Spin doctors only dig the FFA’s hole deeper

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No one has ever questioned the work ethic of our football federations and rightly so. Given a choice between working smarter or harder, they always go the latter.

You’d think FFA would have seen the positives in Clive Palmer singling it out for a bit of treatment, like certain governments have after years of copping loathing from their own constituency.

Here, finally, was an identifiable enemy outside the window, not inside the mirror.

Suddenly you could cut the goodwill for FFA with a knife.

The possibilities ought to have been endless, but having the punters onside must feel to football governors like they’re resting on their laurels, so out went Kyle Patterson and the spin doctors to blow up the bridges again.

Palmer said he wanted to know why football cost $300 for a six year old.

If that’s a misrepresentation with potential to damage the game, then obviously football needs to get out there and crush it.

A good PR flack will do that, without suggesting that it’s a potentially fair point or that junior fees might actually be too expensive for the game’s own good. Taking their lead from Big Tobacco, they would attend to perceptions and let realities look after themselves.

So what are the realities of junior fees?

If anyone knew what the big picture was it would be state federations, but they don’t.

The state federations deliver exactly the kind of responses to questions and complaints about club fees you’d expect from federations accountable to those clubs’ representatives. (They’re looking into it, have been for five years, and they will continue to look into it.)

All I know for sure is some kids at one club in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne were charged $450 for Small Sided Games in 2011, while another club nearby charged $120 for the same program.

Rumour has it that another club wanted $350 but some say it was only $250 plus some other stuff. As for the other 600 or so Victorian clubs and the thousands nationwide, you can ask them yourself.

What I do know though is that no club that I am aware of charges six year-olds $300.

Clive Palmer, you were wrong!

That’s the mundane little game our football federations have elected to play with Palmer and his Football Australia, which would be all well and good if no one actually played football and the numbers were all academic.

Remember? Football is the biggest participant sport in Australia and the majority of those participants are kids who don’t actually need FFA or Football Australia guessing roughly what junior fees are. They already know. it’s on their parents’ bank statements.

Anyone can say what they like about junior fees but the only minds they’ll be changing are those too far from the action to matter.

In the absence of credible big-picture fees information from either side, that leaves FFA and its affiliates wresting over fresh air with Football Australia for hearts and minds.

So which side most deserves the football community’s trust?

That should be a no-brainer. How could an outfit like Football Australia ever establish itself as a more credible voice in the eyes of the football community than the football community’s very own football federations?

As it rightly should have, Football Federation Victoria decided to weigh into a raging social media discussion sparked by Palmer’s comments about junior fees.

FFV decided to tweet the cold, hard facts to football journalists.

Thinking about it, it’d be a pretty silly move trying to pull any wool over anyone’s eyes at this stage, with trust being the issue and there being something like fifty thousand kids on FFV’s books paying clubs anything from a couple of hundred dollars for a year’s football to, according to the rumour mill, a couple of grand.

You could try to fudge the numbers if you wanted to but you’d never get away with it.

“FFV fee for a metro 5-11 year old is $45.50, 12-18 year old is $68.50,” FFV tweeted to one and all.

Yes, but you can’t actually play exclusively for FFV or any other federation. One has to play for one of its member clubs, and it’s what they charge that counts.

Anyone who actually plays football will be well aware of that; even Clive Palmer is aware of that.

There is little use trying to convince no one who matters that junior football is cheap as chips – they’ll find out soon enough if they do decide to play. This kind of approach just lends credibility to Palmer’s claim that football federations are in urgent need of a watchdog, and that they need head and heart transplants.

For its trouble, FFV might as well have just knocked up a recruiting poster for Football Australia, or failing that, been disciplined enough to keep its mouth shut and its fingers off the keypad and leave at least a little bit of doubt about what kind of game it plays over fees.

Adding insult, FFA still hasn’t fixed the typo on Kyle Patterson’s job description. It’s meant to be voice for the terrace, Kyle, not voice of the terrace.

Patterson, was fresh from prompting football supporters to reach for their sick bags by telling Brendan Schwab to put down his Chairman Mao book, after the PFA’s CEO had the audacity to stand up for Gold Coast players while their club was being exterminated. From there, Patterson decided to shed some light on Palmer’s FA.

“This is another sideshow that has nothing to do with advancing the interests of the game. Football has democratically elected bodies from the grassroots to the state federations and up to FFA at the national level.”

Tiddywinks enthusiasts might be won over by that but football supporters know all about their democratically elected bodies, why their constitutions are fundamentally different to those recommended in the Crawford report, who benefited from those recommendations being scuttled, and why to the average punter it has amounted to taxation without representation.

Realistically, if there were anything besides junior fees FFA oughtn’t be drawing attention to right now it’s the nature of its democracy, because that’s handing even heavier ammunition to its critics.

So, yes, nice work, Kyle and company – two bullets, both feet. And Football Australia hasn’t even begun the research that will draw the bleeding obvious correlations between eight years of expensive “new football” at the grassroots, the redefinition of “elite player” based on financial wherewithal, and the effects that won’t become apparent before youth squads are failing in international competition.

Nor have they addressed that turning that around will take at least another eight years, nor why some football federations are culpable in the extreme for assigning cheap-trick spin doctors to hose down burning issues, that for football’s sake demand being addressed with real skills and intelligence.

Former Roarer, Jesse Fink, has released a new e-book, World Party, the story of the Socceroos' incredible run at the 2006 World Cup – 15 days every Australian football fan should never forget. Support a fellow Roarer and download a copy today.