One-on-one with Johnny Warren Foundation Boss Brian Hastings

a man wearing a suit and tie sitting at a table

It seemed like small pickings at the time for the former St. George Bank senior executive but it provided the impetus for him to utilise his business skills at a higher level in the game. 
From 1991-1998, Hastings was chairman of the Wollongong Wolves when they enjoyed prosperous times in the N.S.L..
Due to business pressures he stepped out of the limelight to enjoy the game from a distance.
However, while he was absent  in an official capacity , there was always the prospect of  a return to the game and after recent discussions with former CEO, Stefan Kamasz and board member , Les Murray, he gratefully accepted the vacant chairman?s position .
In this interview with Roger Sleeman, Brian Hastings discusses his background in football, his involvement in the N.S.L., his thoughts about the direction of the game and his plans for the Johnny Warren Football Foundation.
You?ve been been sitting on the sidelines for the last few years. What prompted your return to football?
Although I  wasn?t holding office in the game, I?d been overseas  a number of times  to watch international football , including the  2005 and 2007 European Champion?s League Finals and the 2006 World Cup so my enthusiasm for the game never waned.
Also, I regularly travel from Wollongong to watch Sydney FC and take a great interest in youth football in the Illawarra area.
For some years, I communicated with Johnny Warren and we agreed there was a strong need to provide the resources to produce better technical players.
It?s all about opportunity and when the vacancy became available, I believed I could make a contribution in directing the Foundation?s strategy to assist the development of young players.
How much can your experience at Wollongong assist you in the new role?
We achieved a lot while I was involved at the Wolves and Brandon Park was always full for our home games.

When Nick Theodorakopolous  was coaching we had seven locally produced  players in the first team which was a big fillip for the supporters and a great source of encouragement for the aspiring local players who hero worshipped players like Matt Horsley and Scott Chipperfield .

Apart from my duties at the Wolves, I also became involved at the A.S.F. when David Hill was chairman and served on the Finance Committee ,while being heavily involved with the Player?s Union in the negotiation of players?contracts.

Let?s say I?ve been through the mill many times in football which can only assist me in facing the challenges of this position.
David Hill had great plans for Australian football, but in the end why didn?t he triumph? Do you promote a similar philosophy?

David Hill attempted radical changes which were considered a natural evolution in the game, including the de-ethnicisation of clubs and a greater accountability for finances.
However, the political forces in the game were too strong for him to achieve his aims, even though many of his ideas were similar to those implemented under the current regime.

At the football summit in 1995, it was in fact ASF board member, George Negus, who raised the idea of an A-League.

I definitely supported many of Hill?s initiatives, particularly with encouraging business people to contribute expertise in the running of the game.

In fact when I vacated the Wollongong job, a cooperative of business people leased out the Wollongong Wolves name and if Wollongong enters the A-League in the near future it will be a business consortium which will be the major stakeholder.

Where do you see the Foundation positioning itself in the football community in relation to player development?

Obviously, my intention is to elevate the status of the Foundation in the community while not creating the impression we are competing against the academies and other coaching organisations.

We need to adopt a co-operative approach to work with other coaching systems and to prepare young players adequately for NSWIS.

As highlighted previously, the Foundation also has to go national in the next few years so it can truly be recognised as an important player in youth development.

Recently there have been some new arrivals on the Board. How significant are these appointments?

We are looking at people who have vast experience at a senior level in major organisations and are primed to contribute their expertise so the Foundation can rise to a new level.

 During the next few weeks we are having meetings to modify the strategic plan of the organisation which will have major impact on future directions.

The new directors include Darryl Clout, the General Manager of NSW Sport and Recreation, who has many years experience at the highest level in designing sporting policy.

Steve Warren, a senior executive of AIG and a man with incredible marketing credentials is a welcome addition.

Manuel Xipolitas, a regional executive manager for NAB, has been involved in the game for many years at the grass roots level.

Carlo LoGuidce is a senior commercial manager in the Westfield Group who has also been involved in the game for many years.

Critically, this group of people bring a talent pool together which would be difficult to assemble in any boardroom.

Are you going to involve the former professional players more in the Foundation?
There is no question the expertise of former players should be utilised more in the game and with the formation of a technical committee engineered by Les Murray and the new vice- chairman Jamie Warren, there is every intention to call on their expertise to raise the standard of our development process.

We will also be conducting a summit meeting in the near future to allow the players to provide input as to where we can maximise the potential of our programmes and become an integral part of football culture. After all Johnny Warren spent his entire life trying to achieve greater recognition for his fellow professionals.

We also would like to encourage Socceroos like Harry Kewell and Tim Cahill to identify with the Foundation and ultimately to become patrons.