The future of Preston Lions FC is taking shape, with the club’s leadership group making an impressive presentation at the annual AGM last Thursday.
The night featured President Zak Gruevski, Treasurer Dobe Temelkovski and Vice President David Cvetkovski addressing members with regards to the future direction of the Lions, as they embark on a new exciting chapter in the Club’s long and distinguished history.
Gruevski, who has been recently re-elected for another three years, was keen to explain to members the strategy and vision that will evolve Preston into a professional era.
“Our ‘Future Ready 2025' is the key to our success,” explained Gruevski. “We have worked hard over the past decade to build the strong foundations the Club now has.
“As we build on this and evolve into the future, our long term strategic plan will ensure we leave a legacy where future generations can enjoy our club.
“Our plan over the next four years is to have long term growth, be a destination Club, be inclusive of our wonderful multicultural community, have strong relationships with our business partners and key stakeholders, and of course we have the most passionate members and fans in the land.”
The Club’s ambitions are well founded, with the Lions coming on in leaps and bounds in recent years.
The Club’s participation numbers are impressive, with nearly 400 registered players at BT Connor Reserve/Genis Steel Stadium. This is from the club’s Lion Cubs program, through to the Mini Roos, Juniors and Senior Men’s and Women’s teams.
Impressively the club’s numbers for girls and women sit at nearly 90, a point that Gruevski was well proud of.
“We have had a women’s program for over 20 years, we now have a number of Mini Roos girl’s teams, some junior teams and of course two senior women’s teams.
“Last weekend we had nearly 50 kids turn up to our Lion Cubs program on a Saturday morning, a number of them were girls. It was fantastic.”
Apart from the playing numbers, off the field Preston are kicking plenty of goals. After building a strong relationship with Darebin Council, and thanks to the generosity of the Club's passionate fan base and sponsors, work has already commenced on a new $3 million state-of-the-art facility at BT Connor Reserve.
“The council is one of our most important stakeholders, we have worked closely with them and built a strong relationship.
“We are also contributing $100,000 as a Club to the pavilion we are building. That is thanks to our business partners, fans and members.
“In fact our loyal members who attended our AGM, kicked off our ‘2021 Future Ready Fund Raising Campaign’ by contributing $52,000 on the night.
“We have a $200,000 target and I am confident we will get there. This will go towards infrastructure and planning initiatives.”
Treasurer Temelkovski was also quick to praise members and sponsors from 2020 who agreed to continue to financially support the club despite last year's abandoned season.
“The essence of good corporate governance is accountability, integrity and mutual respect between Preston and its diverse stakeholders," said Temelkovski. "The extreme uncertainty the pandemic brought in 2020 required closer engagements with many stakeholders whose interests and influences must be acknowledged, understood and managed.
"Throughout 2020 the Club’s executive committee engaged very closely with council, our supporters, our coaches, players and parents, our volunteers, our members and especially our sponsors/partners.
“Our wonderful business partners need a special mention because despite their own challenges brought upon by the pandemic, they collectively agreed to allocate a percentage of their 2020 commitment to cover the Club’s costs notwithstanding that no season was played. Sponsorship revenue accounted for 60% of all revenue and that goodwill shown by our sponsors helped the Club meet its unavoidable costs.
“Sponsors were talked through the detail of those costs over several meetings, including the Club’s risk management and cost containment approach, bearing in mind the Club was still hopeful of a season being played as late as July.
"We effectively had two pre-seasons spanning nearly four months and that comes at a cost – the first before the initial lockdown in mid-March and the second resuming in May and ending in July when the State of Victoria was plunged into a lengthy lockdown.”
The generosity of these sponsors and members should not come as a surprise considering the tight knit relationship the Club has built with the Preston community over the past 10 years. The Lions have essentially gone back to the fabric of why the Club was built back in 1947 - community and loyalty - using it as the essence of what they hope to achieve in the future.
With a sound financial base to build from, the AGM also revealed the new structure at the Club, with a new Board launched to oversee the strategic direction that Preston will take.
President Gruevski explained the reasoning behind the change, linking it with the 'Future Ready 2025' program.
“We have four pillars of our club now,” he explained. “The new Board will oversee strategy, the Committee will deal with operational matters, advisors will work closely with our key stakeholders, and of course our valued volunteers who will continue to support our club in any way they can.
“As part of our evolution we need to build towards a more professional set-up and ultimately we will grow from that into a fully professional club.”
Gruevski was pragmatic about the Club’s ambitions, but confident they have the right people to help them achieve their goal, which is ultimately to be part of the proposed National Second Division for men in 2023 and women in 2025.
“We have a lot of work to do, we are realistic with where we are at and what we need to do going forward.
“We have people on our Board and Committee who have a range of skill-sets and capabilities. They have been successful in the business world and the sporting world, so why can’t they help Preston Lions grow and be successful”.