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HMAS A-League and Captain Buckley sail on

Football Federation of Australia CEO Ben Buckley holds a media press conference. AAP Image/Dean Lewins
Roar Guru
25th April, 2012
30
1851 Reads

It’s the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the ship that could never be sunk. HMS Titanic was submerged by an iceberg in the icy waters of the North Atlantic, and hundreds lost their lives.

The showpiece of modern 20th century naval architecture lies rusting and rotting on the bottom of the ocean, and like the old HMAS National Soccer League, will never see the light of day again.

The centrepiece of modern 21st century Australian national football architecture, the HMAS A-League, was launched out of Sydney Harbour by the Football Federation of Australia and the Australian Federal Government in 2005.

Shiny and new, luxuriously appointed with a silver dining plate and golden toilet seat and fitted with the most modern, computer-assisted administrative guidance systems known to FIFA, HMAS A-League set out on an adventurous but somewhat treacherous maiden voyage around Australia’s sporting coastline.

HMAS A-League found favourable conditions during its early travels and was able to power ahead with passenger numbers rising to over fourteen thousand per voyage. Some hopeful naval gazers were even predicting that HMAS A-League would soon overtake the much larger and better equipped HMAS NRL and HMAS AFL as the most popular sporting vessel of our times.

But in subsequent years, HMAS A-League and the FFA have been engaged in some heated battles and have lost New Zealand Knights and North Queensland Fury. Despite valiant rescue attempts from FFA Headquarters, seamen Knights and Fury have been lost overboard forever.

Lieutenant Gorman in the crow’s nest warned Captain Buckley of an iceberg sighting off the Gold Coast. However things were finally starting to look better with increased attendances, TV ratings and revenues and Captain Buckley ordered the crew to sail on at full speed. HMAS A-League ran aground on Clive Palmer and started taking on water.

First Mate West Sydney soon came to Captain Buckley’s assistance, starting to sound out the hull and repair the damage as HMAS A-League looked for safe harbour limping towards Newcastle waters.

A sold out A-League grand final and an up-coming Johnny Warren Medal night at FFA Headquarters distracted the brave HMAS A-League crew, and they hadn’t spotted yet another icy obstacle placed in their path by Nathan Tinkler and the Hunter Sports Group board.

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Surely this was the end for HMAS A-League and Captain Buckley, as the ship took another battering on the port side. Would this be its ill-fated final journey?

Rival crews and pirate gangs started circling the listing HMAS A-League, waiting to clamber on board and take their spoils.

The more resilience a person possesses the faster they will recover from adversity.

Ben Buckley and Frank Lowy and the FFA have shown great resilience and have been placed in greater adversity than any other sports administrators will ever face in this country.

They have been beset by financial problems, mutinous club owners, rebellious and disgruntled football fans, analysts and journalists, public examination and ridicule, government and taxation department investigations and examinations, legal challenges, and a hostile press and public.

They have survived and the ship sails on.

I think the FFA is doing a remarkable job under the circumstances, and the FFA Board and administration are proving themselves to be worthy leaders of the game in Australia.

Sure they have made mistakes, but in the pressure-cooker atmosphere in which they are operating, and with the very limited resources they have at their disposal, they are expected to make mistakes. Thankfully they are learning from those mistakes.

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I have registered my interest in the West Sydney A-League club and attended the Fan Forum at the Parramatta Riverside Theatre. I thought the whole thing was very well run and that the FFA and people like Lyall Gorman are doing a fantastic job.

More than 50,000 have registered their interest in being involved with the new team, and also taken part in online surveys to choose the club’s culture, objectives, name, logo and colours.

There are also a number of former and current Socceroos who are now successful businessmen like Rale Rasic, Ray Richards, Mark Schwarzer, Lucas Neill, Tim Cahill and Mark Bosnich, just to name a few, who are behind the venture.

The FFA have also set up the Newcastle Football Management Team run by former Socceroo Ray Baartz as CEO, with the focus of getting the Jets back up and running without Tinkler.

The FFA are also likely to win compensation claims from the Hunter Sports Group, Nathan Tinkler, Clive Palmer and Troy Palmer of between 50 to 100 million dollars, and the proceeds of an increased TV deal from Foxtel will also help fund the start up of West Sydney and the revitalised Newcastle Jets.

In the past few weeks the FFA has shown the resilience of HMAS A-League, proving that they are serious about West Sydney and a ten-team competition this season.

Long may she sail on.