all, we’re a football club and we should be playing football whenever is possible,” Kaya told FTBL. “We’re a football club, why should we refuse to play football? So, our decision is, of course, you want to play.
“What upsets me is that everyone has their own agendas, the place is full of politics and there are no straight shooters.
“Nobody has done any homework to be able to say that ‘we are not able to play; due to this pandemic we can’t play because we have been hurt financially and playing behind closed doors there is no gate so we can’t afford to play.’
“But to me, everybody: have they done their homework properly? Have they consulted their players? Because this game is not just about presidents; it takes players, it takes a lot of volunteers, it takes a lot of work to put on an hour-and-a-half-game on the weekend. Have all of these people been consulted to see how they feel?
“I know how I’d feel if I put 10 years in a club as a volunteer, as a supporter and then all of a sudden, my club doesn’t want to play. Why? This is what gets me. If you genuinely cannot play, ok, what can you do? But we [Hume] can play.”
Kaya told FTBL that he left last Thursday’s meeting between clubs and FV early in frustration over negotiations he didn’t believe were being conducted in good faith, disagreeing with the assertions of other clubs and stating the conversations devolved into a “shit fight”, “bullshit” and having “absolutely no foundations at all.”
The Hume president, whose club is based out of ABD Stadium in the north-west Melbourne suburb of Broadmeadows, also had his own issues surrounding claims of the viability or non-viability of a 2020 season.
He says he is dissatisfied with clubs' inability to play without live crowds, their unwillingness to find a solution, and questioning whether there were motives beyond financial hardship at play.
“It’s safe to say that every club will suffer some sort of financial disadvantage from what goes on,” he said. “I get it.
“But you know what, the thing that I’m looking at, the first 100 people through the gate, that covers the rest anyway. You’re talking about a bar and a canteen, nobody knows that in four weeks that’s not going to be possible.
“None of the clubs have been able to demonstrate as to what their losses are other than verbal. Verbal, I can say too that I’m losing a million dollars if I put on a game so therefore, I don’t want to play.
"And yet some of the clubs, I put myself in their shoes and I say ok, why don’t you want to play? And yes, the reason they don’t want to play is a lot greyer than the financial disadvantage.
“I’ve copped everything we can cop, I mean, this thing will probably… if anything I’m probably the most effected because my club, if you look at Hume, our club is open seven nights a week.
"We train from 5pm until 10.30 every night. There is a restaurant, people have a drink – we’re licensed – and all the rest of it.
“Yet the clubs that are proposing not to play, they don’t even have toilets on the training days for the parents to go to the toilet, they have to go to McDonald’s to use the toilet.
"This is the clubs we’re talking about. So, if there is anybody that is losing when you look at it, it’s Hume – not anybody else.
“You need to consult your players to see what they think, consult your members to see what they think, the supporters that follow you everywhere – in the mud, the hail and the rain – consult them to see what they think.
"They want to see their team on the pitch, they do not care about politics and they do not care about financials either.
“If the dog wags the tail, there will be a season. If they allow the tail to wag the dog it remains to be seen. But, to me, that’s easy to fix.
"I can stipulate my position to the federation, saying this is the best I can do for you guys, we’re all going through this together, we’ve all got to be sharing some of the pain, we work this together.
"But they have got to say the season is going to go on. If not, then you know what, there is plenty of clubs that are not going to into, in [inverted commas], “insolvency” that want to play in the topflight.
“The Hume team is sitting five points clear at the top of the table after five games. I am prepared to wipe that off and start from zero again with the new clubs, forget about the ones that do not want to play.
"Now, every other club, if they were sitting five points clear I guarantee you they would not wipe it off. So, I do not like self-interest, because if it was from self-interest I wouldn’t be involved in football.”
AAFC Chair Galatas insisted negotiations being conducted with the Victorian governing football body by clubs were moving forward in good faith and that it was important that the pandemic didn’t result in clubs being left behind.
“Steve's opinion is his own and I respect it,” Galatas told FTBL. “However, it's clear he doesn't know what the position is with all other clubs.
"Those 10 clubs who have taken a different view have done it in good faith, having regard to the reality of their club's circumstances. They would love to play too, if they could.
“All clubs respect each other's position. If Hume can resume, then they can resume. The pandemic has affected us all differently. Some have coped better than others.
"This is a time not to leave anyone behind, if possible. Most NPL1 clubs have expressed an inability to play this year for myriad compelling reasons.”
Kaya told FTVBL he called on both the clubs and FV to work towards a solution that would see football played in 2020.
“I would like the federation to come and give the clubs some sort of support or a hand,” he said.
“If I’m in a position myself where I can’t pay the mortgage and my son asks me for $100, I might be able to give him $30; I used to give him $100 in the past but he’s asking for something now and the best I can do is give him $30. It is the same principle.
“But first, the clubs have to show intent, rather than this arrogant approach that they’re taking. That is why I left the meeting, I don’t want to hear sh*t. Instead of taking this arrogant way of dealing with it, they could have gone there and shown an intent first, first you’ve got to show intent.
“For me, I’m playing regardless, this is what it is and if I don’t play, I’ll be the problem child; because this time I’ll be asking the questions.
"I invested so much money in pre-season and all this, I’m ready to play, how come the federation cannot. If you can’t get it right well it’s not my problem. So I’ll be asking the questions.
"But the right thing to do, they’ve got to get out of their politician heads and make some hard decisions.”