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Archive for July, 2013

The culture of soccer in the west

Posted by cegan on July 26, 2013

In a game that is often seen as a homogenised culture within Australia, I wanted to further the argument of the world game being mainstream, rather than a game of ethnics in Western Australia.

Recently as a member of Perth Glory I got a newsletter with the following opportunity.

“Perth Glory is proud to support its Principal Partner QBE who have kindly donated 20 family passes to it’s annual match day WAFL celebrations with the Subiaco Lions on Saturday 27th July. At the game will be Perth Glory’s own inflatable football pitch, Jungle Sports soccer and fun activities for the kids.”

Perth Glory branded paraphanalia at an Australian Rules football match? Coverage of state league fixtures, match results in the state newspaper and a private sector wanting to combine their two brands in Australian Rules Football and soccer together.

Does this happen in Victoria? Have Adelaide United utilised their owners links with North Adelaide Roosters? I don’t think they have.

When the Socceroos qualified for the World Cup, the West Coast Eagles twitter account published

#gosocceroos We’re going to Rio.

I am not saying Perth is this Utopian society without code rivalry in a nation riddled with it, but soccer has established its place in society. It is not seen as a confine of the minority culture. We are a mainstream sport.

The largest and most dominant code in Perth – Australian Rules Football does not see it as a sport outside of Western Australian culture, indeed private enterprise sees the need to connect the codes together.

This is not unusual in some parts of Perth, in Fremantle in the early 1900’s soccer players filled in for the Fremantle Rugby Union side. Fremantle Oval management wanted to be broad-based and help all codes rid itself from local government authority at the venue.

My Dad mentioned to me a few weeks ago at an Aussie Rules ground that he played Speedball at high school, a tweaked Australian version of the original American game. The codes of Rugby, Soccer and Australian Rules Football were mixed togther. On the ground they played soccer, if they kicked it up, they played Aussie Rules and passed it backwards. They used soccer goals.

At primary school in his working class suburb of Maylands, the only code they could play was Australian Rules Football, not even cricket was available. Sport and their use was limited by the culture and the social structures of the time.

Australian Rules Football has long been a working class sport within Perth and thus restricted opportunities for people like my Dad at a young age to play sport of their choosing. It was Aussie Rules or nothing.

He said he had wanted to do Boxing, but the travel to Midland was too far to go regularly in the 1970’s.

It brings us to this picture that reflects the historic record, there has been regionalisation going on at a Perth level and thus Australian Rules Football has seen how soccer has become stronger in areas with a different social structure/immigration.

A sport that is often considered our national game – Cricket was not even played in the summer. The gentry aspect of the game was not suitable for a working class suburb.

Yet when he went to high school all three codes were played Union, Soccer and Australian Rules Football, with a feeder system of a variety of suburbs the more middle class games of Soccer and Rugby were exposed to him.

Some communities in Perth were restricted in their sporting opportunities and others were not. At high school the different sporting cultures meshed into one and class differences and sport become less relevant due to the wider spectrum of students, not just folk who resided within one suburb. There was a more diverse view, because of the different sporting cultures and class structures within the city.

It gets back to the culture today; the fact that Australian Rules Football had had its hegemony tested has given legitimacy for soccer as a mainstream sport in Perth. In the 1950’s and late 1990’s there is a social and political power that is given to Soccer due to immigration.

So when the Eagles encourage people to get excited about the qualification of the World Cup, when Glory’s major sponsor integrates them into an event at an Australian Rules Football ground, we have to begin to see that this view of the game of ethnics, that it hasn’t forced itself into mainstream consciousness is not accurate to this day in the wider Western Australian culture. You could however challenge this at a more localised level, particularly with my father’s experience.

My many friends at Perth Glory games are multi-sport fans and we go to events 12 months of the year. Appreciation for sport coming from a history that has given legitimacy of playing different sports, supporting different codes and harnessing the Western Australian pride in whatever sport we play.

By Chris Egan

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From Rectangles to Speedways – Using spatial archaeology to explain the change in function of Rowley Park from Soccer to Speedway.

Posted by cegan on July 16, 2013

Rowley Park is now no longer with us, it has been demolished with houses that now occupy the land that was previously home to up to 20,000 people on a Friday Night. However the ground which was purchased as a philanthropic gift to the South Australian Football Soccer Association has a fascinating history to the world game. The purchaser of the ground Enoch Rowley, a soccer goalkeeper in 1908, which the ground was named after occurred prior to the establishment of speedway in Maitland NSW in 1921. Despite this, in 2013 the memory of the venue is dominated by Speedway, not soccer. This report will give an understanding of how a sport not even invented in 1908 when Mr Rowley bought the ground for soccer, ended up being Adelaide’s premier Speedway facility.

In 1943, the Advertiser on the 11th November reports about the discussion between the Hindmarsh Council and the South Australian Soccer Football Association as they were called.

“A special committee was appointed to negotiate with Hindmarsh Council regarding a proposal submitted by the council to either purchase direct from it a parcel of land from Brompton or grant the association a 99 year lease of the Hindmarsh Oval (now Hindmarsh Stadium) in exchange for the land owned by the association”

Rowley Park had been vested in the Soccer Football Association of South Australia in 1908 after a purchase from Mr Enoch Rowley, who had forged a reputation of being Western Australia’s best goalkeeper.

So it was a philanthropic gift that allows South Australian Football to own an asset that not many fellow associations around the country are lucky enough to own.

On the 26th October 1943, we see that there were issues the Soccer Association had with the triangular piece of land that was Hindmarsh Stadium. There seems to be council discussions with the Federal Government about the realignment for the Hindmarsh Post Office. Space seems to be an issue, particularly with a desire to host international football.

The committee that was established were named a few weeks after on the 19th November 1943.

“Messrs. E. P. Rowley, w. P. J. McCann. H. Waterman, J. A. Croger R. L. Sims. H Evans. T. C. Stephens. R. J. Holiday. C. Campbell Smith, and J. R. Creenbank were appointed to negotiate with the Hindmarsh Council regarding the sale or lease to the council of the association ground at Brompton”

Despite this five months later on the 3rd March 1944 Hindmarsh Oval is rejected by the South Australian’s as a possible home ground, despite the opportunity to hold a 99 year lease at the ground.

Soccer was still being played at Rowley Park in the early 1950s and despite the ground surface being unsuitable for a larger venue, it was the home of local team Budapest, a team for ‘new Australian’s’ in the post war surge of interest in the round ball code.

The movement from Rowley Park to Hindmarsh Stadium is not as early as Wikipedia seems to mention. The early 1950’s at Hindmarsh Oval is a period where Rugby becomes the major sport to be held on the ground and it is not till the late 1950’s that Rowley Park’s spatial landscape makes it unsuitable to hold soccer matches.

It seems the movement back to Hindmarsh Oval (Hindmarsh Stadium) takes a lot longer and comes about not because of the realisation of a bad surface, but because of the increased popularity of Speedway changing the spatial landscape of the venue. While the surface meant it could not hold international games, there was no desire to not hold soccer fixtures at the venue until community demands for a change in its function. Speedway is more popular on that site than soccer.

This photo below shows us the shape of Rowley Park in 1954.

Rowley Park 1954

By 1958 the ground is changed and Rowley Park can no longer play soccer on it. Adaptations due to a change in human behaviour and new technology. The mid 1950’s is seen as a golden era for Speedway in Australia, particularly in Perth, Adelaide and Sydney.

Rowley Park 1958

We begin to see a trait, during periods of heightened interest in a sport at a venue, grounds change shape and function. It is also important to add this to community understandings of history, to add this to the often sketchy records we have of sports history to ensure interpretations incorporate the cultural artefacts – the grounds.

The Speedway which had once had to conform to the needs of soccer in 1949 when it leases the ground over the summer months changed in 1958 to a speedway track. The imagery shows how community attitudes can change and infrastructure adapts to this change in human behaviour.

Today in 2013, Rowley Park is now a housing estate with a memorial on the site recognising its place in history as part of the growth of Speedway in the 1950’s within Australia. Community attitudes to Speedway changed and the last race was held in 1979 at the Brompton site. However the Speedway Track never changed its name, despite its association to the world game. Just like the gates are still called Perth Oval outside of NIB Stadium. The naming of a venue seems to hold more historical importance than the function and cultural artefacts that exist within a venue.

Hindmarsh Stadium is still hosting soccer, just as it did in the 1940s but has now transferred ownership to the state government. Had Hindmarsh council been able to convince the South Australian Soccer Football Association to take the 99 year lease of the site, Rowley Park would have become a childrens playground rather than a football pitch in 1945.

Soccer within South Australia would be in a much more powerful situation if they had taken the lease and would still be holding that tenancy in 2013. Yet, Hindmarsh because of its triangular land parcel was seen as unable to construct an international standard ground based on the limitations of 1940’s architecture. In 2013 Hindmarsh Stadium is a FIFA standard venue as new technologies have enabled site restrictions to be alleviated. In 1944 this is a barrier to football that is not the case in 1999 when Hindmarsh Stadium is redeveloped for the Sydney Olympics.

Adaptations can be seen in the archaeological record at Rowley Park and Hindmarsh Stadium and it begins to chart a new theme in sports history in Australia. Sporting interests at a suburban/community level change over time and this is reflected in the archaeological record.

By Chris Egan

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From ovals to rectangles – A case study on how sporting fields change their archaeological footprint over time

Posted by cegan on July 15, 2013

Over the past one hundred years, code rivalry has been a common research topic for sports historians in Australia. Most of the time it has focussed on Sydney and Melbourne with very few interpretations incorporating the cultural artefacts (The Sports Fields). The recent change in function of Perth Oval from Australian Rules Football to Soccer in 2004 is part of a trend that has been going on for over a hundred years in various parts of Australia.

The two case studies I will use are Woodville Reserve and South Hobart Recreation Ground and their change in function. It begins a theoretical understanding of how soccer has already won hegemony at a suburban landscape and how it has maintained this interest at a suburban level.

The first example I will use is Woodville Cricket Reserve in North Perth, the ground has held soccer since the late 1920s. It is not far from Perth Oval, and was developed primarily for cricket. But in 1927 the use of the ground is changed from Australian Rules Football to soccer in the winter.

At the same time soccer’s interest within Western Australia has increased, but the archaeological footprint today also tells us that the cultural features of the ground and the region has been shaped by human adaptation to a new sporting interest.

It is a long rectangle and cricket played on this ground till 1979 before moving to the northern suburbs. Soccer remains present, and the ground has held many battles in the 50’s between power house sides Azzurri and North Perth.

Today Woodville Reserve is soccer because the local community changed the function of the ground in the winter and thus changed the social environment of the region. There is little infrastructure development and today is still just a long expanse of grass. Its spatial landscape shows little evidence of its past use as a cricket or Australian Rules Football facility.

What would have happened had the 1915 Perth City Council not refused goal posts to be erected at the ground?

I have not found this unique in Western Australia, with Bayswater Oval also changing function in 1953 in response to the next period of football’s growth and again not far away from Woodville Reserve in 2004 after Perth Oval changed to Association Football. The grounds change their purpose and spatial landscape with the communities change in attitudes.

It also occurs at the South Hobart Recreational Ground, which with a complex history is bought for 1000 pounds by the state government in 1887 upon demands by the local communities. The initial town planners of Hobart had not put recreational pursuits as a priority and other regions had to buy privately owned land for recreation as well, through the parliamentary system. But from 1887- 1912 the ground is primarily a cricket ground, it is not till 1912 that we see the cultural characteristics change because of the growth of interest in soccer.

In a newspaper report in the Mercury in 1912, the ground is shortened as a cricket ground in order to better accommodate the round ball code, the commentary suggests it will no longer be able to be used for first class cricket. It is clear that cricket is struggling in Hobart in this era and the ability to make it less adapt for cricket is a sign of the world games drawing power in the suburb. Australian Rules Football games are replaced with many Soccer fixtures.

In 1930 the ground by council has funded with built infrastructure and South Hobart Recreation Ground is known as the centre of soccer in the region. There is a letter to the editor that mentions that it has come into the hands of a private manager and that kids are prevented from playing football on the ground by the grounds keeper and that it only holds soccer and cricket for adult men. Australian Rules Football has lost access to this ground in the winter.

In 1974 South Hobart District Cricket Club also moves to a larger ground as South Hobart Recreation Ground is no longer responsive to its needs and has become culturally empowered by the world game, not cricket.

The spatial landscape today shows little resemblance of its former sporting pursuits.

Adaptations are often seen in the archaeological record and are often driven by factors such as immigration, class and access to new ideas/technology. In a sporting context, the establishment of two new soccer clubs changes human behaviour which leads to adaptations of the cultural infrastructure within the region.

In 1910 South Hobart FC are established, in 1996 Perth Glory are established on Perth Oval. As the interest generates more power for the code, the archaeological landscape is changed to what we currently see at both venues in Tasmania and Western Australia.

Symbolic messages are still etched into the grounds, despite both being rectangles are commonly known as South Hobart Oval and Perth Oval.

Is this a sign of the power of Australian Rules Football in both cities? Or a respect to the past?

It is probably a combination of both.

Woodville Reserve, Bayswater Oval (Now Frank Drago Reserve) , Perth Oval and South Hobart Oval are grounds that changed because of the communities interest in the world game. It is unlikely that Australian Rules football will ever reverse the spatial changes undertaken.

This is a powerful symbol in 2013, that once a ground in a region changes its archaeological footprint to the world game, it never retreats back to its initial purpose of recreational pursuit.

By Chris Egan

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