Football’s head office might feel it’s stuck between a rock and a hard place in terms of trying to keep everyone onside, but right now they ought to go into bat for the football family.
Keen to win over and keep non-football stakeholders such as the mainstream media onside, the FFA has been keen over he past few days to project an image to those outside the game as a stern leader.
It even took the bizarre step yesterday of issuing a statement citing the leaking of the ban list of 198 names over 10 years as “proof” they were doing a good job of managing any trouble-makers out of the game.
This has long been the FFA’s quandary.
For whatever reason they feel they can’t come out and strongly defend and protect their key stakeholder, the football fan.
Instead they play a game of trying to appease the likes of Rebecca Wilson and Alan Jones, part of a dying breed of shock-jocks trying to cling on to whatever it is they hold so dear.
And where is David Gallop in all this? Wasn’t he meant to be the CEO with all the News Limited connections that would help get the game onside with Murdoch, and keep it there?
All good in his first year when the Western Sydney Wanderers and Alessandro del Piero did all the work for him, even getting Phil Rothfield in among the RBB measuring and glorifying sound decibels.
But where’s this News relationship at now if the likes of Wilson, Rita Panahi and Graham Cornes line up in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide respectively for regular swipes?
Here was Gallop, on The Roar on Tuesday, telling us that he and his organisation had to spend more time listening to their key stakeholder, the fans.
In truth, this should be a given. FFA was certainly on the right path a few years ago when the Wanderers were born and flourished on the back of a well-managed consultation process.
Western Sydney’s fans got exactly what they wanted, and soon enough everyone wanted to be a part of the biggest juggernaut in Australian sport.
It was a time for level heads and rational thought.
But rather than remain humble and keep listening and building on the early success Gallop and his posse got carried away and started shouting from the roof-top about how soon football would swallow everything in its path.
Of course this sort of antagonistic diatribe is going to ruffle feathers, particularly with a few recalcitrants guilty of not taking the messages regarding flares.
The FFA became caught up in the public relations game of having to show respect for the process of authority.
Indeed it has even flamed tensions with fans through the existence of an extremely unpopular security consultant in Hatamoto and refusing to give those it banned, even for minor infringements, a right to appeal.
The pendulum had clearly swung too far in favour of the authorities, a point highlighted in a recent senate committee hearing into the over-policing of Wanderers games.
Wilson’s anti-football propaganda on Sunday was the last straw for many, bringing things to a head.
Whether it emanated out of a leak from an SCG Trust run by a bevy of white middle-aged males tied to other sports, or another source, the fact Wilson got her hands on the ban list shows there remain dinosaurs out there keen to keep football down.
Statistics such as those published by Roy Morgan this week highlighting the continued growth of the round ball and it passing national institutions such as swimming and netball will only heighten the attacks.
Now it’s up to the FFA to manage the mess, getting fans, authorities and media influencers onside.
For Steven Lowy and his new board it’s time to step in and take a critical look at whether those charged with delivering the game’s messages, and doing such a poor job of managing stakeholders inside and out, are equipped to take the game forward.
Problems in managing relationships with the Professional Footballers Association, fans, broadcasters and clubs have been long known, but now it’s clear the FFA are struggling to work with mainstream media and other parts of Australia’s establishment such as the police.
As I wrote last week, winning over football’s stakeholders remains a big priority, but this week served to remind Lowy that the game still has many battles before it’s fully embedded into the Australian way.