FFA’s Wild West: big on style, short on substance

John Davidson Roar Guru

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    The FFA’s announcement today that there will be a new Western Sydney team in the A-League next season was big on pomp and ceremony but short on details and facts.

    Prime Minister Julia Gillard was on hand with a gaggle of local politicians, FFA heavies and some high-profile football figures to announce the launch of a new team at Football NSW headquarters at Glenwood’s Valentine Sports Park.

    It was a fairly impressive line-up, all eager to get a piece of a positive media event, and so was Gillard’s pledge of $8 million for football development in the west. Getting government funding is a good move, and so is the support of Football NSW.

    The announcement that $1 million will go to women’s football is also good news, as the new A-League club should definitely also have a presence in the W-League, especially at a time when there is speculation over the W-League’s future.

    Ben Buckley strode to the podium and talked big about the “time being right” and the “model being right” for a Western Sydney A-League club. There was mentions of a “major strategic investment”, and Mark Bosnich and Kyah Simon were on hand to give Gillard some football shirts.

    Amid the posturing came the claim that the new club: “will have a core focus on community engagement. The community will have a say in the culture, colours, name and logo of the new entity and we will explore a model that would allow for community ownership.

    In partnership with Football NSW, FFA will ensure the club is truly integrated in community football, schools programs and the elite player pathway.”

    Again, all good signs. The FFA seems to be making the right noises.

    But to an often sceptical football public – where is the details? How will the community have a say in the culture, colours, name and logo? An online poll? Direct mail to all football players in Western Sydney?

    Not to be completely cynical, but there wasn’t a lot of detail in today’s announcement. It seems that the FFA will be bankrolling the club, as no business people or other individuals have come forward. That is disappointing. No mention of potential coaches, CEOs, directors or playing staff.

    Will Western Sydney aiming to sign up what’s left of the Gold Coast United roster? Are their talks to bring a major Socceroo home as their marquee – like a Scott Chipperfield or Tim Cahill?

    Community engagement seems to be big on the FFA’s agenda for the new club, as it should be. But how will this be achieved? How many schools do they plan to visit in 2012? What connections with junior and senior clubs will they set up?

    Westfield Sports High School, located in Fairfield, has boasted more professional football players through its rank than I care to count – Harry Kewell, Jason Culina, Jacob Burns, David Carney, Alex Brosque, Danny Vukovic, Michael Beachamp , Musti Amini, Matt Ryan, Terry Antonis, Matt Jurman and Aaron Mooy to name a few. This would be a good place to start.

    So would engaging the major senior clubs in the area – Sydney United, Olympic, Marconi, Blacktown City, APIA Leichhardt etc. They continue to produce great football talent for little reward, and they are far from happy about this situation.

    The NSW Premier League launched a few weeks ago, boasting that more than 60 players in the A-League came out of the state competition production line. How will the FFA get these important clubs, some of them incredibly disenfranchised, back on side?

    Where this new club plays is another major issue. Should it be in the Olympic Stadium at Homebush? Parramatta Stadium? Blacktown? Campbelltown? A roving identity that plays at all of them?

    These are all questions that need to be answered. There is a long journey for Western Sydney’s A-League club to go on, and a good six months before the next season starts. I would say a large part of the Australian football family wants to see them succeed. Let’s hope the FFA can do it.