Overnight, the VPL - a ghost-like competition haunting the fringes of Melbourne sport and whose existence the mainstream media has been happy to ignore - has become front page news and first-up news on the radio. Last night the commercial news channels used footage from SMTV, MFootball and the Melbourne Knights TV show to provide vision for their stories because the only thing in the MSM sokkah archive is grainy footage of wogs rioting and Archie Thompson punching corner flags.
The cancer of match-fixing and gambling has been alleged in 2nd tier Victorian soccer. The Southern Stars are the focus and who knows how far the disease has spread. It's a devastating blow for those of us who follow state league soccer and it's hard to predict where the story will take us.
One of the reasons we know so little about this stuff in a public sense is that the mainstream media has abdicated its responsibility to cover elite Victorian soccer in the Australian winter. A big shock in all of this for many casually interested sports fans might well be the revelation that there is actually a semi-professional league of decent standing operating in Victoria. If one relied on the Age and its top soccer writer Michael Lynch, one might have no idea soccer was even being played in Victoria during the winter.
So while Lynch and the Age sports desk have been asleep at the wheel a rotten culture has been flourished without comment or investigation - from a sports angle. Of course, other journalists from other desks have been beavering away. Nick McKenzie, Nino Bucci and Richard Baker and others from the Age have clearly been working very hard on the story. Indeed McKenzie and Baker are the ones who broke it.
Those of us on the ground have laughed for nearly a decade now about what some of us mischievously call "dodgy-Asian-betting" whereby soccer fans have been recruited to give frequent live action and score updates of A League and VPL games to Asian betting organisations. A general weary acceptance that something is not quite right seems to infect the whole culture. An engaged soccer journalist on-the-ground would have known about this.
Silvester also raised credulity issues when he commented today that "No one could work out why the second-tier soccer side filled with internationals could play so badly." He is, as they say, 'avin a larf. No-one would accuse any of the Southern Stars players of being internationals in any sense other than the one one implied in their possession of British passports. No-one. Just no-one paying serious attention to the VPL ever considered the Stars matter in the terms suggested by Silvester.
I note that Michael Lynch said something similar about Silvester's argument in his piece today, a belated attempt to bring his audience up to speed on the VPL. For Lynch "Crowds at VPL games are small – sometimes only a couple of hundred people – and interest desultory." The standard is also ordinary, apparently:
It is a competition made up of players who have, for the most part, fallen short of what is required to play at professional level in most well funded national leagues: the wannabe, might-have-been and never-will-be alongside the odd former big name who is now in the evening of his career and playing either for fun or a final contract at a level well below the heights he might have once scaled.