Towards the end of the 2014/15 A-League season, Perth was a club in turmoil after being found guilty of exceeding the salary cap by an excess of $400,000. The club was subsequently banned from playing in the finals series and fined $269,000. But more than that, Glory lost the goodwill of the fans and the players.
Then in August 2015, Filopoulos was appointed CEO of Perth and was charged with rebuilding the club’s reputation.
When Perth was playing in the NSL they regularly sold out home matches, and through owner Nick Tana, bought the best players and it led to Glory winning two grand finals.
But with only one grand final appearance in 12 A-League seasons, Perth have struggled on and off the field and found it difficult to compete with teams such as Sydney FC, Melbourne Victory, and Brisbane Roar.
But two years into his tenure as Perth’s CEO, Filopoulos believes Perth are on the way to not only restoring their past glories but also writing their own modern-day success story.
“I am pretty passionate about what I do and I have a clear vision of where I see Perth Glory in the next five years,” he tells Neos Kosmos.
“We needed to clean up all the legacy issues and rebuild the fans’ sentiment and rebuild our relationships with government and Football Federation Australia.
“It was a lot of hard work. Once we cleared up all the legacy issues, we recruited a new team for that season, following the salary cap issue, and worked really hard with coaches Kenny Lowe and Jacob Burns. We managed to qualify for the grand final and be in the final of the FFA Cup. Last season we were one win away from playing in another grand final.
“We averaged 10,500 spectators last year and when you compare Glory to some bigger clubs around Australia with bigger wallets, we finished higher than those teams on the A-League table.
“This club went through a very long transition out of the NSL and into A-League before we found our feet. Finally, we’re on the right track but we have to demonstrate that by winning some silverware.”
Filopoulos’ first foray into football administration was in 1992, when at the age of 25 he became the first general manager of South Melbourne Football Club.
During his time at South he played a key role with the board in hiring current Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou at the end of the 1995-1996 season.
Over the next two seasons South Melbourne won back-to-back NSL championships, and looking back Filopoulos can recall the episode that would be the catalyst for Postecoglou’s journey to the Socceroos coaching job.
“I remember vividly when Ange was assistant to head coach Frank Arok when he was at the end of his coaching tenure with the club,” he says.
“We had a shocking season that year. It was the fourth-last game of the season and we lost 3-0 to Marconi away. I happened to travel with the team and the result and the performance were pretty embarrassing for a club of South Melbourne’s stature.
“All the players got on the bus for that long trip from Fairfield to the airport, and they were mucking around, joking, laughing. Frank had slumped in his chair, running out of ideas, deflated ,and depressed.
“But when I saw Ange I could see smoke coming out of his ears with the way the boys had responded to that loss. He rushed to the front of the bus and instructed the bus driver to give him the microphone and he gave one of the best sprays to the team that went on for about 20 minutes.
“He said to the players, ‘they might be sitting there laughing and carrying on, but in all the years he’s worn the South Melbourne jumper from U8s right through seniors he hadn’t seen any team of any age group he’d participated in disgrace the jumper like they did that day. If you think that your careers are a God-given right and it’s your entitlement you’re wrong, it’s a privilege to wear this jumper and you blokes have disgraced it.’
“I remember listening to that, and looking at him and thinking that he has real leadership qualities. There was former national coach Frank Arok, slumped in his own thoughts trying to work out a strategy moving forward. But Ange felt compelled to remind those players how they had disgraced the jumper and I did not hear boo from those players for the rest of that trip.
“That, for me, was the moment that was the creation of Ange Postecoglou the coach as we know him today.”
Filopoulos left South Melbourne in 1999 to pursue opportunities in AFL and swimming administration. After almost 16 years away from the round ball game the 49-year-old believes there are questions that Australian football desperately needs to find answers to.
“The football community wants to see the vision for not only the A-League but for the whole sport,” he says.
“You’ve also got a whole community of football clubs who want to know what their future in the game is. There are big clubs that are playing in the NPL across Australia who are saying, ‘What’s the ambition for us? What’s our role in the future? We’re not satisfied just being in the NPL.’
“There are A-League clubs saying, ‘This commercial model is not working for us at the moment because eight out of the 10 clubs are losing money. How do we make the league more sustainable? How can we grow the league to bring in more revenue? What’s the plan? When are we expanding the A-League? When are we going to have promotion and relegation? When are we going to have a national second division? Why aren’t we developing talent like we used to with the golden generation?’
“I’m not saying I’m a proponent of promotion and relegation all I’m saying is what the sport should look like in 10 or 20 years and if promotion and relegation is one of those things well that’s fine, but it’s not ready now in the medium or short term, it’s a long- term play.”
After time away, it’s obvious the football bug has bitten Filopoulos hard and the Melbournian is looking beyond his current position and is eager to play a major part in finding solutions to football’s problems.
“My current role as CEO of Perth Glory is something I am very happy to do, but certainly, I have more to contribute,” he says.
“Because I love this game and there is so much potential. I am very passionate about it and I have some capability to bring to the table -some strong capability over a long period of time while perfecting my trade.
“That’s really where my drive is and I would love to, one day, if I had the opportunity, contribute to building that vision and engaging stakeholders and driving progress – I would love to be a part of that because that’s the most exciting part. There are a lot of obstacles we have to overcome at the moment with a disenfranchised, disengaged, and dissatisfied community of football.”