What is the purpose of a team participating in a football match? In my opinion the answer is simple: the goal is for the team to kick more goals than the opposition.
That is what is football is about.
When we determine who wins the league, it’s determined by whoever won the most matches (combined with the points gathered with drawing the match) in a season.
How do clubs ensure that they win the most games in the season?
The clubs try their best to ensure their club win by creating a good working environment to ensure optimal results, good training pitch, purchasing players and the right coaches. To achieve all that they need revenue by attracting crowds and memberships as well as the ability to attract sponsors etc.
All these factors are key performance indicators towards the success of the club.
Now imagine if we didn’t decide who won the league based on who achieved the most points in the year but instead on key performance indicators.
For instance, if the FFA was to rate each individual club on their organisational ability, the technical standards of the players, the quality of stadium and training pitch, crowd attendance, marketing and promotion of the club, revenue and grants, and then whoever does the best in these categories would win the A-League trophy.
It would be a joke.
That’s exactly how the AFC determine how many clubs join the Asian Champions League. They don’t allocate spots based on performance on the pitch but on key performance indicators.
They allocate points based on organisation, technical standards, attendance, governance, marketing, business scale, game operation, media and stadia.
Australia failed to excel in these KPIs as our league isn’t independently run, we don’t have 12 Australian teams in the A-League, our football season doesn’t last for 10 months, we don’t have promotion relegation and we don’t have a cup competition.
In my opinion all these KPIs are important in developing the technical standards and improving the performance of our clubs. Having more clubs means having more players playing full time at a professional level.
Having a promotion and relegation system is good for youth development where often younger players get to play professional football at a lower level and a cup competition would assist greatly in scouting players and in connecting the grass roots with the professional levels.
A longer football season is absolutely crucial to ensure that players to develop and stay match fit throughout the year. It would be great to have if it was financially affordable. However the FFA has decide that it isn’t financially viable right now and implementing it would be harmful to Australian Football.
The point of these KPIs is to assist and improve the technical standards of the A-League and to improve performance of the clubs participating in the ACL.
They are not the end game itself.
Some of the criteria are subjective and are debateable on whether it is a positive thing to implement. Whether promotion and relegation, extended seasons and an FA-style Cup are a good thing or not are influenced by cultural, economical and geographical issues and should not be mandated as something every league must have.
It should be up to the individual confederation whether to introduce them or not. Right now the current management has decided that so far it isn’t affordable and in the interests of Australian football to implement all the AFC recommendation and that decision should be respected.
The goal of each football governing body is to ensure that their clubs win matches in the Champions league. Each league should be given some flexibility on how they want to achieve these goals.
In my opinion, these criteria should be aspirational targets and guidelines. The inclusion to the ACL should be based on one thing, performance in the tournament. The AFC should copy UEFA and implement an AFC Country Coefficient based on performance in the Asian Champion League to determine how many teams get included in the ACL with the maximum of four teams or 1/3 of the league whichever is higher because performance on the field is the essence to what football is all about.
If the leagues don’t implement AFC recommendations and it turns out their refusal to implement it was a bad idea, then that would reflect in the results and they will be punished for it by a reduced number of teams.
If they refuse to implement it and it turns out it was a good idea then that would reflect positively on the result and would prove that the criteria aren’t universally a good thing and Asian football will benefit by allowing flexibility in how every country decides to run its league.
If the ACL was purely determined by results on the pitch and it was determined that the A-League only deserved one full spot and one playoff spot then I would accept that as a fair result as the process was merit based.
In fact, considering Adelaide United are the only Australian club that is consistently competitive in the ACL, I doubt Australia deserves anything more than two spots in the ACL anyway.
However I just don’t accept punishing leagues based on subjective criteria and having the AFC trying to force square pegs into round holes by forcing leagues to implement policy that may be detrimental to the development of football in their region.