As the driving force behind the reform of
football in Australia, the late Johnny Warren and his name deserve to be treated with the
utmost respect.

But it seems too many people have jumped on
the bandwagon when it comes to using the name of the highly regarded and much
loved former SBS football analyst.

That includes Soccer NSW and its pre-season
competition, the Johnny Warren Cup, which kicked off last weekend – though we
couldn’t blame you if you hadn’t noticed. “The Johnny Warren Cup is back, bigger and
better than ever,” Soccer NSW claims
on its website.

You could have fooled us. There has been
bugger-all promotional activity for the tournament and, as a result, little
interest from fans: the crowds that turned up for the first round were
embarrassingly small.

All up it looks like a competition that
isn’t being taken seriously – and that’s not good enough for an event branded
with the Johnny Warren name. Maybe Soccer NSW should think twice about using
the name of Australia’s favourite football son on a substandard product. Or better still,
start treating the tournament, and Warren’s memory,
with the respect both deserve.

The trend that has emerged in the use of
Johnny Warren’s name is probably best summed up in a recent feature
by Australia’s best football scribe, The Sydney Morning Herald‘s Michael
Cockerill.

“There is some irony in the fact that the
same people who shut doors in his face for so long have been so quick to
eulogise him since he left us,” Cockerill writes. “If Warren were still
here, he would indulge these fair-weather friends as a means to an end. But he
wouldn’t forget.”

The central plank in Cockerill’s piece was Warren’s direct
legacy, the Johnny Warren Football Foundation.

Two years after it was announced by former NSW premier Bob Carr, the
Foundation has not yet spawned its football academy, a concept that was
especially dear to Warren’s heart. Carr pledged $1.5 million to get it started,
but Warren died before the academy became a reality. So far football sources say
only a quarter of what was promised has materialised, with the total expected to
be less than half the figure.

It is now hoped the academy will come into being sometime early this year.
Cockerill’s piece urged the chief of the Football Federation of Australia, Frank
Lowy – who knew Warren for almost 30 years and was also on the task force that
created the foundation – to chip in to make sure the academy happens if the NSW
Government won’t again dig into the public purse. We can only hope that happens.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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