Dirk Melton’s Members And Fans Update


It’s been a busy month for Sydney FC on and off the field. Sky Blues CEO Dirk Melton takes members and fans through what has been happening in and around the club.

Hello to all Members and Fans,

It is over a month since my Christmas message and last Club update. My apologies for the delay however in the 6 week period since that communication it is fair to say that it has certainly been a challenging time for the Club. On the field the results delivered have been below expectation. Our largest crowd in two years attended the first game after Christmas on Dec 29 and from that night onwards we have only celebrated victory on one occasion. With seven games remaining (4 home and 3 away) there is still an excellent opportunity to secure a finals position. Our form pre-Christmas, when we were playing for 2nd spot on the ladder, indicates that we can mix it with the best and all is not lost. Once the final series commences any of the teams in the top six have the capability to win on any given day, so I-m sure it will be a very exciting and interesting series.

Last Friday we announced that our Head Coach, Vitezslav Lavicka, will be returning home at the end of the season. We wanted to communicate this news to our members and fans prior to season-s end so everyone was aware of the decision that had been made and the next steps. The timing of the decision to communicate the position on the Coach and the manner in which we did it has also been a topic of debate. This scenario is the perfect example where it is extremely difficult to please all stakeholders in the passion that surrounds professional sport.

Our first objective was that we wanted to handle the matter in a dignified and gracious way that epitomised the manner in which Vitja has gone about his business whilst at SFC. No matter the sport or the country where it is played there is certainly a trend whereby coaches who may not have yielded the desired results are treated with disdain as their tenure comes to an end. The brutal nature of what they endure in their final days invariably lacks empathy, does not align to standard social norms and is forgetful in the fact that they too are human and that they too have families. It is a tough job in a tough industry that will always be open to question, however there are times where the line is crossed.

For Vitja we wanted to ensure that his contract was honoured and that he was given the opportunity to finish his time in Australia on a positive note. It was also important to us that we weren-t going around behind his back talking to countless coaches and their agents. The rumour mill which that would propagate could be very cancerous for all at the Club. An important factor that is generally not raised until post a public evisceration of the coach is what about the accountability and responsibility of the players. At what stage is the finger moved away from the Coach to the players? At what time is the question asked of the players – what do you believe is your responsibility to perform consistently? Every single person at our Club went through an exercise to determine the core values that would drive the actions and behaviours of our Club. At the end of every day I encourage all staff at Sydney FC to reflect on whether they have lived our values of Courage, Inspire, be Passionate, Excellence and Family.

For me personally my primary goal in life is to be a good role model for my two sons and to go about my business in a way that makes them proud of their Dad. Of course I am not successful in achieving this every day however I will always try to do my best no matter what the scenario. I get upset when my wife, children and I get abused leaving the ground, however I also try and see the positive in that sport breeds passion and passion only exists because people care. I don-t believe that it-s acceptable behaviour however if I respond I-m not living my values. I actually started laughing when recently I was told that I can shove my values somewhere and that all the fans care about is winning. I firmly believe that we will have continued and sustainable performance if we create a culture that truly reflects our values. Whilst some may think this is business mumbo jumbo and rubbish, the facts are that most organisations throughout the world that have had year on year success over an extended period of time, have a particular culture that has been derived from aligning to their values.

There are key decisions everyday where our values are tested. The most common surrounds sponsorship. Outside of team performance I receive the most negative feedback because currently we don-t have a front of jersey sponsor. Our stance on that hasn-t changed. We have had considerable interest from quality brands however we need to ensure that we get a fair price. Some may believe that we shouldn-t worry about price or the long term future of the business and that we should just slap a logo on the front in the essence of keeping up appearances. We are trying to exhibit ‘courage- in an adverse situation where we won-t buckle to greed or disingenuous people.

Another example of courage is that we have recently signed more young players in one hit than at any time in the entire history of the Club. Considering where we are at presently, some would say we need “tried and true” players that are guaranteed to deliver success and immediate results. Again we are trying to take a long term approach. Over the next month we will continue to progress on our list management and Head Coach selection process. At this stage it is too early to make predictions on either however I hope that there is some comfort in the fact that there is a distinct framework that is driving the hunt for both and that it isn-t occurring in an unstructured or haphazard nature.

While all this has been happening , we have continued to drive and grow the Sydney FC Community Program, proudly announcing two new Community Partnerships with the Sydney Children-s Hospital Foundation and the Children-s Medical Research Institute. These are very important steps forward for Sydney FC-s engagement with the broader Community. Not only can we assist in brand awareness and fund raising activities with these organisations the involvement of all at the Club will provide each individual greater perspective as to the battles that other people are faced with. A recent story on the Today show on Chad McGovern illustrated what courage, inspire and family are all about.

I hope to see you at our games v Perth Glory, Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne Victory over the next month. All at the Club are working hard to implement our three year plan. Things won-t happen overnight and patience will be required however I am happy to say that in recent research conducted all stakeholders believe that over the last 6 months the Club had improved dramatically in Level of Professionalism, Community Focus and Communication with Members and Fans. This is just a start however it is exactly what we wanted at the end of 12 months so we can take some respite in the fact that we are a little ahead of schedule.

Dirk Melton
Sydney FC, Chief Executive Officer