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Dressing Brisbane Roar for Success

BR_Kit-02Every team has one but what does a kit manager do? This was the question that I wanted answering so I spoke to Steven Farrell at Brisbane Roar. Steven is the Hyundai A-League / NYL Team Kit Manager and has been for two seasons.  I was interested in the kit manager’s role in the team and why people like Steven do the job they do.  Steven was very accommodating and explained his role during the week as well as on match days.  In addition, I wanted to explore the challenges anticipated in Brisbane Roar’s participation in the Asian Champions League (ACL) in 2014/15.

Steven was born in Penrith and had studied in Sydney as well as working in the sports industry there.  It was the move to the Gold Coast to study toward a Bachelor of Sport Management degree that started the relationship with Brisbane Roar.  Steven first worked as a volunteer for Brisbane before being offered some part-time work by the club.  Obviously impressing them, he was finally offered the position of Kit Manager for the 2012/13 season.

Having the responsibility for the kit, I wanted to know how frequently it was replaced.  “At the start of the season we make up two shirts, two shorts for each of our contracted players in our home and away strips. Last year, we had a third/event strip and we did the same in that too.”  The aspiration is that the kit will last all season but kit does get ripped so needs replacing.  Occasionally, shirts get swapped at the end of games; Ivan Franjic and Jade North swapped shirts with Alessandro Del Piero and Emile Heskey.  “Sometimes they ask but most times I find out when counting the shirts”, much to Steven’s chagrin I imagine.

The title of kit manager seems to be somewhat of a misnomer.  The kit aspect of Steven’s day is only one part of it.  For a training day, he is the one who opens up the training facility and gets it ready for the players and coaching staff.  As well as laying the kit, putting out any equipment required for the day, pumping up the footballs, he also has less ‘glamorous’ tasks.  For example, he has to collect the fruit from the supplier and place it out ready for the staff.  Also, the winter months means that Steven will be washing training bibs in readiness for the next session. In addition, Steven may assist with the training session but usually does admin or pack training equipment away.  To add to Steven’s repertoire, he also cleans the changing rooms sometimes and sets up the projector for video sessions!

Game day at Suncorp Stadium brings even more challenges.  The preparation starts on the day before when the team sheet is finalized.  Steven prepares the kit in readiness for delivery to Suncorp Stadium.  Steven will also deliver the medical department and sports science department’s equipment. About four hours before kick-off, Steven will arrive at the stadium and unpack the 15 to 20 bags of kit and equipment into the changing rooms. Until the players arrive, about two hours before kick-off, Steven is a busy man.  From organizing the room into the required set up to placing ice vests (for enhancing recovery) in the freezer, it is all action.  All this is done before the coaches and players step foot in the room.  If you are already thinking that this is onerous, he then has to pack it all away at the end of the game before his day is done.

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Footballers are infamous for their little foibles so Steven will make sure he accommodates their requests.  Whether it is the colour and temperature of Powerade or providing Mike Mulvey with his crossword, Steven is ready and willing to assist.  “Bes Berisha always wore cut socks and had a particular sock which I took to every game.”  Humans are creatures of habit and Steven makes sure that the players are accommodated even to the point of buying it himself:

“The weirdest request so far is getting asked by a player for a bottle of Coca Cola. It was an away trip, so I had to head to a hot food stand and buy one, and then run it down to him before he went out to do the warm up.”

There is no respite for Steven when Brisbane Roar are playing away games.  Luckily, goalkeeping coach Jason Kearton is a willing ally in helping to prepare the surroundings for the players and coaches.  Away games bring the added responsibility of completing FFA paperwork for coach Mike Mulvey to sign, before submitting it to the Match Commissioner.

Having seen how time pressured and difficult his job is, I wanted to know what motivated Steven to do the job:

“I really want to be a part of this new evolution of football in the country and just football in general. Ultimately, I would like football to be on the same level as these other codes which dominate the Australian landscape. I would like to contribute to that.  What better way to start?  Getting to know all the work and effort from individuals, not just me but other people in the club, who work towards making Brisbane Roar who they are today.”

Having played an ACL qualifier last season, I wondered what Steven was anticipating as a challenge for this season’s ACL campaign. “My biggest issue is how does my gear get washed and returned? I also need time to organise and make sure it’s ready especially if we are away for over a week.” Last season’s ACL playoff defeat to Buriram United from Thailand was a great learning curve for Steven:

“We learned heaps during that trip, and have put systems and structures in place now so when we get there everything runs smoother.”

Things like unbranded drinks bottles will ensure that Steven isn’t putting electrical tape on bottles, just before kick-off, to meet ACL rules.

Finally, I wanted to know what Steven feared the most.  Unsurprisingly, it was not bringing the equipment.  “My worst nightmare would be forgetting the kit, and it hasn’t happened before. I have put systems in place to hopefully ensure this does not happen.”  It seems that Steven’s methodical approach and attention to detail are serving Brisbane well.  He demonstrates proactivity around potential scenarios so he can respond quickly to demand, problems and all the other unknown variables of football life.

Steven’s story is not uncommon.  Every team has a kit manager and they are the ones that keep things just as they should be for their club.  If feels like it can be a thankless task at times but the Kit Manager just goes about their business.

As football fans, we focus on the players without considering what else contributes to making our team who they are.  There are many roles at a football club, like Steven’s, that help keep it running without being in the limelight.  The next time you watch a game and notice a drinks bottle or a change of shirt, for example, just remember that someone like Steven is responsible.

Photo Credit: Steven Farrell

About the author

avatarJonathan is a freelance writer, and contributor to Ultimate A-League.

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