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Opinion

Football history: Factories take control in the 1930s

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27th October, 2020
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For a brief period of time in the late 1970s, beaming from the highest chimney in The Rocks shone the word ‘Metters’. Don’t admit it, but some of you, I gather, might be spritely enough to remember.

The bright advertisement, standing next to the southern pylon of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, publicised a company that manufactured stoves and ovens.

In the 1930s, Metters was also a successful business that fielded a football team, nicknamed the ‘Stovies’.

Peter Kunz, author of Chronicles of Soccer in Australia, writes about the many old factory teams, which managed and supported their workers to play football.

Metters, it appears, was one of the breakout glamour clubs, as they ignored the amateurism of the code by paying bonuses to players, including a number of Australian internationals.

Their strive for professionalism led to the creation of Arlington Oval, which the Sydney Morning Herald described as a “leading soccer ground” in 1933. Such was the splendour of Metters’ new digs in Dulwich Hill that the lawn was even featured in the British Empire Games of 1938.

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In 1934 a rivalry formed when Goodyear sporting ground opened in Camellia, having been created by the tyre and rubber company. At the time, the Sydney Morning Hearald praised the generous factory corporation, noting they “displayed considerable interest in developing sporting facilities for about 800 employees.”

Kunz also suggests that both Metters and Goodyear were streets ahead of other teams, because they offered people the chance of employment during a tough period where jobs were scarce.

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These days, football is a full-time gig and stadiums are primarily built (and leased out) by state governments. One could argue, the only actual bricks-and-mortar clubs are former National Soccer League sides.

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How poetic is it then, that Arlington Oval was previously a brick pit? Furthermore, what about the old chimney, towering over an obsolete power station in The Rocks? Well, that building ended up being used as a mining museum – a window to the past.

From stoves to tyres, these were just some of the driven clubs that built a solid foundation for football in Australia.