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Events of 1996 – from Dr Alf Andrews

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Dr Alf Andrews Thesis – Chapter 10: Club Identity

Here is one of the chapters of the excellent thesis done by academic Dr Alf Andrews. This CLUB IDENTITY chapter, deals with the Footscray name change and move away from the Whitten Oval to Optus Oval during the bitter 1996 – 1997 years.

Chapter 10:

CLUB IDENTITY

Of the four understandings of community identified by Ian Andrews the one most apparent during the expansion of the V.F.L. into a national competition in the 1980s and 1990s was the ideological. This interpretation saw community as being constantly threatened by the unstoppable advance of modernisation. Supporters of gemeinschaft engaged in a noble but ultimately futile battle to preserve the Game as they had once known it. While cheersquads provided a refuge for football’s communal spirit their highly organised nature was in some ways a contradiction of that very spirit.

The modern Game’s increasingly national and corporate focus prompted nostalgia for more localised understandings of community. These understandings arose among football supporters as a direct result of football’s historical role in suburban community formation in Melbourne. Prior to St.Kilda opening the floodgates of ground rationalisation by moving to Moorabbin in 1965, League clubs were identified strongly with the localities after which they were named. After demographics, economics and technology had wrought significant changes to the way community manifested itself in football the old localism, where it still existed, was merely residual.

It was in this context of declining local patriotism that Melbourne-based League clubs battled to survive the mounting economic pressures of modern football. The surprising resilience of the corporately unfashionable Footscray Football Club in the face of a V.F.L. proposed forced merger with Fitzroy in 1989, suggested that the mourners of gemeinschaft had donned the black armbands prematurely. Even after the subsequent takeover of the club’s board by a corporate coterie in 1996, evidence existed that the club’s culture had not yet made an unconditional surrender to gesellschaft.

In 1989 the board of the Footscray Football Club, faced with serious debts, authorised club president, Nick Columb, to examine possible merger options with other similarly placed League clubs. The club’s financial woes were compounded by its inability to attract either corporate or noncorporate support. Poor on-field results in 1989 had resulted in a decline in attendances, with only 8,673 attending the last home match against Richmond. Lack of corporate facilities at Western Oval severely restricted the club’s ability to attract sponsorship.1 For Columb, a businessman and racehorse owner with Liberal Party connections, the preferred option was the club’s survival in its own right, but support from the Labor-dominated Footscray Council was insufficient to convince the V.F.L. of Footscray’s sustainability. On Sunday 1 October Columb met with representatives from Fitzroy and the V.F.L. Commission to discuss the foundation of a merged entity, the ‘Fitzroy Bulldogs’, to be based at Princes’ Park. Footscray’s club directors had been divided on the issue of a merger and one of them, outspoken left-wing lawyer, Dennis Galimberti, resolved to actively oppose the idea.2 After V.F.L. chief commissioner, Ross Oakley, officially announced the merger on Tuesday 3 October the Sun’s headline proclaimed the ‘death of the Bulldogs’. Prominent television identity, Ernie Sigley, angrily threatened to relinquish his life membership of the club and local youth worker, Les Twentyman, described the merger as ‘social vandalism’.3

Although the problems that led to the 1989 crisis would cost the Footscray Football Club its identity seven years later, an injunction served on the V.F.L. on 5 October by lifelong rank-and-file Footscray supporter, Irene Chatfield, forced the League to give Footscray a stay of execution. The club was given 21 days to raise the $1.3 million needed to keep the club solvent. An informal ‘boardin- exile’ was appointed. It included Galimberti and another prominent left-wing lawyer, Peter Gordon.4 In view of events in 1996, hindsight enabled the Chatfield injunction to be seen in terms of the Kübler-Ross bargaining phase, in which the soon-tobe- deceased entered into ‘some sort of agreement which may postpone the inevitable happening’.5

Granted a new lease on life, the makeshift board immediately organised a fund-raising rally at the Whitten Oval for Sunday 8 October. The gathering attracted over 10,000 people, including supporters of other clubs, in a strong show of support for the ailing club that raised $450,000. The offices of Peter Gordon’s law firm, Slater and Gordon, in Nicholson Street, Footscray, became the headquarters for what was dubbed the ‘Fightback’ campaign.

The Slater and Gordon firm had a proud history of using the legal system to champion the rights of the underprivileged since it was founded by the selfeducated socialist barrister and solicitor, William Slater, shortly after World War 1. The firm’s early work was mostly worker’s compensation cases for the Australian Railways Union, but it later branched out into civil liberties cases. It handled the cases of conscientious objectors during the Korea and Vietnam wars and actively opposed the attempt by the Menzies Government in the early 1950s to outlaw the Communist Party. It was also involved in municipal law, tenancy cases, probate, conveyancing, family law and commercial law. From the late 1980s the firm entered the field of mass litigation, in which it displayed a penchant for representing the underprivileged against more moneyed interests. Its ‘no win, no fee’ policy provided people who could not normally afford to go to Court the opportunity to take legal action where they felt they had a valid case.6 Peter Gordon, one of Australia’s leading litigation lawyers with a reputation built largely on his pursuit of class actions on behalf of asbestos victims in particular, was the firm’s leading light and its familiar public face.7

Local newspapers, the Western Times, the Mail and the Western Independent, offered their support to Fightback and an extensive doorknock campaign was begun on Saturday 14 October. A major coup for the club was the signing of the chemical company, I.C.I., as its major sponsor. The Fightback also received support from the union movement which threatened to black-ban all V.F.L.-related projects, including the building of the Great Southern Stand at the M.C.G., if the Footscray Football Club was disbanded.8

In the wake of the successful Fightback, Footscray experienced a period of limited success in the early 1990s. However, by the end of 1996 it was once again languishing near the bottom of the A.F.L. premiership table. It had been a turbulent season with the A.F.L. keen to reduce the number of Melbournebased clubs. Fitzroy had fallen victim to an A.F.L.- brokered merger with Brisbane and the climate was such that no Melbourne-based club could feel safe from merger or extinction, let alone one with a small supporter base, crippling debts and a history of onfield failure.

As the 1996 A.F.L. finals series was being played out in Footscray’s absence, a changing of the guard was taking place at Barkly Street. Peter Gordon, who had become president of the club after his role in Fightback, resigned from his post at the same time as general manager, Dennis Galimberti. Galimberti claimed that most Footscray supporters were working class A.L.P. voters. He regarded Gordon, himself and, by implication, most Footscray supporters as ‘natural enemies’ of the A.F.L., which he saw as a ‘bastion of the Liberal Party’.9 Gordon and Galimberti stepped aside to make way for a new administration led by a four-man task-force of former players and businessmen, Ray Baxter, Rick Kennedy, David Smorgon and Alan Johnston.10

Deborah Gough, a journalist writing for Footscray’s local newspaper, the Mail, described the takeover as ‘a bloodless coup done in stealth’. At half time of Footscray’s home match against Fremantle on 12 July, Baxter, Smorgon, Kennedy and Johnston had met to discuss the formation of a coterie of sponsors to stave off rumoured A.F.L. plans to force clubs into mergers. The clandestine nature of the meeting suggested to Deborah Gough that the task-force, like the club’s previous administration, regarded the A.F.L. as the enemy. She quoted an undisclosed source as saying:

The last thing we wanted was to have a dogfight going on in the papers. That would have played right into the A.F.L.’s hands.11

The rhetoric associated with Fightback had promoted Footscray as a battling club with a local working class following. In the first half of the 1990s Footscray had seen itself as defying the trend that was making attendance at A.F.L. matches a pastime for an increasingly wealthy audience. Since her appointment in 1994, Maribyrnong Council’s chief commissioner, Barbara Champion, had been impressed by the importance that the people of Footscray attached to the football club. ‘It provides a talking point, a sense of place, the glue,’ she told James Button of the Age.12 She claimed that because the Footscray Football Club lacked the corporate connections available to clubs such as Carlton, it was ‘staking its survival on putting down roots in the community’.13 The examples she gave suggested that her notion of community was in line with Ian Andrews’s second understanding. She cited player involvement in the running of camps for young drug offenders and the employment of long-term unemployed people on the Ted Whitten project at the Whitten Oval as evidence of the Footscray Football Club’s place in a social system based specifically in and around Footscray.14

In the context of declining turnstile sufficiency, however, corporate connections had become more crucial to a football club’s survival than its role as a pillar of community. In early September, James Button commended Footscray’s campaign to sign new members but correctly identified the chief problem facing the club in its attempt to remain part of the modern A.F.L.

Sadly Footscray doesn’t do much for the A.F.L.’s big ticket items: corporate boxes and the box; top rating T.V. drama and finger-food football.15

When the task-force took over the club, outgoing president, Gordon, gave the new regime his blessing, urging supporters to work toward the common goal of survival and commending the new bosses for their ‘business acumen and [their] love of Footscray’.16 By this time the coterie was well established with over 60 corporate backers. It seemed, even at this stage, that it was not intent on continuing Peter Gordon’s stubborn rearguard action on behalf of gemeinschaft. Deborah Gough suggested that change was afoot. Without naming her source she cited one of the 60 coterie members as saying that references to Fightback should be dropped from the club song and that Footscray should no longer be seen as an underdog at war with the A.F.L. Interestingly, her source argued that the club should continue to play its home games at Whitten Oval.17

Deborah Gough’s informant was clearly not David Smorgon. Nor was her source an accurate representation of the dominant school of thought within the coterie. A report in the Age cited Smorgon as saying that the task-force had an open mind on the matter of where the club should play its home matches. Whitten Oval, the M.C.G. and Optus Oval were all under consideration.18 The full extent of the coterie’s agenda became apparent in late October, with the announcement that the club would change its name to ‘Western Bulldogs’ and play its home matches at Carlton’s Optus Oval, the former Princes’ Park.

Hailed by Gordon as a ‘fantastic breath of fresh air and opportunity’,19 the plan provoked a mixed reaction among supporters and caused a rift between the club and the Maribyrnong Council. The conflict illustrated the way proponents of differing notions of community, whether they be marked by Bender’s ‘mutuality and emotional bonds’ or by a common locality, could become divided on an issue directly because of those understandings.

In October 1990 the (then) Footscray Football Club and the (then) Footscray Council embarked on a $4.6 million project to upgrade the (then) Western Oval. The first stage was the building of corporate boxes on a new third level of the John Gent Stand, for which the club had incurred a debt to the council of $1.97 million. At the time of the task-force’s announcement of the impending move to Optus Oval there was still $1.8 million outstanding on the debt, but negotiations between the club and what was now the Maribyrnong Council over the writing off of a large portion of that debt had been taking place. The debt gave the council leverage in its bid to convince the League football club that it was not above community. Barbara Champion suggested that a move away from Whitten Oval could change the council’s attitude towards the club’s outstanding debt and put proposed future works at Whitten Oval in doubt.20

In Footscray Mall, Deborah Gough discovered a mixed reaction to the club’s proposed changes. Christine Dalipis of North Sunshine and Arnold Garcia of Gladstone Park provided responses that were typical of the opposite ends of the polarity. Dalipis felt that Optus Oval was too far to travel and was opposed to the name change while Garcia supported any changes that ensured the club’s survival.21 The territorial preoccupation of the former and the survival concerns of the latter represented the two conflicting strands of opinion that emerged.

Examination of other opinions, however, suggests that it would have been an over-simplification to regard territorialism, tradition and gemeinschaft, on the one hand, as existing in a perfectly parallel dichotomy to survivalism, change and gesellschaft on the other. Supporters, as well as opponents, of the new regime were represented among the territorialists. The former were keen to develop a regional identity rather than a limited local one. It would also have been erroneous to suggest that those who opposed change were not concerned for the club’s survival. Rather, the opposing sides held different views of what constituted survival. The new guard was focussed on the economic imperatives that it felt a rise in the club’s corporate profile would address, while Footscray traditionalists took the view that a change in the club’s identity would, of itself, preclude survival. Despite their differing views, possibly influenced by their differing addresses, Dalipis’s deep in the Footscray heartland and Garcia’s in an area closer to Essendon than Footscray, they shared membership of one of Ian Andrews’s third type of communities. Communion, shared through a common emotional attachment to club, over-rode geographical differences.

Arnold Garcia’s response would have pleased club vice-president, Mike Feehan, who announced a new membership drive with an attack upon those fans who were in the habit of phoning the club to complain about its decisions. Proving that football club democracy in the mid-1990s was in a parlous state, he justified his ‘pay up and shut up’ attitude by highlighting the primacy of the need for survival over any rights that members felt they had to influence the running of the club.

Members must take up the challenge now by renewing their membership now, not wait and see who we draft, who the captain is or even what name we play under. If we don’t have the support from members we won’t have to worry about any of those details.22

The outburst was, in effect, a use of emotional blackmail as a ploy for denying a consumer’s fundamental right to know the product they were purchasing. It constituted a telling indictment of the gaping chasm that had opened between football administrators and barrackers as a direct result of the economic imperatives of the modern Game.

Another of Deborah Gough’s respondents, Graeme Golding of Tottenham, not a Footscray supporter but a former employee of the club, stated that the club helped the ‘self-esteem of the area’ and yet thought the name change was a ‘nice idea’.23 His comments suggested that the area whose self-esteem should be nurtured was the wider western suburban region into which the bulk of the club’s supporter base had spilled since World War 2, rather than the local suburb that had spawned the club and from which it had taken its identity for over a century.

Matters were brought to a head when David Smorgon sought to justify the club’s change of name in what Deborah Gough interpreted as a ‘tirade of insults aimed at the [Footscray] area and its community’.

What do you think of when you think of Footscray? Underprivileged, third-rate, not good enough, lacking success … That does not convey the spirit that’s in the [wider] western region.24

The outburst was reminiscent of Ron Barassi’s 1989 comments that Footscray was ‘full of Vietnamese, and drug addicts’.25 Scott Cullan of the Herald Sun described it as ‘extraordinarily tactless’ and noted that Smorgon was a Toorak resident.26 Smorgon later claimed that the press had given a misleading impression of his views. He said that his comments were a reiteration of opinions that had been expressed in surveys conducted in Melton, Sunbury and Werribee, rather than his own views.27 The areas mentioned had earlier been cited by Rick Kennedy as those from which the club should be seeking its supporters because Footscray was ‘no longer the hub of the western region.’28 As had been the case when St.Kilda embraced its recognised heartland in the mid-1960s, League football’s iconography lagged well behind demographic reality.

Notwithstanding Peter Gordon’s observations at the time of the takeover, it would appear that David Smorgon did not regard ‘business acumen’ and ‘love of Footscray’ as mutually compatible. Smorgon claimed that he was attempting to ‘reverse the club’s image’ by promoting a winning mentality at all levels in the club from board members to bootstudders.29 This new image was a clear shift from the ‘people’s club’ promoted by Gordon and Galimberti. No longer was the club to be a representative of a working class community naturally opposed to an A.F.L. allegedly dominated by supporters of the Liberal Party.

Paul Adams of Yarraville, in a letter to the Mail, noted that Smorgon’s attitude was a far cry from the philosophy that had characterised the Fightback era. He drew attention to Smorgon’s position as a director of the Sydney Institute, ‘one of Australia’s premier New Right think tanks’, whose economic rationalist philosophies had helped to influence government cuts and privatisations of services ‘traditionally important for people in the west’.30

Another Fightback veteran who felt betrayed by the new regime was Denis Lupton, a Barkly Street service station proprietor.

I put a bit of money in to save the club in 1989, a lot of ordinary supporters did, and they didn’t do it to see them play at Carlton. There should have been more consultation.31

Smorgon’s negative comments about Footscray’s image infuriated Footscray resident and former mayor, Ron Jevic, who saw fit to raise the small matter of $1.8 million as a stick with which to beat the club.

When I was a councillor in the City of Footscray, the footy club was always seeking financial assistance from the community it now wants to disown. How dare they accumulate a debt of $1.8 million … to the community of ‘third rate losers’ and then say not only do we want to take your name out of the club and get the hell out of Footscray but we don’t even want to pay back the debt.32

Despite strong words from past and present municipal officials, negotiations over the reduction of the club’s debt to Council continued, with the council using the club’s financial liability as a lever in negotiations to ensure its continued presence at the Whitten Oval, if only on a limited and temporary basis. The new task-force was forced to accept a compromise on the home ground issue by agreeing to allow two games to be played at Whitten Oval in 1997, with the possibility of two more in 1998. It was clear, however, that the club saw the proposed new Docklands stadium, later named Colonial Stadium, as its long-term home match venue.33

The eventual agreement between the football club and the council reduced the club’s debt to $750,000.
The club’s administrative base was to remain at Whitten Oval to which the club was bound by a 25 year lease at an initial annual rental of $95,000, increasing to $115,000 after five years. The council was free to encourage other sporting clubs to use the oval. As the club’s main creditor, the council would be free to inspect the club’s financial records, play a role in any merger negotiations and call in the debt if it perceived that the club was no longer a true representative of the western suburbs. Council clearly held the whip hand in the deal and Smorgon made it clear that the willingness of the task-force to take positions on the club’s board was entirely dependant on the willingness of council to waive a considerable portion of the $1.8 million debt. As board members were personally liable for the club’s debt, he and his colleagues were unwilling to take on a $1.8 million debt that they had not created.34

Larry Noye of Altona felt that the ‘likeable, most approachable and dedicated’ Barbara Champion had been too soft in her dealings with the club. He felt that, as an unelected commissioner, she had erred in assuming Maribyrnong ratepayers were willing to waive the greater portion of the club’s debt. He linked the new regime of the club with the ‘domineering A.F.L.’ as the collective enemy ‘riding roughshod’ over the local community.35

Deborah Gough described the club’s rejection of Whitten Oval as a match venue and its adoption of a regional identity as the ‘death knell for suburban football’, a victory for ‘glitz, gloss and pandering to daily journos and corporate dollars’. Her eulogy appeared in a Mail editorial.

Footscray, you were all heart when all else failed. When North left Arden Street, you stood firm, when Essendon left Windy Hill, you were defiant. When it was Sydney’s dancing girls, you still had a local band walking around the oval at half-time. You offered none of the gleam but all the endearing and gritty qualities of a club trying to keep the good things about football alive.36

She argued that when a football club was named after a suburb, the suburb enjoyed a national profile. If the club changed its name that profile was lost. The football club had made Footscray famous. ‘What will Footscray be known for now?’ she asked.37 Perhaps Smorgon and Barassi had already given the answer.

Prior to St.Kilda’s relocation in 1965, the thought of a ‘Western’ club playing its home matches in an inner suburb directly north of the city would not have made much sense. The convention whereby a football club represented a place included the accepted practice that a home ground within easy walking distance of the place being represented would also be the venue for half of that club’s matches. The St.Kilda move and, to a lesser extent, North Melbourne’s short-lived sojourn at Coburg in the same year weakened that convention. At the same time, the arrangement whereby the Richmond and Melbourne clubs shared the M.C.G. became the first of a succession of ground-sharing deals that gradually reduced the number of League football venues in Melbourne. By 1996 Hawthorn and St.Kilda were sharing Waverley and Collingwood was playing the bulk of its home matches at the M.C.G. along with Melbourne, Richmond, Essendon and North Melbourne. Such arrangements would not have been possible in 1965, when all League matches were played simultaneously on Saturday afternoons. Since then, Carlton had welcomed Fitzroy and Hawthorn as cotenants at Princes Park at various times. Fitzroy’s resumé of tenancies included the club’s traditional home in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, the Princes’ Park ground, later dubbed ‘Optus Oval’, in North Carlton, St.Kilda’s Junction Oval, Collingwood’s Victoria Park ground in Abbotsford and the Western Oval, later named ‘Whitten Oval’, in West Footscray.

As the more primitive of Melbourne’s football grounds either fell into complete disuse or became simply training and administrative centres for League clubs, an expectation developed among football followers that League venues would be places that provided adequate seating and some measure of protection from the elements. Footscray’s Whitten Oval, however, provided neither of these. The ground was famous for its howling gales and its large areas of terraced, but predominantly unsheltered, mound. On a wet day one simply got wet. In a capacity crowd spectators unable to find suitable vantage positions saw little or none of the action. Nevertheless, as poor as facilities undoubtedly were, the ground was held in fond regard by more nostalgic barrackers as a throwback to an earlier less corporate era.

By 1996, however, nostalgia was not a commodity that could fill the coffers of a struggling football club. In corporate eyes, the Whitten Oval could no longer pass muster as a venue for elite Australian Football. For varied reasons many Footscray barrackers agreed. Gwen Connell, a supporter for 23 years, felt that facilities at Whitten Oval were a disincentive to opposition supporters to attend the ground.38 Ralph Edwards, a former player and backer of the task-force was sympathetic to the plight of the corporate sponsor.

We make them sit out in the rain to watch the game. Who’s going to want to pay for that. At Optus they can sit in comfort.39

A.O’Halloran of West Footscray agreed that Optus Oval was a better venue for the ‘influential sponsor’. However, she maintained that Whitten Oval was more suitable for the ‘ordinary supporter’.40

While it would require further research to determine whether any particular class of football barracker actually enjoyed getting wet at the football, the comments of Edwards and O’Halloran indicated a perception that a gap existed between the needs of the ‘influential’ members of a football club and those of the ‘ordinary’. Connell’s primary concern, which seemed to be for the comfort of visiting supporters, carried the amusing implication that Bulldog barrackers, unlike ‘visitors’, were a hardy lot who could endure anything. Taken collectively, the three comments merged into an altruistic concern for unfortunate members of the corporate sector and equally pathetic opposition supporters, corporate or otherwise, who needed special treatment because they lacked the battle-hardened toughness of the Bulldog rank-and-file.

Apart from the matter of spectator facilities, there was also considerable pressure on the club to move from Whitten Oval because of criticism of its playing surface. As part of its deal with the club, Maribyrnong Council undertook a project to re-grass the entire oval during the summer of 1996/97. Larry Noye, a regular correspondent to the Mail, emerged as a strong supporter of Whitten Oval, with the ‘impregnable’ home ground advantage that its idiosyncrasies allegedly gave the Bulldogs, during the home ground debate that continued to rage through the summer.41

Advocates of tradition over change were dealt a further blow when the A.F.L. ordered the transfer of the first of Whitten Oval’s two games for the season. The opening round clash with Fremantle was moved to Optus Oval after a ground inspection in February revealed that the ground would not be in a satisfactory condition.42 Larry Noye complained bitterly :

Paying Footscray ratepayers must trudge for the opening match to the ground promoted by the entrepreneurial John Elliot. If any ‘Son of the ‘Scray’ seeks to rest his weary stern on a seat, he must pay for it, as at 11 other ‘home’ games.43

John Elliot’s ground, with its newly built Legends Stand dedicated unashamedly to the glory of the Navy Blues, would not immediately make a happy home for many ‘Sons of the ‘Scray’. Larry Noye had exaggerated the problem slightly, however. It was not just his minor error in the calculation of the number of matches scheduled for Optus Oval but also the fact that Western Bulldogs supporters would be provided with more than adequate free seating at Optus Oval provided they were members of the club.

The ‘Stand Up and Be Counted’ television advertising campaign had been produced at no cost by Chris Joiner of Corporate Images, an Essendon supporter who was persuaded by Bulldogs board member, Trevor Flett of F.H.A. Design, to offer his services. Air-time on Channels 7 and 9 was donated to the club by several sponsors who insisted on remaining anonymous.44 The club was determined to increase its membership to the level needed to enable its survival. Membership would be encouraged not just by providing comfortable seating for those who joined, but by punishing those who didn’t.

The club’s public relations were dealt a savage blow in round one, when many outraged Bulldog supporters refused to pay the required price for a seat in John Elliot’s monument to the Carlton Football Club. Non-members who did not arrive early enough to secure a place in the strictly limited general admission area were required to pay $12 for reserved seating in the Legends Stand, in addition to the general admission price of $12.50. Even members who wished to sit with non-member friends in the Legends Stand were required to pay the $12 fee.45 The thrilling Western Bulldogs-Fremantle clash was played out in front of the ludicrous backdrop of an almost empty Legends Stand as hundreds of disgruntled fans walked away, refusing to pay for a reserved seat. The presence of a paltry 8,667 customers,46 at a match from which patrons were being turned away for being unwilling to pay $24.50, was clear evidence of a marketing disaster.

Following adverse press criticism of opening round seating arrangements the club’s president, David Smorgon, and chief executive officer, Mark Patterson, issued a public apology and announced details of a less prohibitive pricing structure for reserved seating at future Western Bulldogs home matches at Optus Oval. Entry to the Legends Stand would be free for members. Friends of members could purchase guest passes into the stand for $4 in addition to the general admission price. Other adults could pay $5 plus general admission for a seat. Concession rates would apply, where appropriate, on both the general admission fee and the cost of a seat.47 While the new prices would have softened the blow, attending a home match at Optus Oval was clearly a more complicated, albeit a more comfortable, pastime than paying general admission to stand on a terraced mound in windswept West Footscray.

As has already been shown, acceptance of change at Footscray was far from unanimous. In November 1996, the Footscray Forever Committee was formed to oppose the change of name. Among its members was a former captain and club president, Jack Collins, who complained about the undemocratic manner by which the board was instituting the change.48 By February, the pressure group was reported to be considering a Supreme Court challenge to the club. Committee spokesman, Randal Killip, claimed that he had received legal advice to the effect that the club could not change its name without the support of at least 75% of its members and signalled the committee’s intention to field candidates at the club’s annual general meeting.49 It was the primacy of the need for survival that ultimately persuaded the committee to compromise its stand. The reasons for its partial back-down were indicative of the football barracker’s powerlessness against the controlling bodies of the game. The A.F.L., whose long-term national agenda would have been helped by the demise of Footscray or, indeed, any of Melbourne’s less fashionable clubs, was sufficiently impressed by the changes which the taskforce was instituting to allow the club’s continued existence for the time being. According to Wayne Jackson, the club had proceeded ‘well beyond the point of no return’. On radio 3AW he expressed his hope that the ‘small group of people’ opposed to change would realise that the new board was giving the club a chance for survival that it would not otherwise have had. There was also the fact that $1 million worth of ‘Western Bulldogs’ merchandise was already in the market place.50 This was the coup-de-grace. ‘Footscray’, as a commodity, was dead.

By using emotional blackmail in the extenuating circumstance of economic necessity, the task-force and the A.F.L. combined to crush opposition to the reinvention of what had once been the ‘people’s club’. Jackson informed the Footscray Forever Committee that the league would be forced to ‘reconsider its options’ if the club altered the new direction in which it was heading.51 This thinly veiled threat to the club’s ongoing existence was enough to force the Footscray Forever Committee into compromise. The committee withdrew its threat of legal action and urged its members to rejoin the club to ensure their right to take part in a vote on the name change at the annual general meeting in December.52

Although committed to playing as the Western Bulldogs for the 1997 season, the club agreed to the end of year referendum. Smorgon, however, was interpreting the committee’s concern for the club’s ongoing existence as a back-down and was claiming it as a ‘major victory’. Either in arrogance or ignorance, he saw fit to boast:

We have started to change the way the club constituents within the club closer together.53

Dubious though his claim to have unified the club may have been, Smorgon was able to quote statistics which suggested that the policies of his task-force were working. He claimed that membership had increased by 127% and that the club had attracted fourteen new sponsors. Many of the new members had come from the specifically targeted outlying western region.54
As impressive as these claims may have sounded, however, they represented only the corporate view. In October, when the changes were first announced, Ross Brundrett, in the Herald Sun, had this to say about the corporate view:

That’s the view you get from looking at the game and its people from behind plate glass. It’s a sanitised, simplistic view which fails to take into account the emotional attachment to a club which was kept alive by the ordinary supporters back in 1989.55

Again, there was the perception of a dichotomy between the corporate and the ordinary. Brundrett himself may well have been a shade simplistic in his implied assertion that plate glass could filter the emotional attachment out of the relationship between a football club and its corporate backers.

Nevertheless a corporate entity’s strength rested on the quantitative rather than the qualitative. As every corporate citizen knew, emotional bonds were of no value until converted into hard currency. The transformation of Footscray into the Western Bulldogs was the expression of an economic rationalism into which some of the more well-heeled members of the bulldog community were able to channel their ‘irrational’ attachment to the club. Beneath the demands of an age in which economics enjoyed ascendancy over community, gemeinschaft would need to don gesellschaft’s cloak if it were to survive.

Although the name change did not have the unanimous support that Smorgon claimed, a successful 1997 season, in which the Western Bulldogs only narrowly missed a Grand Final berth, did much to quell opposition to the changes that the task force had instituted. At the end of the season the club claimed to have made an agreement with the Footscray Forever Committee to put the initials ‘F.F.C.’ on the back of the Western Bulldogs guernsey in exchange for the withdrawal of opposition to the name change. As a result Mark Patterson announced that there would be no vote on the matter at the annual general meeting. Smorgon claimed that the deal had been struck with Footscray Forever Committee member, Gareth Stephenson. Committee secretary, Marie Thompson, claimed that Stephenson had approached the club with the plan without the backing of the rest of the committee. The club executive remained insistent that the deal would stand.56 The barely visible initials, ‘F.F.C’, found their way on to the Bulldogs guernsey as agreed. Whether they stood for ‘Footscray Football Club’ or ‘Footscray Forever Committee’ may well provide amusing debate at trivia nights in the future, but the matter is scarcely important here. Suffice to say the initials on the Bulldogs guernsey survived into the twenty-first century as a monument to the death of democracy at the western club.

There was no contention regarding the ‘Bulldogs’ component of the club’s new identity, however. As Samantha Stott put it, ‘I could live with the name change because we always cheer for the Bulldogs anyway.’57 The club had been known, either formally or informally, as the Bulldogs since at least the early 1920s.

Nicknames were used freely by early twentieth century football journalists as a colloquial way of identifying teams. When St.Kilda, along with seven other rebel clubs, left the V.F.A. to form the V.F.L. in 1896, leaving Footscray as the only club in the V.F.A. playing in a combination of three colours, the ‘tricolours’ nickname became a popular moniker for Footscray. North Melbourne was popularly known as the ‘shinboners’. One theory for the origin of this nickname was that the club’s Arden Street ground had once been used for hurling, an Irish sport known colloquially as ‘shinbones’ because of the everpresent danger of players being hit in the shins by the sticks used for playing the game.58 Other theories attributed the name to a style of play traditionally associated with North Melbourne, a style necessitated by the tendency of the Arden Street ground to become a quagmire in wet weather, which produced similar danger to the shins of opponents as the aforementioned Irish hurling sticks.59 Still another explanation linked the club to the local meat industry that provided employment for many of the players.60 It became a custom among butchers in North Melbourne to decorate their shops on match days with blue and white ribbons tied around the shinbones of cattle.61

Club nicknames, however, were completely informal and it was not uncommon for journalists to confuse the issue in match reports. In the 1920 V.F.A. Grand Final report in the Independent the ‘magpies’, Brunswick, were said to be ‘fighting like demons’ in the thrilling final quarter. The tricolours, Footscray, responded to the challenge by ‘playing like tigers’.62 The real ‘tigers’, Richmond, had defected to the V.F.L. in 1908.

In the patriotic atmosphere immediately after World War 1, it became a common practice to ascribe admirable qualities such as courage and tenacity to the bulldog. This particular canine breed was associated with Britain. A football team that displayed the courage and tenacity of a bulldog could be linked to all the finest British qualities. This golden era of imperial patriotism coincided with a period during which the Footscray Football Club dominated the V.F.A. competition. Although courage and tenacity were not the exclusive property of Footscray, these bulldog qualities were more frequently applied to it than to any other club at this particular time. At a smoke night which followed Footscray’s 1920 premiership, a red, white and blue flag embellished with a picture of a bulldog and the words ‘bulldog tenacity’ was presented to club president, Dave Mitchell. The following year’s membership ticket featured a picture of a bulldog’s head.63 Although not formally adopted as the club’s emblem until 1938, the bulldog gradually became synonymous with Footscray.

The club’s era of dominance in the Association culminated in an end of season victory over the V.F.L. premier, Essendon, in 1924 and its entry into the V.F.L. the following year. After three years of predominantly lacklustre performances, the club’s form in the early part of the 1928 season was sufficiently impressive for its home match against the reigning premier, Collingwood, in late June to be treated by the press as the match of the day. In Footscray’s local paper, the Advertiser, the headlines boldly predicted that the ‘bull-dogs’ would not be scared by the reputation of the ‘magpies’. Former Footscray captain, Con McCarthy, ventured the opinion, ‘The “bull-dogs” are doing well … and, with ordinary luck … will be hard to beat.’64 The nickname was being used in the local press with a familiarity that required no explanation. The Sporting Globe, however, still felt it necessary to explain the term to its readers.

The game between the ‘bulldogs’, as the Footscray team is known locally, and Collingwood, the League leaders, aroused tremendous interest.65

Prior to the match Footscray committeeman, Jack Nobbs, introduced a novelty which also aroused some interest. By using his own pet bulldog as a team mascot,66 he gave the proverbial source of Footscray’s renowned tenacity a physical presence. Thus, the abstract was given concrete reinforcement in the public consciousness. Thankfully, Richmond never attempted the same tactic.

The Argus remarked that it had become ‘the fashion’ for clubs to adopt a mascot and offered an ironic explanation for Footscray’s defeat by Collingwood.

The attribute of the bulldog, ‘what he has he holds’, was in some degree responsible for the defeat on Saturday. With a lead of 20 points at the opening of the final quarter, gained by speed and enterprise, the Footscray plan of campaign was to ‘hold’ its advantage rather than increase it, and in so doing it played into the hands of Collingwood, who, aided by the breeze, finished with rare determination.67

The alleged attribute was reflected in the motto, ‘Cede Nullis’ (Yield To None), which the club adopted in 1937, the year prior to its official adoption of the Bulldogs emblem.68 This formalisation was the product of a gradual reinforcement of a public perception. The perception had been cultivated over two decades by media imagery and the isolated actions of individuals such as Jack Nobbs.

At Hawthorn, however, the adoption of the ‘Hawks’ emblem occurred much more suddenly. The hawthorn bush from which the suburb, and hence the football team, derived its name, was also known as the May bush because, as Harry Gordon explained in The hard way, it was at its most attractive in May ‘when it was covered in the gold of yellowing fruit and the brown of a bronzed foliage’.69 Its flowers were known as ‘mayblooms’ and were probably the inspiration behind the club’s colours of brown and gold. In any case the maybloom became the club emblem and persisted for almost two decades after Hawthorn’s entry to the V.F.L. in 1925.70 An alternative nickname arose briefly in 1933, when the club changed its guernsey design to a brown V on a yellow background. The ‘effect of the brown dripping into the yellow’ gave rise to the moniker, ‘mustard pots’. The changed guernsey, and the new nickname which went with it were abandoned after only one season.71

A more lasting change to the Hawthorn image occurred on 15 May 1943, when coach, Roy Cazaly, decreed that Hawthorn would henceforth be known as the ‘hawks’. Cazaly had long been annoyed by what he considered the effeminate connotations of the mayblooms label. He hoped that the new name would inspire the players to ‘fight hard and carry the ball away with pace and dash to the goal.’72

Cazaly’s rejection of a floral emblem in favour of that of a bird of prey reflected the growth of an aggressive professionalism which was relatively new in football’s middle class strongholds. In the period between the two world wars impoverished working class communities in suburbs like Collingwood and Richmond had found solace and strength in the exploits of football teams whose achievements were not hindered in any way by middle class baggage such as amateurism or notions of fair play. Tough economic conditions bred tough and ruthless footballers for whom football provided a possible escape route from grinding poverty. Their successes on the field gave their supporters a vicarious source of pride that the economic system denied them. Amateurism was the luxury of middle class clubs like Hawthorn and Melbourne. The price of this luxury, however, was on-field failure. In his association of the maybloom with effeminacy and his demand for a more aggressive image, Cazaly was declaring, in the gendered terminology typical of the time, his intention that Hawthorn would be seen as powerful. Melbourne had undergone a similar change of image when it rejected the fuschia for the demon in 1933. Coach ‘Checker’ Hughes was reported to have lambasted his players for ‘playing like a lot of flowers’, urging them instead to ‘play like demons’.73

The Sporting Globe announced Hawthorn’s Cazalyimposed nickname change and, the following week, carried the three-quarter time headline, ‘Hawks lead Melbourne’.74 The Hawthorn Standard, however, took two weeks to acknowledge the new name, and then only with the self-conscious protection of inverted commas. The headline on 2 June read:

HAWTHORN IN THE FOUR
‘Hawks’ Hold Fitzroy at Critical Stage of Play.75

Two weeks later a new milestone was reached in the local paper’s acceptance of the new nickname, when the editor allowed a passage of the text to tell readers that ‘North was unable to counter the Hawks’ fast and systematic play’. In the headline, however, Hawthorn was still the ‘Hawks’, i.e. with inverted commas.76 Only on 30 June did the Hawthorn Standard allow itself to use the new nickname naked.

TIGERS OVERWHELM HAWTHORN IN FIRST QUARTER
Hawks Fight Back Strongly in Rugged Game.77

Post-war popular journalism, in its brazen informality, no longer felt the need to use inverted commas around football club nicknames as a way of apologising for the use of colloquialism. The names themselves, once very informal and loosely applied, were eventually incorporated into official club logos and used freely and shamelessly by all branches of the media.

While Footscray had long been the Bulldogs rather than the ‘bull-dogs’, David Smorgon and his task-force took matters a little further. By including the nickname as a formal part of the club’s identity, the Western Bulldogs board was following the convention of American sporting franchises, for whom place and emblem shared equal billing. The Miami Dolphins or the Green Bay Packers were not usually called simply ‘Miami’ or ‘Green Bay’, except as an obvious abbreviation. The V.F.L. convention, until the 1980s, had been to refer to a team either by its formal or place name, e.g. Footscray, or its nickname, e.g. the Bulldogs, but rarely both. The expressions ‘Footscray Bulldogs’, ‘Richmond Tigers’ or ‘Collingwood Magpies’, although not completely unknown, did not conform to the usual syntax of Australian Rules nomenclature.

The first sign that the convention was changing occurred as a result of the South Melbourne Football Club’s relocation to Sydney. Prior to the 1982 season, it was announced that all South Melbourne home games would be played in Sydney. The V.F.L. had been experimenting with the scheduling of matches in Sydney for premiership points and believed that the severe financial woes that the club was experiencing could be overcome by developing a new market in Australia’s biggest city.

In late February, the Sporting Globe displayed the new club logo on its front page. It featured a swan against the backdrop of the Sydney Harbour Bridge with the words, ‘Sydney Swans’, which, the story explained, was the name by which the South Melbourne Football Club would be known in Sydney.78 The club’s administrative and training base would remain at the Lakeside Oval, Albert Park.

During the first half of the 1982 season, Melbourne newspapers continued to refer to the club by its traditional name. The Sporting Globe’s summary of results for round one showed that South Melbourne, with a score of 20 goals 17 behinds (137 points), had defeated Melbourne, 16 goals 12 behinds (108 points). The club was listed as ‘South Melbourne’ on the premiership table.79 This convention was observed until early June, when the V.F.L. announced that the club would, in future, be known as ‘The Swans’. The Sporting Globe dutifully reported that Richmond, 20 goals 14 behinds (134 points) had defeated The Swans, 18 goals 25 behinds (133 points). However the team which appeared in 8th position on the premiership table, with five wins and six losses, was simply called ‘Swans’, i.e. minus the definite article with its upper case letter, ‘T’.80 In his regular column in the Sporting Globe, Kevin Bartlett suggested that the letters, S.W.A.N., stood for ‘Side Without A Name’.81

Jokes aside, there was a looseness about the club’s identity which persisted for the first five years of its new era. Expressions such as ‘South Melbourne’, ‘South’, ‘The Swans’, ‘the Swans’, ‘Swans’ and ‘Sydney Swans’ were all used in Melbourne newspapers at various times in various contexts, although the first two terms disappeared from the vocabularies of even the most careless of commentators after the club abandoned its Lakeside headquarters at the end of the 1982 season.

The attraction of a new supporter base in Sydney, in addition to the existing Melbourne-based membership, created an interstate factionalism within the club, which the improved on-field performances of 1982 did little to quell. In August the Sporting Globe reported that the growing Sydney membership, which was by now bigger than that in Melbourne, and the club’s influential Sydney-based financial backers were clamouring to usurp control of the club from the existing board, many of whom had been associated with the Keep South At South movement which had fought to keep the club at Lakeside.82 By October the Sydney faction had taken control of the club and it was announced that the club would move permanently to Sydney.83

A thrilling one point win over Essendon in Sydney in the opening round of 1983 raised expectations of a successful season among the Swans’ supporters on both sides of the Murray. On 5 April, the Sporting Globe remarked that it was amazing how a club’s membership could be increased by success. The Melbourne-based membership, which had plummeted to 12 by the beginning of the season, increased to over 1,000 in the week following the win. The club’s old supporters were ‘coming out of the woodwork’ and jumping on the ‘Sydney Swans bandwagon’.84 However, after the club’s second home appearance for the season had yielded a 140-point drubbing at the hands of North Melbourne, the same publication was reporting that the wheels of the aforementioned bandwagon had fallen off. As if in complete denial of the problems that had forced the club to Sydney in the first instance, the Sporting Globe’s front page headline read, ‘Come home Swans! Sydney doesn’t want you!’ The report argued that the Sydney crowds, already below the average attendances at South Melbourne’s 1981 home games at Lakeside and still falling, would fall even further as a result of the North debacle. Fickle Sydney crowds would not tolerate lack of success.85
A year earlier, editor, Greg Hobbs, had written :

I sincerely hope South Melbourne make a better fist of things as the Sydney Swans in the Harbour City. Because there won’t be much to come back to if the Sydney mission collapses.86

He claimed that ‘many of the old diehards’ already felt as if they had lost their club. For these supporters, he suggested, life would never be the same again.87 Whether or not this was the case, the character of the club was changing beyond recognition. As the old diehards faded into anonymity, their lost club became a corporate plaything, teetering on the brink of extinction for the next decade, propped up at times by a V.F.L hell-bent on becoming an A.F.L. There could, and would, be no return to Lakeside. South Melbourne was gone.

Even so, it took the Melbourne media until 1987 to accept the newly defined club. The Sun, in its regular Monday summary of the previous weekend’s matches, continued to list the club as ‘Swans’ until the end of the 1986 season.88 Only in 1987 did the weekly summary pay the new entity the compliment of traditional nomenclature by referring to it simply as ‘Sydney’.89

The use of American syntax became more blatant when the V.F.L. competition expanded to Queensland and Western Australia in 1987. Perth’s composite team was not only a parvenu to the V.F.L., unlike Sydney, whose historical links with South Melbourne gave it a relative legitimacy in parochial Victorian eyes, but its name provided stark proof that an American consciousness was pervading Australian Football. The West Australian printed a letter from P.Murphy of Donnybrook complaining that ‘West Coast Eagles’ sounded like the name of a baseball team from Los Angeles. He suggested that the W.A.F.L., the body responsible for the formation of the club, could have come up with a more ‘dinkum’ name.90

The Western Australian league was limited in its options to an extent. It could not use the simple title, ‘Perth’, because a Perth Football Club already existed in its local competition. It would have also been inappropriate to name the club ‘Western Australia’ because that title rightfully belonged to the State-of-Origin side. Nevertheless, the combination of ‘West Coast’, a term applied to a peculiarly Californian style of radio-friendly commercial rock music, and ‘Eagles’, not only a potent symbol of America but also the name of a band instantly recognisable as an exponent of the aforementioned musical style, would have been particularly abhorrent to those who lamented the Americanisation of Australian cultural institutions.

Surprisingly, P.Murphy’s letter was the only sign of dissent in the correspondence pages of the West Australian, although the editor of that newspaper suggested, shortly after the launch of the new club, ‘Traditionalists may be dubious of the new concept, with its emphasis on American-style hype’. These misgivings notwithstanding, the editor felt that the new name, despite the lack of a certain ‘ring’ to it, would be accepted by the public after the new team had been through its ‘baptism of fire in the crucible of the V.F.L.’91 He continued by noting that ‘nothing stays the same forever’. Australian sport was changing in both style and substance. Even cricket, despite the considerable weight of its traditional values, had been transformed by media interests and marketeers in the late 1970s and early 1980s and it was inevitable that similar forces would influence football.92

When the West Coast Eagles and the Brisbane Bears joined the V.F.L. in 1987 there were suddenly 14 clubs instead of 12. Within the living memories of the vast majority of Victorian football followers there had always been 12 clubs which, until 1982, had all been based in Victoria. It mattered not that four of the ‘traditional’ twelve clubs, i.e. Richmond, Hawthorn, North Melbourne and Footscray, were not founding members of the League. Nor did it matter that one of the League’s original clubs, Geelong, was not even based in the same city as the others. In the context of the transport technology of 1897, the ‘pivotonians’ would have been as foreign as the Sydney, Brisbane and West Coast clubs were in 1987. It mattered not, even, that the V.F.L. itself was a splinter group that had broken away from the V.F.A. in 1896 for primarily economic reasons.

It became customary in the 1980s and 1990s for any innovations undertaken by football clubs or the League to be decried as a breach of tradition. Changes of home grounds, guernsey designs or club names, suggestions for the merger or relocation of struggling clubs and the creation of new clubs from outside Victoria were presented almost as the coming of the apocalypse. To many, longevity was the ultimate virtue and the essential foundation of tradition. New interstate clubs tended to be known, initially, by a seemingly contemptuous combination of place name and nickname until the passage of a few seasons granted them a degree of acceptance from the Melbourne audience. Tradition, in this popular sense at least, was a product of familiarity.

The potential for the development of a new syntactic tradition in club nomenclature became apparent in Adelaide shortly after the formation of the Adelaide Crows and the announcement of the club’s major sponsorship deal with Toyota. The adoption of sponsors’ names as a component of club identity was already accepted practice in such high-profile sports as baseball and basketball. The Adelaide Football Club’s original theme song, ‘Here We Go’, was an adaptation of a traditional English soccer chant which doubled as a Toyota Camry advertising jingle. The song referred to the club as the ‘Camry Crows’, an expression which was used by the popular daily press in Adelaide for a short period after the Toyota deal had been made. Subsequently the Adelaide press learned to tell the difference between the club’s official name and the sponsor’s wishful thinking. By the time the Adelaide team ran its premiership lap of honour in 1997, ‘The Pride of South Australia’ had long replaced ‘Here We Go’ as the club song. Toyota advertisements on many of Adelaide’s buses, however, still carried the words, ‘Camry Crows’.

Sponsors’ logos, which began to appear on club guernseys in 1977, became an integral part of each club’s uniform. In the 1990s supporters who purchased and wore official A.F.L. merchandise paid, in effect, for the privilege of being unpaid walking advertisements for their clubs’ sponsors. At the beginning of the twenty-first century the logical extension of advertising’s invasion of the club guernsey into the club’s formal identity had not yet been made. The bizarre scenario of a future Grand Final between, for example, the ‘Hyundai Blues’ and the ‘Drink Drive Bloody Idiot Tigers’ at, perhaps, the Microsoft Cricket Ground might have been considered possible, however.

In September 1996, while the Footscray Football Club’s new task-force was preparing to redefine the western suburban club, the Sydney Football Club was in the process of reinventing itself as an A.F.L. power. Thrilling home final victories over Hawthorn and Essendon, following an enormously successful home-andaway series, landed the harbour city club in its first Grand Final. A peculiar phenomenon occurred as the diehards of the early 1980s emerged from their anonymity. Suddenly, it was not uncommon in Melbourne to hear the club again referred to as ‘South’. The club’s historical roots became a popular topic in feature articles in Melbourne newspapers during the week preceding the big match.

Paul Croagh, the owner of the Cricket Club Hotel in Clarendon Street, South Melbourne, appeared on the pages of the Age, wearing a tightly fitting South Melbourne guernsey and proclaiming that his hotel was the ‘unofficial headquarters of the South Melbourne Football Club’. His nostalgic reminiscences of a Lakeside childhood included a vivid memory of a faceto- face meeting with his hero, Bob Skilton. Despite the fact that the ceiling of the pub was painted green, where it had once been red and white, Croagh said that it was beginning to feel ‘like the old days’. He said that many of his customers were Swans supporters and that it had been ‘standing room only’ at the pub during the Preliminary Final. Bernard Mandile, the owner of a continental delicatessen in South Melbourne, resplendent with red and white banners in the lead-up to the Grand Final, had provided ‘passionate resistance’ at the time of the relocation to Sydney. Like Paul Croagh, Mandile had been born into a family of South Melbourne supporters and believed that many of the club’s barrackers had remained loyal because ‘there is no choice when it’s in your blood.’93

At the Grand Final parade in the streets of Melbourne on the Friday before the match, a large contingent of Swans supporters was present among the estimated crowd of 50,000. The Age suggested that not all of these had crossed the border to get there.

Former South Melbourne supporters who have kept following the Swans since their move to Sydney appeared to be out in force. And North Melbourne fans were surprisingly restrained in their abuse of the interstate team.94

South Melbourne’s triple Brownlow Medal winner, and Paul Croagh’s childhood hero, Bob Skilton, felt that a Sydney victory in the Grand Final would unite the Swans ‘family’ on both sides of the border for all time. He went on:

Much of the bitterness about the relocation of South Melbourne in 1982 has already dissipated and the identity crisis that has troubled us all at times has largely been resolved. People accept now that Sydney’s roots are in South Melbourne and that there is no shame in this.95

Skilton’s words and the revival of interest in the Swans apparent in Melbourne in 1996 hinted at the last of Kübler-Ross’s stages in the grieving process, acceptance. Age journalist, Jake Niall, in an article in July that year, suggested that South Melbourne supporters had ‘long passed the emotional bereavement stage’. He suggested that old wounds had been healed by a combination of the club’s new-found success, an increased willingness of the Sydney administration to embrace, rather than shun, the club’s South Melbourne roots and the simple passage of time.96

The club’s increased exposure on television from 1982 onwards, with matches in Sydney televised live into Melbourne every second week, had raised the Swans’ profile. Old fans gradually accepted the idea of following their club on television and a new wave of supporters, raised on television football, were not averse to the idea of following an interstate club.97 Ironically, supporters who attended the club’s matches in Melbourne enjoyed a stronger sense of communion than supporters of more popular clubs because of the intimacy of being part of a smaller group. Gemeinschaft, far from being residual, had actually occurred as a by-product of the modernisation process.98

Jake Niall’s article had been prompted by a week of turmoil that had culminated in the merger of the Brisbane and Fitzroy clubs. Fitzroy, like the South Melbourne club in 1982, had a poor on-field record, a diminishing supporter base and massive debts. Its chief creditor, the Nauru Insurance Corporation that had saved the club from extinction two years earlier, was demanding immediate settlement of a $1.25 million debt. The club’s survival had become, literally, a week-to-week proposition. Only an A.F.L. decision to provide emergency funding had enabled the Lions to field a team for its round 13 engagement with Geelong. The paltry 10,504 who attended the Whitten Oval debacle that resulted in a 127-point win to the Cats did so on the understanding that this might have been Fitzroy’s last appearance.99 The club had signed a heads of agreement on 11 May to merge with North Melbourne100 and the A.F.L. Commission on 1 July threatened to remove all funding if the club could not finalise a merger and satisfy all creditors by 12 noon on Friday 5 July. The League agreed to underwrite expenses for just one more match, against Essendon on 6 July.101

Believing that a reduction in the number of Melbourne-based clubs was essential to the success of its expanding national competition, the League had offered a $6 million inducement to any clubs willing to join forces and the North Melbourne and Fitzroy clubs appeared set to take up the offer. The merger could, however, be vetoed by a two-thirds majority of club presidents and doubts had begun to emerge as to whether the clubs would agree to it. North Melbourne was insisting that the new club be allowed an expanded player list in its initial stages. Most clubs were arguing that this would give the merged entity an unfair advantage. In addition, Footscray was demanding compensation for a breach of Fitzroy’s agreement to play at Whitten Oval.102

As the deadline drew closer it became apparent that North Melbourne was not going to be easily swayed from its insistence on an extended list. Meanwhile, Brisbane Bears chairman, Noel Gordon, who had met with Fitzroy president, Dyson Hore-Lacey, in March to discuss merger possibilities, had prepared an alternative proposal to put to the League. It was Noel Gordon who emerged triumphant from the League meeting on 4 July that rejected the North-Fitzroy proposal in favour of a merger between Fitzroy and Brisbane.103

With the demise of the Fitzroy Football Club as an A.F.L. competitor in its own right, the imagery of death abounded in the Melbourne media. One of the more eloquent mourners was Ken Merrigan of the Sunday Age.

Football, the hoary old witticism runs, isn’t a matter of life and death. It’s more important than that. Life and death. The newspaper posters spoke of an A.F.L. club being born. Strangely, some of us had a nagging suspicion that a club had just passed away, loved but under-nourished. R.I.P. It had been on artificial respiration for a decade.104

The Kübler-Ross analogy was apparent in much of the reporting of the reaction of Fitzroy supporters and officials to the club’s downfall. The editorial in the same issue of the Sunday Age reminded readers that when it had been revealed, two months earlier, that the Fitzroy Football Club was close to merger, the response from officials had been denial.105 After the previous week’s match against Geelong, Martin Flanagan had described the anger of one particular Fitzroy supporter to the possibility that he had just witnessed the club’s last game. He was ‘twisting like a creature impaled on a spike … screaming “I hate the A.F.L.! I hate the A.F.L.!”’106 Dyson Hore-Lacy, Q.C., whose preferred option for Fitzroy had been the North Melbourne proposal, reacted to the ambush of that deal by Brisbane and the A.F.L. with this loaded observation.

I’ve been appearing for crims for 25 years, but I never knew what a real crook was until I became involved in football administration.107

While Hore-Lacy’s comment was vulnerable to charges of hyperbole, popular perceptions of football administrators took a battering in the latter half of the 1990s as financially-driven decisions by the A.F.L. continued to alienate a growing section of the football public. The decision in 1997 to sell the Waverley Park stadium in order to finance the League’s investment in the Docklands project was perceived by many observers as a disenfranchisement of people living in Melbourne’s demographic centre. This was the same area that the V.F.L. had vigorously targeted in the 1960s in its initial decision to build the stadium. The Sunday Herald Sun’s Rod Nicholson saw the Waverley decision as the continuation of the same process embodied in the Brisbane-Fitzroy merger.

The A.F.L. commissioners are again telling the Victorian football public to ‘like it or lump it’. Unconcerned that ‘a few’ Fitzroy supporters may turn their collective backs on the code now the club has been shunted interstate after 113 years, the commissioners have decided what is best for the 1.2 million footy followers who live in Melbourne’s south-east.108

In 1998 retired coach, Tom Hafey, and League chief, Wayne Jackson, presented the opposing sides in the Waverley-Docklands debate in an article in the Herald Sun. Hafey argued that the League already owned Waverley and that it was ideally located for attracting the many young families in Melbourne’s southern and eastern suburbs. It was also a perfect catchment area for football fans from the Latrobe Valley and Gippsland. Another advantage was that the ground was large enough to ensure seating for all without the need for reservation. Hafey stressed, also, the popularity of the ground and expressed his hope that ‘the quick buck [would not] take precedence over what the football public want[ed].’109

Wayne Jackson’s argument focussed on the financial benefits of selling the old stadium to finance the new. The $80 million expected to be raised by the sale of Waverley would not only pay the League’s $30 million commitment to Docklands but would also provide funding for a proposed new statebased Victorian football structure as well as national development of football at the grassroots level. At no point did Jackson address the issue of the popularity or otherwise of the League’s decision.110 The League’s attitude, as had been the case in the 1960s, was that what it regarded as being in the best interests of football was more important than the public’s preferences. Football’s best interests would be served by whatever course of action would generate the most revenue for the Game.

This same insatiable need, and perhaps greed, for money on the part of football administrators had been at the core of the Footscray name change. The attitude of the Western Bulldogs’ Board to the Footscray Forever Committee was symptomatic of a worsening malaise affecting relations between football officialdom and fans. Mike Feehan’s outburst against supporters who complained about the club’s decisions illustrated the growing unwillingness of football clubs to sanction dissent. The same lack of tolerance by a club board to organised activity beyond its control was apparent in the attitude of the new board that seized power at Collingwood at the end of 1998. Eddie McGuire’s moves to assume more direct control of an already heavily regulated cheersquad were an indication that the new Magpie administration wanted to disempower all possible avenues of dissent. The club’s new attitude also affected its relationship with the unofficial internet fan site, Nick’s Collingwood Page.

Initially set up as a simple gesture of homage to the club by Nick Wilson, a young technologically aware Tasmanian in 1996, Nick’s site quickly surpassed the official club site, launched a year earlier, in the services it provided for Collingwood fans. Among its innovations were Australia’s first on-line ‘live’ scoreboard, featuring the first Collingwood chat room. It also provided the first bulletin board specifically for Collingwood supporters. In cooperation with the club, Nick set up a facility through which fans could send email messages to players. This involved liaison with Richard Stremski, the historian and former La Trobe University academic who was elected to the Collingwood board in 1997 and the club’s then chief executive officer, John May.111

By 2000, however, relations between the club and Nick’s Collingwood Page had broken down. Prior to the 2000 season Collingwood had developed a new web-site through the Sportsview company. Embracing the perceived commercial potential of an increasingly sophisticated internet, the Collingwood Football Club came to regard Nick’s site as a competitor rather than an ally. Where Nick’s site had previously been sent weekly official media releases from the club, it was now kept in the dark. Collingwood’s media communications and public relations manager, Robert Pyman explained, in reply to inquiries from Nick’s father, Mike Wilson, concerning the lack of information forthcoming:

All that information is available on the [official] web-site. We only send out media releases to the media through the A.F.L. We don’t want just anyone turning up to our media events.112

When asked by Mike Wilson what was happening to the fan mail that was being sent to the club through Nick’s site, Pyman’s reply suggested that it was being ignored. As Wilson expressed it in a posting on Nick’s Bulletin Board, ‘I could tell that he thought I was just some crackpot with a web-site who was wasting his valuable time.’113

The end of turnstile sufficiency, simultaneously a cause and an effect of the commercialisation of football in the last two and a half decades of the twentieth century, paved the way for football’s administrators to gain the upper hand in their ongoing relationship with the barrackers. The A.F.L., in courting the corporate sector, displayed an increasing contempt towards the mass support upon which its predecessor, the V.F.L., had relied. Clubs, too, pursued their respective corporate agendas often in direct defiance of their supporters’ wishes, relying on an assumed unconditional devotion on the part of their followers. The precarious financial knife-edge upon which clubs walked enabled emotional blackmail to quell most dissent.

The ongoing sustainability of this co-dependent relationship between club and fan, however, looked questionable by the end of the century. The price of bargaining was becoming too high for growing numbers of less affluent supporters, and national expansion of the competition was making live television coverage an increasingly important vehicle of community formation. Whether an increasingly passive television audience would be emotional enough to be as easily blackmailed as the crowds that had once thronged the terraces looked problematical. So too did the tractability of football’s new on-line community, whose intelligence the administrators had insulted in their determination to reduce an essentially interactive technology into yet another passive consumerist avenue for League and club propaganda.

1 Lack et al, op.cit., pp.249-251.
2 Ibid., pp.252-253.
3 Ibid., pp.254-256.
4 Ibid., pp.257-259.
5 Kübler-Ross, op.cit., p.72.
6 ‘A brief history of Slater & Gordon’, Slater & Gordon, Solicitors. Internet site. Accessed 27 June 2000 at http://www.slatergordon.com.au
7 ‘Who’s Who’, Slater & Gordon, Solicitors. Internet site. Accessed 27 June 2000 at http://www.slatergordon.com.au
8 Lack et al, op.cit., pp.259-264.
9 Mail, (Footscray) 11 September 1996, p.1.
10 Ibid.
11 Ibid., p.3.
12 Age, 7 September 1996, p.A1.
13 Ibid.
14 Ibid.
15 Ibid.
16 Age, 11 September 1996, p.C16.
17 Mail, 11 September 1996, p.1.
18 Age, 11 September 1996, p.C16.
19 Herald Sun, 28 October 1996, p.77.
20 Mail, 23 October 1996, p.1.
21 Mail, 23 October 1996, p.9.
22 Ibid.
23 Ibid.
24 Mail, 30 October 1996, p.1.
25 Comments made on 3AW Sports Show, cited in Lack et al, op.cit., p.249, with a reference to Sunday Press, 30 April 1989.
26 Herald Sun, 26 October 1996, p.103.
27 Mail, 20 November 1996, p.13.
28 Mail, 30 October 1996, p.1.
29 Mail, 20 November 1996, p.13.
30 Mail, 27 November 1996, p.24.
31 Herald Sun, 26 October 1996, p.10.
32 Mail, 30 October 1996, p.7.
33 Mail, 30 October 1996, p.3.
34 Mail, 20 November 1996, p.5.
35 Mail, 13 November 1996, p.16.
36 Mail, 30 October 1996, p.5.
37 Ibid.
38 Ibid.
39 Ibid.
40 Ibid., p.7.
41 Ibid.
42 Mail, 12 March 1997, p.3.
43 Mail, 26 March 1997, p.12.
44 Mail, 19 February 1997, p.15.
45 Mail, 2 April 1997, p.3.
46 Herald Sun, 31 March 1997, p.42.
47 Ibid.
48 Mail, 20 November 1996, p.5.
49 Mail, 5 February 1997, p.1.
50 Age, 13 February 1997, p.B6.
51 Mail, 19 February 1997, p.3.
52 Ibid.
53 Ibid.
54 Age, 13 February 1997, p.B6.
55 Herald Sun, 28 October 1996, p.19.
56 Herald Sun, 3 October 1997, p.10.
57 Mail, 29 January 1997, p.26.
58 Herald Sun, 1 April 1999, special supplement, Football’s fabulous century, Part 6, p.6.
59 Ibid.
60 Ibid.
61 Sandercock and Turner, op.cit., p.51.
62 Independent, (Footscray) 16 October 1920, p.1.
63 Lack et al, op.cit., p.68.
64 Advertiser, 23 June 1928, p.1.
65 Sporting Globe, 23 June 1928, p.2.
66 Lack et al, op.cit., p.105.
67 Argus, 25 June 1928, p.6.
68 Lack et al, op.cit., p.124.
69 Gordon, op.cit., p.46.
70 Ibid.
71 Ibid., p.63.
72 Ibid., p.78.
73 Herald Sun, 8 April 1999, special supplement, Football’s fabulous century, Part 8, p.3.
74 Sporting Globe, 22 May 1943, p.3.
75 Hawthorn Standard, 2 June 1943, p.3.
76 Hawthorn Standard, 23 June 1943, p.3.
77 Hawthorn Standard, 30 June 1943, p.3.
78 Sporting Globe, 23 February 1982, p.1.
79 Sporting Globe, 30 March 1982, p.6.
80 Sporting Globe, 8 June 1982, p.27.
81 Sporting Globe, 8 June 1982, p.2.
82 Sporting Globe, 3 August 1982, p.1.
83 Sporting Globe, 12 October 1982, p.20.
84 Sporting Globe, 5 April 1983, p.31.
85 Sporting Globe, 12 April 1983, p.1.
86 Sporting Globe, 23 March 1982, p.45.
87 Ibid.
88 Sun, 25 August 1986, p.63.
89 Sun, 6 April 1987, p.85.
90 West Australian, 6 November 1986, p.8.
91 West Australian, 1 November 1986, p.8.
92 Ibid.
93 Age, 25 September 1996, pp.A1-A2.
94 Age, 28 September 1996, p.A1.
95 Age, 28 September 1996, p.B23.
96 Age, 7 July 1996, SPORTSWEEK, p.17.
97 Ibid.
98 Ibid.
99 Age, 1 July 1996, SPORTSMONDAYFOOTBALL, p.5.
100 Sunday Age, 12 May 1996, p.1.
101 Age, 2 July 1996, p.1.
102 Age, 3 July 1996, p.B15-B16.
103 Age, 5 July 1996, p.1.
104 Sunday Age, 7 July 1996, p.18.
105 Ibid.
106 Age, 1 July 1996, SPORTSMONDAYFOOTBALL, p.12.
107 Sunday Age, 7 July 1996, p.1.
108 Sunday Herald Sun, 30 March 1997, SPORT, p.22.
109 Herald Sun, 11 September 1998, p.19.
110 Ibid.
111 ‘The Collingwood Football Club and Nick’s
Collingwood Page’, posted on Nick’s Collingwood Page. Internet site. Updated 18 April 2000. Accessed 18 April 2000 at http://www.magpies.org.au/nick/ubb/Forum1/HTML/000341.html
112 Ibid.
113 Ibid.

Click Here to view Dr Alf Andrew’s complete thesis

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Bulldogs: Overused overkill. Western underused and superfluous

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One excuse used by the four man ‘Bulldogs Taskforce’ back in October 1996 why we needed to change our name from Footscray to Western Bulldogs- was that Footscray was a restriction on ‘growing the brand’. Our football club is apparently a ‘brand’ similar to dish washing liquid, fly spray or dog food, rather than a deep personal and family attachment passed down from generation to generation.

This was what the Western Bulldogs President of 13 years – David Smorgon was quoted saying in 2008 from the –

What’s In a Name? Plenty:

AGE article from Tuesday 8th June 2008

Here directly below between the unbroken lines is the exact quote from the Peter Hanlon story. The entire article is here as a separate chapter in this website

Smorgon says, because of a belief that the club’s identity was limited, that as Western Bulldogs they could better tap into sponsorship, build coteries and other support from the entire western region of Melbourne, with its 600,000-plus people. “We felt that Footscray was a restriction on growing our brand.”

If so then why is the Western in Western Bulldogs, 90% of the time an invisible faceless word? Western is hardly ever used and only in conjunction with ‘Bulldogs’ following it. Is there anywhere that Western is used singularly without the Bulldogs? – North Melbourne is usually abbreviated to North and South Melbourne was just South. The Melbourne part only ever followed the North and South – which was justifiable as there is already a team named Melbourne.

The Footscray situation is different because Western is supposedly the magnet to increasing our support. Melbourne alone was not the cornerstone of North (Melbourne) and South (Melbourne) – they are and were individual identities with the emphasis on them being North Melbourne and South Melbourne. So why is the ‘Bulldogs’ word used every single time and Western never used independently from Bulldogs? ‘Western’ is to the Western Bulldogs what the North and South are and was to both North Melbourne and South Melbourne. The direction (North and South) is what defines them both, opposed to our case (Western) where our direction is a ‘third rate loser’

THE TWO STAND UP COMEDIANS.

THE COMIC & HIS/HER DEAD PAN ASSISTANT- OURS ARE AROUND THE WRONG WAY!

Footscray as a club now described in two guises

(1) Western Bulldogs
(2) Bulldogs

It is never called just ‘Western’- nowhere will anyone ever see –

(a) Geelong v Western, Collingwood v Western, Essendon v Western etc
(b) Western v Hawthorn, Western v Carlton, Western v St Kilda etc

And when abbreviated the name appears in these formats –

  • W.Bulldogs
  • The Bulldogs
  • Dogs
  • Doggies
  • W.B.
  • The Dogs

And to a much lesser degree as

  • W.Bullies

Never is the club presented in an abbreviated mode as

  • Western B.
  • Western Dogs
  • Western Bull
  • Western Bulls
  • Western Bullies
  • West B
  • West D.
  • West Bull
  • West Bulls
  • West Dogs

Let alone plain Western on its own

So the logic of changing the name from Footscray to Western Bulldogs is not about consolidating a connection with the west. What it stands for is the cause of being Anti- Footscray. It is not about being Pro- Western suburbs or Pro-Western Region or Pro -western ‘whatever’ It is at pure bigotry towards Footscray. If Footscray was a race, religion, nationality, ethnic group, gender, etc it would be considered discrimination, but as Footscray is ‘just a suburb’- there is no crime of ‘suburb phobia’ as there is with racism, and religious bigotry etc. Footscrayphobia isn’t documented like other phobias- but it could be argued that there is definitely a place for that affliction to be medically recorded.

Western is supposed to be the comedian- the bulldogs should be the dead pan side kick. However we have it the wrong way around as Western is the side kick, bulldogs takes the top billing

Brad Johnson article in ‘THE BULLDOG’ magazine

The club’s official publication – ‘the Third Quarter’ edition of ‘THE BULLDOG’ magazine has an article from page 8 about Brad Johnson, celebrating him gaining the great honour of having played the most number of games for the team. The opening paragraph of this article on page 9 begins in this way as shown below –

It’s Round 8 1994. The Bulldogs are playing Collingwood at Western Oval. With eight wins and seven losses, it’s a crucial game in the scheme of season nearing the end point for the Alan Joyce – coached side.

Why is it written that way? One team is being recorded by its nickname and their opponents described by their real name.

It’s Round 8 1994. The Bulldogs are playing Collingwood at Western Oval. With eight wins and seven losses, it’s a crucial game in the scheme of season nearing the end point for the Alan Joyce – coached side.

The correct or consistent way would be to start that paragraph as either of the following –

✓ It’s Round 8 1994. Footscray are playing Collingwood at Western Oval. With eight wins and seven losses, it’s a crucial game in the scheme of season nearing the end point for the Alan Joyce- coached side.

✓ It’s Round 8 1994. The Bulldogs are playing The Magpies at Western Oval. With eight wins and seven losses, it’s a crucial game in the scheme of season nearing the end point for the Alan Joyce- coached side.

The reasons for those two above examples being correct are

Correctness: The fact was that Footscray was our official name, back then in July 1994 not ‘The Bulldogs.’ It was Footscray v Collingwood, not The Bulldogs v Collingwood

Consistancy: It is either the real name or the nickname for both teams. If we need to be referred to by our nickname, then so should the other team. The Bulldogs v The Magpies- although trivialising both clubs when used as the introduction of both is childish- it is at least consistent. There is another chapter on FNWB about the club being trivialised by the over use of the bulldog(s)

Back to ‘The Bulldog’ magazine. Why doesn’t the club call it ‘The Western’ or ‘The Westerner’? That may be a matter of semantics- but this is the emphasis again on the bulldog part of the name rather than the western. If the target audience is the western suburbs/region- it certainly isn’t obvious because all the emphasis is given to the bulldog(s) Western is superfluous.

Western does not justify its existence; or rather it has no opportunity to present its case, because it sits in the basement while bulldogs receive the top billing and neon lights. Western may as well be discarded from the name- because what is the purpose of it? The club could be just the ‘BULLDOGS’ in the same way that North Melbourne was from seasons 1999 to the end of season 2007 just ‘KANGAROOS’. (and without the ‘THE’ in front of Kangaroos).I wouldn’t support that- we must return to being Footscray- being just BULLDOGS is equally wrong as WESTERN BULLDOGS; however the club would at least move up the list alphabetically as below with both the current alphabetical listing and then a revised one should Western be thrown to the doghouse, as these two tables below show.

Alphabetical listing as Western Bulldogs Alphabetical listing just as Bulldogs
1 Adelaide 1 Adelaide
2 Brisbane 2 Brisbane
3 Carlton 3 Bulldogs
4 Collingwood 4 Carlton
5 Essendon 5 Collingwood
6 Fremantle 6 Essendon
7 Geelong 7 Fremantle
8 Hawthorn 8 Geelong
9 Melbourne 9 Hawthorn
10 North Melbourne 10 Melbourne
11 Port Adelaide 11 North Melbourne
12 Richmond 12 Port Adelaide
13 St Kilda 13 Richmond
14 Sydney 14 St Kilda
15 West Coast 15 Sydney
16 Western Bulldogs 16 West Coast
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Where are the fans won over to the name changed Western Bulldogs?

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Groucho & Einstein

Does anyone really know someone in particular from the Western Suburbs of Melbourne or anywhere for that matter that changed club allegiance FROM their own non- Footscray team, TO the Western Bulldogs AFTER and BECAUSE Footscray became the Western Bulldogs?

Well I always believed no-one at all who was a resident of the “Western Region” changed their support for Collingwood, Carlton, Essendon, Richmond, Geelong, Hawthorn etc to the Western Bulldogs until receiving this correspondence back in 2005.

Again what is the Western Region / Western Suburbs and where does the Western Region / Western Suburbs start and finish? When and where do the Western Region / Western Suburbs become the Eastern / Southern and Northern Region / Suburbs?

Anyhow just underneath in blue is one person that was evidently won over to the club by the name change according to her brother who dispatched this to FNWB in 2005. Here is the proof of the success of Western Bulldogs replacing Footscray according to this bloke. Nothing has been altered or changed in this email, it is exactly as he sent it, copied and pasted, containing his own particular and unique spelling and syntax.

I am baffled by your explanations on your FNWB websites, as to the reasons why our wonderful football club should be called it original Foostcray name and not it’s current Western Bulldogs.

You seemed to pre-ocupied with the idea that if the name change is good enough for us, why is it not so with the other nine melbourne based clubs. You seem to take no notice of the fact the each club is a individual corporate enity, and therefore must make decisions regarding it’s own business opperations. You’re jokes of the Eastern Hawks and Northern Blues are ridiculous, as is the point you’re trying to make, but you make no mention to the fact that these clubs have individual business requirements, and therefore what works for one club, may not be best for another club.

Our club traditionally has had one of the lowest supporter bases in both the VFL and the subsequent AFL, duely with that, our club has also suffered a lack of on field success, which again impacts of our ability to attract new supporters. For these reasons, amougst others, our club has not been able to have the financial cushions enjoyed by our neighbouring clubs over the years. South Melbourne and Fitzroy neither had these elements as well, but these clubs failed to look outward and be pro-active in their business’, and thererfore were forced by the competition government to relocate interstate. I argue that the name change to the Western Bulldogs, which I would support if asked to vote for, has played a part in keeping this club in the Western suburbs of Melbourne. I grew up in the Western Suburbs, not Footscray, but outer western, and now live in West Footscray, and are extremely proud of my western herritage, and thus more proud to support Western Bulldogs than Footscray.

I argue that the name change hasn’t meant that everyone from the west has changed their club alligance, yes still there are Collingwood supporters in St. Albans, but you fail understand the name change attracts to a new breed of supporter, one looking for a team to support. A supporter growing to support the Western Bulldogs, not changing simply because of the name. However, I will admit that my sister was a life long North Melbourne Supporter, but now feels it important that she supports the Bulldogs, since they have become a club of the Western Suburbs, and she is a Western Suburbs girl. She has no interest in the Kangaroos more. You may have been lost to the Western Bulldogs, but so many more have been won.

The name change by an un-elected board in October 1996 may be unliked by some, like you, but has this board been elected out of office since? Smorgan was the leading figure then, and allthough certain board members have been replaced, he was re-elected just last year into the position. Why hasn’t anyone has shares your point of view stood for the presidency or board membership at the club? Is there not enough of you out there? Apparently, according to you, there is enough to the change the name again in a vote.

And by the way, the club is still the Footscray Football Club, it trades as the Western Bulldogs. Simiarly I work for ‘Sims Markette’, which trades as ‘Sims Supermarket West Foostscray’, and I don’t hear any of the loyal customers complaining.

I would enjoy and educated argument with you, as in the end we are both loyal followers of the red, white and blue. Feel free to come to Sims on Barkly St, not far from the Footscray Football Club, trading as the Western Bulldogs. Just ask for Groucho.

Regards
“Groucho Einstein”

Well Groucho Einstein isn’t this bloke’s real name I have selected that as I wasn’t sure whether he was a comedian or a genius so I adopted Groucho Einstein rather than say Albert Marx or anything else. Similar to the cricketing scenario when the fieldsman chases the ball and when returning it for a possible run out, throws it to the centre of the wicket because said fieldsman claims that he couldn’t decide whether to throw it to the bowler’s end or the keepers end.

I was going to leave out the part Groucho wrote about his job, so as not to unnecessarily identify him and his workplace, but as it was such a crucial part of his argument and it would have meant his correspondence was edited and thus not the whole story. Therefore I decided that it could NOT be left out. So only his name was changed.

So there above is one fan from the Western Suburbs / Western Region that the name change attracted to the club.

I argue that the name change hasn’t meant that everyone from the west has changed their club alligance, yes still there are Collingwood supporters in St. Albans, but you fail understand the name change attracts to a new breed of supporter, one looking for a team to support. A supporter growing to support the Western Bulldogs, not changing simply because of the name. However, I will admit that my sister was a life long North Melbourne Supporter, but now feels it important that she supports the Bulldogs, since they have become a club of the Western Suburbs, and she is a Western Suburbs girl. She has no interest in the Kangaroos more. You may have been lost to the Western Bulldogs, but so many more have been won.

Well Western does mean something to someone and so many more although I don’t know who these ‘so many more’ are as there is no elaboration about them. As for this new breed of supporter how often does this new breed come through? Also what is this new breed of supporter and whatever they are why would a club who changed their name to a direction necessarily and automatically appeal to this ‘new breed of supporter’

Somewhat funny how Footscray having our name changed to Western Bulldogs means that we are now ‘a club of the Western Suburbs’ yet were of no or minimal appeal to the Western Suburbs prior to 1997 when we were the only team in Melbourne playing its home games in the western suburbs of Melbourne! However the new (of 1996) administration changed our name to Western and that means we really are a team of this west although the new administration decided we had to play our home games at Carlton in Melbourne’s northern suburbs. So all these people from the outer western suburbs like G.E can feel more attached to the club now on a Saturday afternoon going to the game. Yes all of them are now leaving home (or the supermarket) earlier to watch the Western Bulldogs take on West Coast or Fremantle at the Docklands than what they did when watching Footscray playing either of those two at the Whitten Oval in 1996. So when their turning from Ashley Street into Barkly Street and progressing down Barkly Street to not long before it changes its name to Dynon Road they will pass the Whitten Oval, wave to it as they go by. Then they remember how they need to fill up with petrol or they won’t have enough to get to the Docklands and back. As their filling up with fuel they all feel such happiness that they are travelling into the city rather than to West Footscray, as it reinforces to them how important it is that they now support a club that is truly ‘of the Western Suburbs’

And by the way, the club is still the Footscray Football Club, it trades as the Western Bulldogs. Simiarly I work for ‘Sims Markette’, which trades as ‘Sims Supermarket West Foostscray’, and I don’t hear any of the loyal customers complaining.

It is funny how dummies like me haven’t picked up on it yet or still need to be reminded ‘by the way’ that it is still the Footscray Football Club trading as the Western Bulldogs? Well I feel better now, knowing that.

For some strange unexplainable reason, I assumed Footscray was gone forever. Maybe I should look harder at the footy record or the newspapers because I can only read it as Essendon v Western Bulldogs in the newspapers or in the record? Or perhaps glasses are in order when at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, and both the scoreboards proclaim – Melbourne v WB?
I just can’t hear or see Footscray anymore, is something wrong with my eyes or hearing because it is still part of the official name (Footscray Football Club Trading as Western Bulldogs) as GE points out? It sounds feasible that if Oscar Wilde could come back from the dead, he would support us because we are without doubt “The Club That Dare Not Speak Its Name’?

As for the Sims Supermarkets or whatever they are called now, am I expected to refuse to go there anymore (even if they dropped their prices) because they changed their name? Yes absolutely for sure, I should be consistent and walk (or drive if too far to walk) past there and go somewhere else and pay more on groceries and petrol to get to another shop because this supermarket has a new name. Maybe you would drive past it too and be also outraged at any and every grocery store that changes its name?

And by the way, the club is still the Footscray Football Club, it trades as the Western Bulldogs. Simiarly I work for ‘Sims Markette’, which trades as ‘Sims Supermarket West Foostscray’, and I don’t hear any of the loyal customers complaining.

I would enjoy and educated argument with you, as in the end we are both loyal followers of the red, white and blue. Feel free to come to Sims on Barkly St, not far from the Footscray Football Club, trading as the Western Bulldogs. Just ask for Groucho.

Well I am not smart enough in such esteemed company to ‘enjoy and educated argument??? Then I can’t feel free to go to that supermarket because it changed its name. Money making concerns like supermarkets changing their name really upset me more than 100 year old football clubs that have been in the family for generations.

Anyway now that the Kangaroos are North Melbourne again, I wonder what his sister thinks about her old club reverting back to North Melbourne?

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City of Footscray 150 years 1859-2009

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It is the 150th anniversary of Footscray the municipality

City of Footscray

With the disappearance of the old Footscray Council- it now dispenses services under the name of the City of Maribyrnong, the upcoming 150th anniversary of Footscray being awarded the status of a municipality will not receive the kudos and fanfare that it deserves. If the City of Maribyrnong was still the City of Footscray there would definitely be major commemorations surrounding it. Sadly it will almost be like what happened or rather didn’t happen in 1998.That year was the 100th anniversary of the Footscray Football Clubs first senior Premiership back in 1898. Hardly anyone knew about it and it was not celebrated in any way. Last year there was no club organised 30th anniversary get together to remember the Saturday July 1st 1978 when we kicked the record score.

Footscray became a municipal city in 1859 and this continued on until 1994, the ‘Footscray Council’ as such and in that name functioned for 135 years. This concluded in 1994, when the then state government of the day (led by the current President of the Hawthorn Football Club) decided in their wisdom to amalgamate councils across Victoria. Therefore the City Of Footscray was disestablished and the City of Maribyrnong was its new name. This happened all over Victoria- it had nothing to do with Footscray or the football club, the decision was made by the Victorian state government.

Yet happily the City of Maribyrnong is making a bit of a fuss about the 150 anniversary of Footscray. There will be a gala day in the Footscray Mall on Sunday 18th July 2009.

For such a big milestone there will be recollections and reminisces from leading Footscray citizens as well as celebrity ex Footscray residents who may hopefully attend. Footscray’s most well known institution is the Footscray Football Club and surely the football club would be represented. Yet would it be correct to have the President of the Western Bulldogs there? Remember the advertisements from Victor Kiam about Remington shavers-

Victor Kiam
“I liked the shaver so much, I bought the company!”
Victor Kiam

What could the Western Bulldogs President say about the 150th anniversary of Footscray- it certainly wouldn’t and couldn’t be anything resembling the stamp of approval that Victor Kiam provided for Remington Shavers? A probable example along the lines of-

My opinion of Footscray was such that as soon as I take over, I decided that the Footscray name MUST be removed totally from all facets of the football club -because when you think of Footscray you think of 3rd rate losers lacking success.

Yes that would be the perfect paradoxical way for “The Bulldogs” to commemorative Footscray’s 150th anniversary. Probably best that he either stays at home in Toorak, or goes out somewhere else rather than appear in the Footscray Mall and be photographed and fawned over by the print and electronic media. What a farce that would be, but the bigger joke would be how it won’t register to so many the irony of it all- the hype for the bloke who changed the name of the club! A celebration of and about Footscray and the big deal is about someone who lives miles away and got rid of that name! Thanks for coming, see you in 25 years for the 175th in 2034.

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What’s In a Name? Plenty: AGE article from Tuesday 8th June 2008

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Ted Whitten Statue

This article by Peter Hanlon- who is a good quality journalist / feature writer for THE AGE Newspaper appeared in the sport lift out section of ‘The Age’ on Tuesday 3rd June 2008. You can read it also in the REAL FOOTY archive.

TOMORROW morning, at a not-so-long-ago decaying ground in Melbourne’s inner-west, another step will be taken in a football club’s rejuvenation. The club sits third on the AFL ladder, has just beaten the top team, and is enjoying its best start to a season ever.
These are heady times for this club, which is as proud of its history as rivals who boast of much more than just one day of ultimate glory. Given past struggles just to survive, it is a time to celebrate its very being. To rejoice in who it is.
It’s a shame you have to scroll all the way down to the fine print to be reminded of this club’s true name: Footscray.
It is more than 11 years since the administration of then-new president David Smorgon complemented its new off-field personnel with a change of name, playing venue, logo and club song, along with a new coach in Terry Wallace. At the time, the club’s membership had dipped to just over 10,000 — lower than when it won the 1954 flag.
Then, the club was seeking a new beginning, having played its last game at Whitten Oval. As Smorgon said yesterday, few people leaving the ground after the Bulldogs had beaten West Coast that day would have believed that any heavy machinery moving in a decade later would have been charged with anything but demolition.
But that was then. The Doggies are now alive and well, with more than 27,000 members, continuing AFL largesse and the fruits of government funding materialising at their Whitten Oval home. The new Elite Learning Centre, to be opened tomorrow, is just one stage of a development that will bolster a football club and benefit a community. Arguably, the time for a new beginning was right in 1996. But, as callers to talkback radio in recent days have proposed, maybe now is a good time to go back, while moving proudly forward. For that song to again begin: “Sons of the ‘Scray”.
Smorgon says a reversion from the trading name Western Bulldogs to Footscray Football Club is not on the agenda, “nowhere on the list of 100 things we’ve got to do”. While he is president, he says, it will not happen.
He doesn’t doubt that, to many, the name is important. “But I say to those people, we’ve moved on. We are the Western Bulldogs, and we’re creating our history on the back of the Footscray Football Club history.”
The change was made, Smorgon says, because of a belief that the club’s identity was limited, that as Western Bulldogs they could better tap into sponsorship, build coteries and other support from the entire western region of Melbourne, with its 600,000-plus people. “We felt that Footscray was a restriction on growing our brand.” But football supporters do not see their club as a brand. They see it as players, people, a jumper. Something to love, that their mum and dad loved before them. Something to cheer and be cheered by. Something that gives them hope. Of no club is this truer than the Dogs.
Smorgon says the change has been a success, although not all that was hoped for has been achieved. Research shows 55% of members reside in the west, up from 50%. Given the migration to one of Melbourne’s boom regions in the past decade, this can hardly be seen as endorsement of the “brand” name. The transition certainly wasn’t seamless, with premiership full-forward Jack Collins tackling Smorgon’s administration at the time under the banner of “Footscray Forever”. A website, “Footscray Not Western Bulldogs”, maintains the rage today, carrying an AFL ladder featuring Northern Blues, Eastern Hawks, Central Demons, Country Cats, etc. “Grab a street directory and try and find West Coast Eagles or Port Power in them, let alone Western Bulldogs,” it barks, concluding that “the only west or western I want to know about is Scott West”.
Smorgon is not concerned that, in a competition hell-bent on expansion, the word “Western” may soon be shared with another team, residing in the Sydney market that so tantalises the AFL.
As for North Melbourne’s recent decision to embrace its identity and relegate Kangaroos to nickname status, he could not comprehend that club’s thinking. Yet surely the notion of catching support with an all-encompassing name sells short those 27,000-plus members, who proudly see their club just as it is styled in the last line of their song: “The team of the mighty west.” People who would be proud to again call their club Footscray, no matter where they live.
 

So let’s have a look at a few quotes from this article-

Smorgon says a reversion from the trading name Western Bulldogs to Footscray Football Club is not on the agenda, “nowhere on the list of 100 things we’ve got to do”.

So it is worth wondering what is the actual 99th and 101st list of things we have got to do by? The 99th must still be quite important- perhaps a new colour scheme for the carpet in the foyer of the staff tea room. Maybe the 101st is changing the name back to Footscray? If there are 100 more pressing things than that- the Bulldogs must be a busy organisation. We should be running the country.
The next day THE AGE also mocked the Presidents quote about the 100 things we have got to do.

He doesn’t doubt that, to many, the name is important. “But I say to those people, we’ve moved on. We are the Western Bulldogs, and we’re creating our history on the back of the Footscray Football Club history.”

(1) Well if it is recognised that the name is undoubtedly important -why not do something about it if you want the membership to increase? Refer to the Kangaroos reverting back to North Melbourne and the 12,000 extra they attained. More on that just below and further down.

(2) Who have moved on? This ‘we have moved on’ is one of those rhetorical quotes used by those who’s next line is nearly always ‘Get over it.’

I didn’t ‘move on’ and nor have many others- which includes 8 other Victorian clubs. One Victorian club followed our lead and did ‘move on’ but now they have ‘moved backwards’ which gained them 12,000 extra members. As for both ‘moving on’ and ‘creating our own history’- only Fremantle and Richmond of the other 16 clubs have not BETTERED us since 1997. They have ‘equalled us’ in that their high point is a Preliminary Final, but they have only reached it and lost once (Fremantle in 2006 Richmond in 2001) we have lost three Preliminary Finals(1997,1998, 2008) compared with their one. So we are either better than them or equal with them depending on your point of view.

The transition certainly wasn’t seamless, with premiership full-forward Jack Collins tackling Smorgon’s administration at the time under the banner of “Footscray Forever”.

Sadly Jack Collins died suddenly just a month after this article was printed. He was not initially aware of this story, learning of it soon after it appeared, but then a cruel and untimely fatal heart attack intervened before he could offer his viewpoint. Jack was working on his memoirs at the time of his unexpected death. This is an absolute tragedy both obviously personally but also professionally as an Australian Football identity. His autobiography would have been brilliant- his story wouldn’t have pulled any punches- he was no yes man or sycophant. There was a strong similarity with Jack Collins and the great Laurie Nash, though Jack was certainly more modest than the South Melbourne legend! Laurie Nash was one of the South Melbourne stalwarts who remained embittered about them becoming the Sydney Swans. He point blank refused to accept it, just as Jack couldn’t take Footscray becoming Western Bulldogs. Some journalists in the early days of the 1982 season lambasted Laurie Nash for his outspoken opposition to the move to Sydney, yet would he have cared about what others thought of him? No at all, that wasn’t the Laurie Nash way. Jack was similar, no sacred cows with either of them.

Smorgon is not concerned that, in a competition hell-bent on expansion, the word “Western” may soon be shared with another team, residing in the Sydney market that so tantalises the AFL.

Oh well I guess we had the West in the name before these Western Sydney interlopers join the AFL.I wonder what the West Coast Eagles think? They had the west in their title before we did. They have only been around for a bit over 20 years, but the West has been in their original name since they began in 1987. We at ‘The Bulldogs’ hooked on to west around 10 years after the coastal eagles did, despite having another name for over 100 years beforehand.

The change was made, Smorgon says, because of a belief that the club’s identity was limited, that as Western Bulldogs they could better tap into sponsorship, build coteries and other support from the entire western region of Melbourne, with its 600,000-plus people. “We felt that Footscray was a restriction on growing our brand.”

Well I think we can believe that when ALL train station platforms in the Western suburbs of Melbourne are full of Western Bulldogs supporters rather Collingwood, Carlton and others on a match day. These Western fans are both –
(a) Those who never followed ‘The Bulldogs’ before when we were Footscray, because they were Collingwood supporters etc etc. However now they have changed teams from Collingwood to us because they feel an affinity to the red, white and blue because we have become the Western Bulldogs. These converted supporters now recognise Western is their team- despite living for over 40 years in St Albans, Sunshine, Braybrook, Deer Park, Albion
(b) People from the same suburbs mentioned above who previously had no interest in Australian Rules Football, but now follow the great Australian game and the red, white and blue because we are Western. Footscray meant nothing to them apparently it obviously restricted them from helping to grow our brand.

As for North Melbourne’s recent decision to embrace its identity and relegate Kangaroos to nickname status, he could not comprehend that club’s thinking.

So it would appear that the 12,000 extra members they roped in since changing back to North Melbourne is hard to comprehend? There must be 12,000 intellectually ungifted people out there who bought a North Melbourne membership but weren’t clever enough to do so when they were just the marsupial as their real name? Maybe they are better off with 12k less members – quality of members is better than quantity of members. The next tried and trusted response from those who make light of North Melbourne’s strengthened position will be that the 12,000 were all sympathy memberships! Yes some probably did buy a membership for them to congratulate them for rejecting the Gold Coast offer- but really who genuinely believes they received 12,000 sympathy votes?

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Views From Other Footscray Fans

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Views From Other Footscray Fans

Here are the views of another aggrieved fan – So to read PJ Zee’s extract just click the link.

Sympathy Number Ron by (From chapter 25 of ‘Sympathy Number Ron) by PJ Zee


SYMPATHY NUMBER RON

Views From Other Footscray Fans – PJ Zee
(From chapter 24 of ‘Sympathy Number Ron’)

It was Saturday; time to unwind.

Time to kick up your heels.

Time to relax.

Some people spent their Saturdays taking massages to uncoil the knotted tension in their muscles and bones, and others did yoga. The serene burnt incense, lit candles, and swayed blissfully back and forth to the rhythm of meditative chants. You could try the spirit-soothing tranquillity of transcendence, the pincushion mimicry of acupuncture, or the conformity of the fashionably safe palates. Unimaginatively, you could also just sleep. But for the majority of people, the best way to unwind on a Saturday – for the most part – meant doing pretty much one thing: slumping on the couch, taking an aspirin, and sighing with relief that you now had two days in which to convalesce. That said – for the majority.

Come Saturday, and wound tight by the frustrations from their own working weeks, Ron and his friends, Neil, the ‘other’ Neil, and Mike also spent their day trying to unwind. Where other people spent their day unwinding by taking massages or doing yoga, Ron and his friends, Neil, the ‘other’ Neil, and Mike spent their day, well, I guess you could say, by doing pretty much the same: screaming diatribes at a bunch of knuckle dragging footballers (although technically, Neil – going through a phase at the moment, and sometimes moving his midweek yoga to the weekends – did both). And today, Saturday, restocked with lashings of Vortex Gold fuelled rage, armed to the teeth with an arsenal of blood curdling obscenities, and looking to drop a payload of simmering hate the first chance they’d get – well heck, they were looking to pick up from the very same expletive from where they’d malevolently left off.

Sport is one of the last remaining forums where it’s still acceptable for seemingly intelligent men to lose themselves for an afternoon and go absolutely hog wild, without fear or spectre of being institutionalised (notwithstanding that heavy metal concerts are the top dog of this realm.) Ron was having the fellas around this evening to watch their football team, Footscray, play some other mob on the tube.

Now that’s not quite correct.

Ron was having the fellas around this evening to watch their football team, the one formerly known as Footscray, play some other mob on the tube.

Some years back, no thanks to the infernal wisdom of clubs presiding administration, it was decided that in the best interests of the club’s marketability, it was necessary to re-badge Footscray as the Western Bulldogs. No matter how compelling the reasoning for this change may have been, Ron knew the unconscionable fact was, that tagged incriminatingly to the tail end of it – if you’d cared to take a look – you’d undoubtedly find the filthy, skid-mark shit stain, of a mercenary dollar sign. Mindful of this cynicism, the clubs administration postured to meet the aggrieved supporters halfway, and as a compromise suggested that the former name could still be represented in some way. This was achieved, albeit cursorily, by the placement of a miniscule ‘ffc’ (an acronym for Footscray football club), high on the back centre of the jumper. Needless to say, none of these machinations sat well with Ron. Though the media and the football community (and oh, not to mention the Marketing fucks) immediately embraced the new model (the Western fucking Bulldogs), he and his friends Neil, the ‘other’ Neil and Mike steadfastly resisted. They held their ground with the same unwavering verve as the disenfranchised PLO, and having just stopped a notch short of enacting a blood pact in doing so, still vowed that it would take nothing less than the wherewithal of a drilled army platoon to have them move. Or so it was motioned.

In the first season after the ‘think tanks’ of marketing stole – repeat: stole – his beloved football clubs name from him, Ron swore never to watch the game again. After realizing how empty his life was without it (half time – Round 1) he decreed that it was time to accept their puny tokenism and recognize the anagram they put on the back of the jumper as somewhat of an olive branch; and then with renewed enthusiasm and soaring spirits, he duly moved to reconcile himself with his beloved club. Well, it was more like changing channels on the remote and picking up where he’d left off: screaming his sorry arse at a bunch of knuckle dragging footballers. But he had something up his sleeve.

He would create his own illusory world, and snuff out all references to the new model. If asked at work whom he supported he’d say ‘Footscray’, in the proudest voice he had. When infuriated by the predictably leaden-skulled response: ‘Huh … oh you mean the Western Bulldogs’, he’d first stop to think, Jesus, these fuckers couldn’t remember a National fricken Institution, let alone the last time they had a goddamned crap, and then he’d agitatedly add, ‘Yeah like I said: Footscray’. Finding that he was expending too much rage whilst correcting people with the energy sapping terse model, he decreed to replace it with plain old generic disregard instead. Ron also adopted the peculiar practice of using whiteout to obliterate the Western Bulldogs reference in the print media, the same way despot Governments censor words when circulating propaganda. Before reading his Monday morning paper, he would ceremoniously carry out this practice and once the whiteout dried (which was another frustration) he would replace it with Footscray. This function was carried out in the review of the game, the ladder, and the scoreboards. He seldom bothered with the statistical pages; mainly because Footscray seldom had players good enough to make it on these lists, so that for the most part wasn’t a problem. Once completed, and much to his ‘when-will-this-fucker-ever-dry’ relief, he would then kick back from his desk, recline deeply into his chair, and slowly savour Footscray’s most recent … err … loss. But not before he carried out one last burdensome errand: gesturing a hateful single finger insult to all the marketing fucks that had stolen his clubs name, whilst mentally declaring ‘You can steal our clubs fucking name, but you’ll never steal our supporter’s fucking spirit’, and he’d leave it at that. Actually the truth is, he did it for a couple of weeks and then grew tired of it.

Anyway, that was just rhetoric. The ball had just been bounced and battle was about to commence.

Oh fuck, get in there,” Mike.

Oh fuck, get it out, get it out,” Neil.

No fuck Jesus, get it in,” the ‘other’ Neil.

If not for the bloodthirsty hate and frenzied rage being at the very heart of these diatribes, you’d be forgiven for misinterpreting them as a very disturbing episode of sadomasochistic homo-erotica.

Grab him, grab him … Oh fuck meeeeeeeeeeee,” the ‘other’ Neil.

Jesus H fucking Christ, pick up the fucking ball you fucking dolt,” Neil.

You ought to be skull fucked Croftie,” Anonymous 29.2.05.

Kick it to stinky, kick it to stinky,” Mike.

Yes Yes Yes … oh fuck no,” Anonymous 29.2.05.

Chrisssssssssssssss,” all of them.

Have a go you fruit,” Neil.

OH FUCK,” all of them bar the ‘other’ Neil who always left early when they were losing.

Most Footscray games ended with a resigned coupling of the words ‘Oh’ and ‘fuck.’ They hadn’t won a premiership for 50 years; lost twice and much as they won; seldom got a real go in the media; seldom got a prime time Friday night fixture, and most tellingly, never got to play on the main stage on Grand Final Day (which, kind of helps to entrance bloated corporate sponsors, and therefore have money to keep your better players, and therefore, maybe, just maybe: have a God awful even chance). Truly, it was a sad mothergrating state of affairs.

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Reverting Back to Footscray

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Honestly, who would give the club away?

Hypothetically the club is thinking of changing the name back to Footscray. They consider the arguments for and against. The main argument against would be the members that would be lost from changing back.

Now honestly- who is going to walk away from the Western Bulldogs if they change their scoreboard name back to Footscray? What member is going to pull stumps on the club because we have dumped Western for Footscray? How many- well you could write their names down on a piece of confetti, those who don’t renew a membership because Footscray is re-introduced. Is there anyone out here on planet Earth let alone Australia who will be so upset that we are going back to Footscray?

The IDCWTNIJALATW doggies fan

The IDCWTNIJALATW (I don’t care what the name is just as long as they win) bulldogs/ doggies supporter would not go into a self imposed exile, because they don’t care what the name is. All that interests them is that the team wins. When the team is performing on the field, they will certainly stay because their apathy over the name (and most likely other issues) means that they when they go to the football and read the footy record or newspapers etc, they don’t and couldn’t give a continental if the footy record, newspapers etc have us written as –

Footscray
Western Bulldogs
Bulldogs
The Bulldogs
Red Rooster Bulldogs
Canterbury Bulldogs
Safeway Bulldogs
Tucker Bag Bulldogs
Cheap as Chips Bulldogs
IDCWTNIJALATW
Dogs
Doggies

It doesn’t concern them. They don’t care- they will still be there- especially when the players on the park are winning. You can have a red rooster meal deal image on the Guernsey instead of the yawning cat and it wouldn’t worry the IDCWTNIJALATW fan at all. You could even take away those miniscule FFC letters from the top of the jumper and replace it with IDCWTNIJALATW. We could even become the Canterbury Bulldogs like the Rugby League team from New South Wales. Should even the colours be changed- they wouldn’t care either- we could be pink with purple polka dots, you could even dump bulldogs as a nickname, we could be the Western Donkeys or just the donkeys -just as long as we win. So should we get the quadrella, the name, nickname, colours and guernsey design, they don’t care just as long as we win.

The Won Over to the Club because we changed our name from Western Bulldogs

How many of the won over to the Western Bulldogs because we changed our name from Footscray to Western Bulldogs will drop off? Well at a guess probably less than a handful of people. Of those who finally found the club in 1997, maybe we have got them for life? Perhaps the Preliminary Final reaching seasons of 1997 and 1998 in the first two seasons of Western Bulldogs have kept their affections for the bulldogs for eternity? With four out of the last five seasons being not bad ones (2007 being the poor one) does anyone really think that someone will say-

“Right- that’s it- we are third on the ladder but the club is going to dump Western to re-introduce Footscray – yes that’s it”- “I will give the club away and give football away- or join another club”

So if this did happen and you went looking elsewhere -what club could you join? The only possible option for those of that thinking in Victoria would have been the blue and white team (not Geelong or Carlton.) Yet as the Kangaroos are now back to North Melbourne, there is no other team to cater for your needs of following a team with a generic name. So you are stuck with Footscray- you have just watched them beat Port Adelaide on the television by over 90 points- but no they are going to revert to Footscray- so it is time to get off. Can’t have that can we.

Well this is the truth- these people just don’t exist- really in all sincerity who knows a ‘doggies’ fan that would refuse to support them anymore because they changed back to Footscray?

All that will happen is the that the Bulldogs will win fans back by reverting to Footscray

The fans that walked away- nearly all will come back to the club- by reverting to Footscray. Not just that, but we will reclaim more of the fans we lost rather than lose those who were attracted to the club because the 1996 board ditched Footscray for Western.

Western is a generic nothing name. It represents no one- it is one of four directions. Western is nothing more than an arrow in words, an arrow is an image in words. We are an arrow pointing in one particular direction followed by a particular brand of canine. Those older fans that were around before 1996 and don’t care or accept the name change are not going to drop off. Why would they disappear- is Western such an emotional thing for them? No it isn’t because when they first followed the club we were Footscray. No one had ever heard of Western Bulldogs until 1996. So they will still be there, their love for the club will not diminish because we are Footscray again and not this direction Western. The bulldog will still be the nickname and that is the be all and end all- the superfluous faceless Western doesn’t tear at anyone’s heart strings here- though maybe it does in Arizona or Wyoming? As Western is hardly ever used in our case, nobody can miss it when it falls off the perch –or is blown away by John Wayne or Clint Eastwood.

With the Footscray fans who did walk away when the name was changed or diminished their support from the end of 1996 like myself. Those of us aggrieved about the situation will return and those who are now lukewarm supporters and only buy a home membership and contribute nothing or barely anything else- will return to being more committed to the club. I personally would- most likely probably join one of the coterie groups, or at the very least I would definitely increase my membership status from a home one to a full home and away membership- even though the full home and away membership is hardly value for money. I would be prepared to donate that to Footscray the full home and away membership, although the away membership is a gift to the club. I am happy to donate to the club when we are Footscray, but as Western Bulldogs, I think of the hip pocket- the blind loyalty is not there for Western, hasn’t been since 1996.

Changing back to Footscray can only increase membership- not just in actual individuals becoming members, but in what degree of membership they would buy. The club cannot and would not lose any money on reverting to Footscray.