|Paul Kelly-CEO, Perth Glory F.C|
|Profile of the week|
Monday, 19 March 2012 11:47
Paul Kelly has been the Chief Executive of Perth Glory Football club since January 2010. An inaugural board member of Football West, Mr Kelly currently sits on three boards, International Goldfields LTD, FEL Limited and Chameleon Mining. Prior to taking up his position with Perth Glory, Mr Kelly worked in the finance industry with ME Bank in various State and National roles.
In two seasons at Perth Glory, Mr Kelly has restored the club to be one of the most dominant in the country, challenging for this seasons Hyundai A-League championship. Off the field, Mr Kelly has also connected Perth Glory with the community, engaging all levels of players from grass roots football. Mr Kelly also has a rich sporting background through Football and represented the Republic of Ireland on more than 20 occasions in underage competition. He also played for St Malachys, Home Form, Longfird Town and Cork City in the League of Ireland.
By Marc Sibbons
Growing up as a keen footballer, what were your aspirations? What were your greatest memories?
Well, the greatest aspiration for any young footballer is too play for your country and play at the highest level possible. One of my greatest memories was when I played for the Rep. of Ireland against England at youth level and beat them 1-0 in Dublin. I was a goalkeeper back then so I was obviously very pleased with the clean sheet!
I had many heroes who I looked up to at youth level, with the likes of Pat Jennings, Ray Clemence, Peter Shilton right up there. I was also lucky enough to meet the great Lev Yashin when I played in Russia with the Irish team. They were all top quality goalkeepers who were legends in every sense of the word.
Having started out in League of Ireland football, what made you decide to move abroad at the age of 21?
By the age of 21, I was actually quite a seasoned League of Ireland footballer having played since I was 15! I played over 150 games from memory and was in the Rep of Ireland international set up at under-15 and under 21’ level. When I reached the Under-21 level, I was still seeking a new challenge and needed a break from full time football having started at a young age.
Basically, I felt I was at a crossroad’s where I was never going to take the next step towards any real heights in my football career. I had just met my current wife back then and I felt we needed to get away and try something different.
What were your first impressions of football down under?
I found it to be pretty backward at first in all honesty. I think it was around March time and it was already 40 degrees when I had my first training session. That weekend, I turned up and hour and a half before kick off in a suit and tie to find my new team mates arriving half hour before the game in shorts and t-shirts which was very amusing, for them anyway! So a very quick and laid back approach was my introduction into Aussie football, which I began to get used too as time went by.
As I progressed, there were some decent players I played with at that time and the standard of football wasn’t too bad. Irish players like Peter Eccles were out here at the time so there were some decent import players coming into the league and it wasn’t too different from the League of Ireland in terms of quality.
What would you consider to be the most challenging and rewarding aspect of your job at Perth Glory?
The most challenging part of my job is to get Perth Glory into the finals, where we currently sit in fourth place in the league in the top 6 play off. With 3 games left, if we can win all of those games we are guaranteed a home final, which will be fantastic for the club. This club deserves to be in finals as it has great support from the fans at every game, and they deserve some success.
Believe it or not, I’m a banker by trade as I moved into the industry after I finished playing football, but the two did eventually reverse and I moved back into football. I wouldn’t say football is a procedure or structure driven industry but I do live and breathe it and it’s very rewarding, which is one of the main reasons I chose to return.
How much have the club progressed since Perth Glory was founded in 1995?
When the league first started in Australia it was called the National League. This eventually folded in 2004 and made way for the A-League. The National League wasn’t very professional and was badly structured during its eight years while the government body didn’t have enough money to keep the league active. Perth Glory was one of the biggest teams in the National League because we had the most money, and could attract the best players.
However, the introduction of the A-League proved to be much tougher as it was much more of an even playing field for the teams associated with the league. The salary cap meant a new change in rules and suddenly the competitiveness of the league was becoming more structured. We struggled for maybe the first five, six years of the A-League, but people still see Perth Glory as a ‘sleeping giant’ having been a massive club in the old National League.
How has the introduction of the A-League helped rejuvenate Australian domestic football after the collapse of the National League in 2004?
The A-League has had a significant impact in restoring Australian football to where it should be. The new league now has a vastly improved structure with increased business flow, fresh policy and effective procedure; something Australian football wasn’t able to have in the National League. The most significant aspect of the A-League is that there is plenty of money floating around nowadays. There is a billionaire chairman who heads the league itself so there is plenty of business acumen available and the investment is not as much of an issue as it was in the old days.
The league is still young and a lot of teams are still working towards their long-term ambitions, but there is reason to think that the league can improve and get better. Robbie Fowler was here at Perth Glory last year as a ‘marquee player’ and did tremendously well for the club. Dwight Yorke also played in the league four or five years ago for Sydney and also had the same effect.
The National League wouldn’t have been able to attract players of this calibre in the past but the A-League has certainly helped raise the appeal of the league and make signing these players possible, particularly on a financial level.
Cricket and Rugby are commonly associated with Australian sports. How popular is football with the Australian people? How much has soccer caught up with these sports in the last 10-15 years?
Funnily enough, I would actually say the most popular sport in Australia is soccer. However soccer doesn’t get as much profile/kudos in the media, which is its main problem. The sport that gets maximum exposure in the country is called AFL (Australian Football League), which is massive.
Rugby League is also very big, with both these sports having existed for over a hundred years here in Australia. Soccer is a fledgling sport, which has been its main problem in terms of it’s progression but I’m confident in the next 10, 20 years we will see the A-League gain more and more exposure, establishing a wider fan base in the process.
The problem lies because there are just too many sports in Australia; I’ve always believed soccer to be a major sport in the country, but it just doesn’t have the same level of exposure as the others.
Considering soccer may not be every Australian’s favourite sport, do you feel you have to be a bit more imaginative when attracting supporters to a soccer match?
Yes I think so. AFL football is Australia’s premium sport in terms of entertainment and attracting new customers. They have entertainment during and after the game for example, which is very ‘Americanised’ in my view. Soccer is now trying to vie for this level of entertainment whilst also trying to attract the non-soccer supporter to come to games and experience a new sport.
It’s difficult because soccer is a very traditional game; you go to an AFL match and there is the odd chanting, but in soccer everyone chants! It’s a very different atmosphere and you have to be realistic in how you target new fans. Australian’s are very parochial so they want to see locals in the team. They expect this in order for them to get a good level of customer experience from soccer matches. While they are intrigued to see these high import ‘marquee players’ arrive from abroad, they are more interested in the idea of locals playing for their relevant teams.