Political turmoil in Soccer (I think we have been here before)

So another A-League season finishes and we should be talking about the pulsating final that Sydney FC won on penalties (as much as it kills me to say it), the Socceroos important World Cup qualifiers, and the news that soccer has the highest participation rate of any sport in this country. Unfortunately, the main talking points are the inactivity of the FFA in regards to A-League expansion, lukewarm bidding for the A-League media rights, and the clubs rejecting the FFA’s annual distribution. Call me crazy, but didn’t we go through all this 15 years ago?

 

Back then, the FFA (then known as Soccer Australia) was about to hit a huge roadblock due to years of political infighting and grandstanding by officials who were all about themselves rather than for the good of the game. Along came Frank Lowey and the game went into reset mode. Along came a renaming of Soccer Australia to Football Federation Australia (FFA), dismantling the National Soccer League, forming the A-League, moving Australia from Oceania to Asia, and pouring more resources into the Socceroos. The results created the biggest boom soccer has seen in this country. Qualification to the World Cup finals for the first time in 32 years; now qualified for 3 World Cup finals in a row; winner of the Asian Cup in 2015; the A-League has seen greater interest in our game locally that has resulted in better stadiums and facilities for the A-League teams; bumper crowds and TV audiences; and finally the Wanderers became Asian Champions League winners. Up until a couple of years ago things were looking good for the game in this country.

 

However things started to change and issues that have been ignored have come to a head.  The crowds and TV audience in the A-League have plateaued, plans for expansion of the league seem to change every second day. There are plenty of bids, but the FFA seems gun shy to confirm when expansion will take place. The Socceroos have been showing chinks in their armour of late and qualifying in Asia won’t be a walk in the park this time.  Our youth development has hit crisis point, Australia has not qualified for the Olympics since 2008 and missed out on both U-17 and U-20 World Cup finals.  A-League sides are reluctant to play young Australian players which is also hampering their development. The mega media rights deal has not come to fruition and has resulted in a lower return to the A-League clubs, which has been rejected.

 

So where to now?  What we can’t have is what the FFA is currently doing. Which is absolutely nothing.  Frank Lowey’s son Stephen, who took over from the old man, has more investigations and committee’ then what our current Prime Minister has at the moment. Committees are great, but there have to be actions and recommendations that come out of them, neither of which are being produced. Firstly, the FFA needs to have expansion. There are teams/bids ready to go such as South Melbourne, Brisbane City and Tasmania. Expansion will mean greater interest, more commercial opportunities and bigger media rights. With this in mind the FFA need to relinquish control of the A-League and hand control to the clubs like is done in the EPL. The clubs need to be given the chance to run their own destiny and this will also free up resources for the FFA to put into the national teams, player development and grassroots where funds are desperately needed.

 

All these simple ideas will provide the flow-on effect needed to kick start the game and prevent another reset which frankly would kill the game in this country.

 

About Vaughan Menlove

Obsessed with Richmond, Luton Town, Melbourne Victory and Arsenal. The Dr had a soccer career hampered by the realisation he was crap, but could talk his way around the game. Currently on Southern FM with The Peoples Court and co host of Goodfellas Football podcast with Steve Baker

Comments

  1. Dennis Gedling says:

    Was definitely a tough year. The momentum has slowed and fans are getting bored with the 10 team competition that’s for sure. I completely agreed with the FFA and Lowy being in tight control when the league started after witnessing the horrible demise of the NSL. Costs had to be kept down, teams needed to develop and things needed a tight leash so teams couldn’t spend beyond their means and then go broke. They also had to be careful with the new clubs giving those who never had a tie to a club through whatever means a chance to support a team that supported all people.

    The trouble is now is the time to let more autonomy to happen and the FFA is being resistant to this in a really sloppy way which is impacting a lot of things. While promotion and relegation will happen eventually it has to be done properly. I can’t see how a Western Australian team that isn’t Perth Glory could survive travelling east every other weekend so a good system that would support the clubs would need to be developed. The FFA Cup has bee a good initial bridging of the new and old worlds. Expansion is needed right now though. Ideally a 14 team comp with an even draw of 26 rounds with gaps when the Socceroos play would be nice. The teams in the Asian Champions League are also not that bad compared with the teams they have to play. Mabe with Port and the Suns being the first teams to ever play sport in China they could ask them for advice.

    At youth or ‘technical’ level I’m at a loss as to why the U-17 teams etc are not firing. Either that generation that peaked in 2006 was immensely brilliant or the Dutch system brought in just isn’t working. The changes to immigration laws through the EU etc allowing other international players to get visas has made it more competitive for Australian players to play in bigger European leagues but we lack a few world class players and some players (Leckie et al) have not made the step up. There need to be more inclusive discussion to move forward but the sport in this country has always had self important interests and petty immature rivalries holding it back at times. The politics of the sport is a massive hindrance. This is a shame because it overshadows the leaps and bounds the Matildas and W-League have made. The AFL didn’t invent women’s sport.

    It’s obvious the sport is immensely popular in this country and especially with younger generations but it’s not being harnessed properly.

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