It’s time to build a bridge between old soccer and new football

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

By , Mike Tuckerman is a Roar Expert

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    It’s a good thing we have the FFA Cup to distract us from our off-field issues, because Football Federation Australia’s laundry list of problems keeps growing by the day.

    Here’s a random question lobbed in from the cheap seats: if we can imagine handing Brisbane City a place in the A-League, then why not South Melbourne?

    After all, this is the same Brisbane City founded by Italian migrants as Azzurri; one that spent nine seasons in the National Soccer League and plans to play A-League fixtures out of a boutique Ballymore.

    So what’s the difference between entertaining an expansion bid from a club founded by Italians versus entertaining an expansion bid from a club founded by Greeks?

    I ask not because I have an affinity one way or another for either club, but to highlight the fact that so much of the discourse around the game at the moment is haphazard and not overly helpful.

    If it’s good enough for one ex-NSL club to play out of a rented redeveloped stadium in the A-League, then surely it’s good enough for another?

    But South Melbourne, of course, are the club everybody loves to hate.

    It doesn’t help that some of their more outlandish announcements make them sound like a more popular club than Olympiakos, Panathinaikos and AEK Athens combined.

    Nor does the farcical courting of marquee manager Roberto Carlos, while long-time South of the Border blogger Paul Mavroudis recently tweeted that their supposed Oceania Club of the Century award was actually given to them by an organisation “run out of some obscure bloke’s flat”.

    Yet if last week’s nail-biting 1-0 FFA Cup win over Edgeworth Eagles is anything to go by, it’s clear South Melbourne still has plenty to offer to Australian football.

    Played on a pristine pitch in front of the Fox Sports cameras at Lakeside Stadium, the boisterous fans who braved a typically wet winter’s night at Albert Park made it clear this is a club that still has deep connections within its community.

    So why not give them a go in the A-League?

    Greg O'Rourke David Gallop press conference

    Or if not them, then who? Because the longer the FFA prevaricates on the topic of expansion, the more the game’s administrators look like sitting ducks.

    It’s why ex-NSL clubs like Brisbane City, South Melbourne and now the Brisbane Strikers feel emboldened enough to announce expansion bids.

    It’s why the Association of Australian Football Clubs was formed, and why certain A-League chief executives think the FFA board should be disbanded.

    And it’s why a motley crew of FIFA and Asian Football Confederation officials will soon descend upon our shores, as football’s increasingly disgruntled stakeholders push for a more equitable say in how the game is run.

    FFA officials choosing to put their fingers in their ears and shutting their eyes is not going to make questions go away about how the revenue generated by A-League clubs is being spent.

    Nor should we accept without question the news that prospective expansion bidders might not even know the criteria they’re being judged upon until 2018 at the earliest.

    Rome may not have been built in a day, but it surely took less time than waiting for the FFA to get its affairs in order.

    The incessant delays have helped foster an image of a governing body that is out of its depth and at risk of losing control of the narrative.

    And as the FFA Cup has readily proved, fans simply want to watch some football – even if it involves former NSL teams.

    The clamour for Joe Gorman’s new book “The Death and Life of Australian Soccer” suggests plenty of fans are willing to put the old soccer, new football divide behind them.

    No one is saying that every former NSL club deserves to be in the A-League.

    But if they’ve got the resources, surely it’s time FFA stopped delaying and started asking to see some business cases?

    Mike Tuckerman
    Mike Tuckerman

    Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he settled in Brisbane, and has been a leading Roar football columnist from December 2008.

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