Playing long balls into empty space since 2012.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

'Let them play their Soccer in the gutter'

Kids in Glebe, Sydney literally playing soccer (and cricket) "in the gutter", People Magazine 16 April 1958
This is an article I've been seeking for a while, 'They're throttling our sport', written by Geoff Allen for People, (16 April 1958. 45-46). I just dragged it out of the State Library of Victoria. It's an oft-cited touchstone story for the cultural/political difficulties that soccer has faced. Phil Mosely and Bill Murray use it in their piece on Soccer published in Sport in Australia: a social history, edited by Wray Vamplew and Brian Stoddart in 1994.

They write, citing a Melbourne councillor quoted by Allen:
Public contempt was particularly strong in Victoria. When in 1958 a Melbourne soccer club sought to lease a council ground usually used by an Australian-rules club, one alderman replied with a sneer, "let them play . . . in the gutter".
But Allen's article is bigger than that. It focuses on the way in which urban development around Australia is affecting all sport and kids' access to playing fields. True enough, the author then goes on to show how this stress creates problems between codes but the 'throttling' in question is not specifically of, or by, soccer as might have been assumed by some but relates to the squeeze being put on all sport.

Allen finishes his article by transitioning into the stresses place on soccer but also makes the important point that they are stresses felt by most sports in most states:
One curious effect of out national lack of playing space is the rivalry that exists between various football codes for the use of grounds. In some cases, high rents are paid for grounds that are, in effect, nothing more than paddocks.
In Melbourne, the citadel of Australian Rules football, this shortage of grounds has led quite frequently to ill-feeling and tensions.

Not so long ago when a Melbourne Soccer club sought to lease from a council a ground normally allocated to an Australian Rules club, a councillor sneered, "Let them play their Soccer in the gutter."
Soccer is a growing sport in Australia, played largely by migrants from England, where it is the universal winter game. Reports from some State Soccer associations are typical of the difficulties besetting many other sporting organisations.

South Australian Soccer Football Association secretary Tom Connolly says most of his association's first-grade clubs have acquired their own grounds only by leasing undeveloped paddocks from district councils on condition that they develop the areas,

Some of the clubs have spent £3,000 and more to make their grounds fit for first-grade play, apart from further amounts necessary for spectator accommodation.
Yet I'm still not happy. Who is this un-named sneering councillor? I won't accept the veracity of this story until I have found his (or her) identity. It's important to find the utterer and the circumstances of utterance because I don't want to base my own work on possibly apocryphal stories. That's the way sporting bodies construct their mytholgies and not the way historians develop their own narratives.

Off to Trove I reckon. And then to council records.

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