Really don’t know what to make of this but I guess Christopher Bantick has decided that crossing to the dark side and supporting Carlton really wan’t a good idea.
Looks like Bantick wants forgiveness and be accepted back into the fold…mmmmmm.
And Sheeds is still Sheeds, forever thinking about the game and having all sorts of ideas
I DIDN’T know what I had started. When I wrote a piece for this newspaper after Kevin Sheedy was sacked as coach of Essendon, I did so on principle. No problem with that. Unwisely, I said I was going to support Carlton.
It was seemingly a matter of nanoseconds and the Bombers supporters unloaded, downloaded and uploaded on the Essendon website. This is a family newspaper so I am not about to relay what I have exactly been called. I had left the tribe and there was only one end, vitriol. Now with Mick Malthouse’s Carlton days as dead as BB King, Essendon supporters have reloaded again and let rip. It ain’t pretty.
Since 2007, I have wandered in the wilderness with Carlton. I have worn my hair shirt and eaten not locusts and wild honey but hot dogs and pies singing the Blues.
But then an Essendon follower — yes, there was one who was prepared to sit beside the Carlton leper — asked that if he wrote to Kevin Sheedy and Sheeds met me, would I return? Confident that was not about to happen, I said “sure thing”. Last week my mobile rang.
“Christopher Bantick, Kevin Sheedy. When are we going to meet for coffee? If I have to drive you to the Carlton cemetery and show you the graves and say this is where the Blues are to convince you, I’ll do it.”
We arranged to meet the next day. Interestingly, there was no pitch made for my dollars or membership. We talked about football, Carlton, ate soup and discussed the issue of his sacking. If anything, Kevin Sheedy is a “Blue-Sky” thinker. His mobile buzzed with text messages constantly. He took calls, he has big ideas.
I made it clear that if I was going to return to Essendon as a member, then what skills could I bring the club and what could I do for the club? Otherwise why bother?
The fact is this. Football clubs, be they Essendon or anybody, are significant brands. They are also entities in communities. People do have a sense of belonging and ownership. So how can football clubs add value to their supporting community?
This goes beyond football clinics, family days and players visiting hospitals. All those are important and not to be denigrated. But what good do football clubs do for youth? That is an untapped resource. It does not mean supporters having club events.
What football clubs like Essendon could do is become actively involved in providing opportunities for young people in education and leadership. That happens in England where Premier League clubs have run homework centres for local students.
If a student feels that a football club has been interested enough in them to offer some support, then the club would have a supporter for life. How homework centres work is that registered teachers offer their time to provide tutorial assistance to students who might otherwise not receive it.
If a football club, with corporate involvement, was prepared to fund something like a club-based homework centre, once or twice a week, then the value-added aspect of that returns directly back to the club in member loyalty.
Beyond this, football clubs may also offer scholarships to able students in their communities who may need financial support either at school or at university. A Don scholar or an Essendon Football Club Awardee may receive the start in life that may be denied them otherwise.
A football club is indeed more than a game, or at least it should be. What is clear is that progressive football clubs will only ensure their future success by broadening their reach. The old model of geographical loyalty is gone. You do not have to support Collingwood if you live in the inner suburb. Once, if you valued your life, you had no option. The same went for Carlton, Footscray, St Kilda and other suburbs.
To grow supporters, clubs must become creative in their thinking, imaginative in their reach into their communities and diverse in their activities. They need to do their homework.
CHRISTOPHER BANTICK IS A MELBOURNE WRITER, A SENIOR LITERATURE TEACHER AT AN ANGLICAN GRAMMAR SCHOOL AND A BOMBER FLYING HOME