Focus on football, not booze

CATHERINE GROENESTEIN- TARANAKI STAR
Last updated 09:18 03/07/2014
football
David Burroughs/SUPPLIED
Stratford goalkeeper James Burroughs, 15, wards off an attack.

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Stratford soccer club has stopped selling alcohol at its clubrooms as part of a focus on its younger members.

It was the only soccer club in Taranaki, and possibly New Zealand, to have done so, said president Brent Dodunski, Stratford.

"We want to instill in them that it's all about the football, its not all about the drinking," he said. "In my day drinking was a large part of football,"

The move, which started this season, comes as part of the club committee's moves to encourage younger players into the sport, a policy that is paying off, as the club is doing very well at regional level with junior and youth teams, while the senior team remained near the top of its division.

"Previously, it had always been all about the seniors and our numbers were dwindling. We looked at the demographics and decided to turn our club upside-down," Dodunski said.

The policy was proving very successful and the club had been steadily growing.

"In Taranaki we are the smallest football club but one of the largest junior clubs, we have nine junior teams this season."

There are two youth squads, under-15s and under-19s, and about half the under-19s also play in the club's senior team.

This meant that many of the players in the senior team had to play two games in a day, which did affect their performance in the senior games at times, he said, but it was valuable experience for the up-and-coming players.

The committee was firmly focused on being a family oriented club.

"We talked to people and their biggest comment was that they didn't want their kids around alcohol and that drinking culture."

The move to stop selling alcohol in the club had seen several senior players move on, which had been sad but there was certainly no resentment about it, he said.

The club remains hospitable, but now has no liquor license and no alcohol stored on the premises. The clubrooms are vacated by 4pm and if club members want to socialise with visiting teams, they move to one of the town's pubs, he said.

"Two or three of us went into town with the visiting team for a couple of beers after 4pm last Saturday," he said.

The move was partly made for economic reasons as the costs associated with selling alcohol, such as maintaining a liquor license, having a bar manager on site, were high in comparison to profits from sales.

"We run a raffle every home game and make more than we used to from selling alcohol," he said.

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The policy has raised a few surprised eyebrows, but opposition teams had all been very respectful of the club's stance, Dodunski said.

"We have been asked, 'but how do you make money,' and I tell them that sponsors like to get involved with positively motivated people too."

The club's sponsors, particularly McDonald's Real Estate, had been supportive of the policy and the club in general. Without this support, they club would not exist.

- Taranaki

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