Football Federation Australia has reversed its decision to allow A-League heavyweights Melbourne Victory and Melbourne Heart to participate in Victorian football’s Mirabella Cup.
In February this year Football Federation Victoria announced the competition was “open to all clubs, and both Victoria’s Hyundai A-League clubs, who have committed to entering.”
The cup was relaunched in 2011 after a long absence of the century-old Dockerty Cup and has generated significant excitement at the grassroots level of the game, much of which is owed to the lure of a state level club meeting the Victory or Heart.
“We’re expecting it to be popular throughout all of our leagues, in both metropolitan and regional Victoria, as it will provide every club a terrific opportunity to face off against Victoria’s two Hyundai A-League clubs," said FFV Chief Executive Mark Rendell at the time.
FFA has defended its bouncing of the national league teams' sighting fears it will interfere with its efforts to launch its own mooted FFA Cup.
“Since the initial discussions about Victory and Heart participating in the Mirabella Cup, the landscape has changed significantly,” said an FFA spokesman.
“In the past few months consideration of a national FFA Cup has been warmly embraced by the Hyundai A-League clubs and Member Federations. Work is underway to develop the ideas into a viable plan that would connect the grassroots to the national professional competition in a way that’s never been achieved before."
Victorian Premier League club Northcote City’s General Manager and former FFV Football Operations Manager, Tony Persoglia, is dismayed with the decision.
“It was great that FFV got the competition up and running so quickly, but now you wonder if they adequately prepared for it,” says Persoglia, whose side is in the last 24 of the cup.
“We would dearly have loved to have had a chance to play against A-League opposition, as would all the other teams — that was largely the lure of this competition.”
For their part, FFV share the frustration of the clubs.
“We are disappointed with the decision,” said FFV spokesman Sean Burton.
“But while we’re disappointed, we accept FFA’s decision and look forward to the FFA Cup next year.”
Persoglia points to the entrance fee levied on clubs to join the cup as a source of angst in light of this backflip.
The fee was charged in addition to the $20,000 license for participating in the Premier League, the state’s top-flight competition.
With Victory and Heart out of the race, the tournament is left lop-sided, with the A-League teams to have joined the final six from the lower leagues in the quarter finals.
“How do FFV now add two extra teams to the quarters in a competition that’s been running all season?” asks Persoglia.
“Perhaps there’ll be a so-called ‘lucky loser’ system, but that might mean we have a cup winner who’s lost in the competition which renders the whole thing farcical.”
To that end, FFV have put a plan in place for a “modified quarter finals format.”
Burton has also confirmed that the $50,000 competition prize money would stand.
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