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

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

By Mike Tuckerman, 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 since December 2008.

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    The Crowd Says (74)

    • July 31st 2017 @ 7:05am
      League table speaks said | July 31st 2017 @ 7:05am | ! Report

      One of the problems with both old soccer and new football is the idea of “handing” teams a spot in the top flight. The nsl and hal both embraced it in the end.

      No to cartel expansion, yes to meritocracy.

      Promote teams from the NPL based on performance …ie the league table. This is the Football way which no era of the Game here has ever embraced in an ongoing way.

      “Any team from any where” has been a success for the FFA Cup. Make it a reality for league football so any team in the land knows their path to the top flight.

      Open leagues are what makes football great …

      • July 31st 2017 @ 8:10am
        Waz said | July 31st 2017 @ 8:10am | ! Report

        anyone that thinks there can be promotion from the NPL to the HAL is delusional. The next step has to be creating a viable second tier that can survive year after year, there isn’t a football country in the world that has opened up relegation to a non-viable lower division.

        The NPL is at best the equivalent of a third division, and in some states it’s no better than lower non-league division football in England. Worse still the NPL doesn’t have pro/rel between the varying State divisions citing the same excuses the FFA use for the HAL.

        So you build a pyramid from the ground up where the top stands on solid foundations; so the first step is to build a workable pyramid in all the states, the second is to create a national second division, the third is to expand the HAL to 16 teams, the 4th is to introduce pro/rel. the first three can be done in parallel surely with the final step some 10 years away maybe?

        • July 31st 2017 @ 8:18am
          Fadida said | July 31st 2017 @ 8:18am | ! Report

          Excellent post Waz

        • July 31st 2017 @ 8:28am
          League table speaks said | July 31st 2017 @ 8:28am | ! Report

          A second division can come as a result of promotion and relegation from NPL. Much better than “handing out” spots. Base it on performance.

          Promote eight NPL teams to form a second division in the first instance. The winners of the best eight NPL leagues.

          Then promote a team or two a year from division two to get AL division one to 16 teams. Promote new NPL team every year to div 2. The winner of the NPL national playoffs. This can continue once relegation comes in when A1 reaches 16 and A2 reaches 8.

          Promotion and relegation must be part of the second division as their is little point of interest otherwise.

          New teams or groups can start new clubs or revamp existing NPL ones

          There obviously needs to be a proper pathway through all NPL leagues as not all tiers have pro rel. A similar process has happened with Cup qualification pathways.

          Nothing here is delusional in the slightest. This would be much closer to “normalisation” to football standards than any era here old or new.

        • July 31st 2017 @ 9:57am
          Phil of Sydney said | July 31st 2017 @ 9:57am | ! Report

          Yes with the important part being “So you build a pyramid from the ground up where the top stands on solid foundations”

          This will build fan loyalty to clubs and sustainability for the game for the long term.

        • Roar Guru

          July 31st 2017 @ 1:38pm
          Griffo said | July 31st 2017 @ 1:38pm | ! Report

          Waz – good post. Getting a viable second division would be preferable to just plonking a second tier without a plan of viability.

          A lot of things can be run in parallel but some of those windows have come and gone without action, and now there is a sense of knee-jerk reactions because of desperation, and lack of consultation, and no clear planning (at least communicated).

          NPL, really any club, needs to plan and build up capability. Some might be further ahead than others but, and there is risk in everything, just putting some existing clubs in the A-League and not others, without a clear reason, is just going to make matters worse in the current climate, imo. Ditto a quasi-A2, without clear guidelines.

          Similar the whole pyramid structure needs thinking, given the independent nature of State feds, and the amount that has been invested (and lost) for A-League clubs (including extended licences) that any thought of relegation from A1 could be fraught with resistence if not with prior agreement. We are not at the point where the lower performing A-League clubs are consistently losing meaningful games against NPL sides, either. 12 years of work has 9 Australian-based clubs that are at a level above most NPL sides. And ‘national’ is important for the FFA in the thinking of the A-League as a competition, hence thinking and planning around what pro/rel means long term for a ‘national’ competition, given how long it took Western Australia to gain a presence nationally.

          A lot has been let slip by FFA through fear and inaction: consolidation without growth was fine early but that window has past, especially with no plan.

          But then you have to be careful what you wish for. Who’s to say the APFCA owners group will do the right thing by the domestic game?

          One way or the other the A-League, and the game as a whole, has to grow. The FFA have risked their control of the game by their inaction, and because of it, there is a very real risk they’ve sacrificed the future of the game by perhaps ending up with very little say in how it will be shaped from grassroots to the professional tier.

          Self-interest is alive and deep-seated that 12 years hasn’t overcome, and that above all, appears to be flavouring current discussion disguised as control and the games ‘interests’.

        • Roar Guru

          July 31st 2017 @ 2:23pm
          apaway said | July 31st 2017 @ 2:23pm | ! Report

          I agree with you waz. However, the NPL does have promotion and relegation in NSW.

    • July 31st 2017 @ 7:07am
      AR said | July 31st 2017 @ 7:07am | ! Report

      With the imminent dissolution of the FFA Board and Congress restructure, the “no ethnic rule” which applies to “new football” could be abolished to allow a club like SMHFC in…but I doubt it.

      There is an aching need for an 11th and 12th franchise – and ready-made infrastructure for candidates like SMH seems appealing – but backflipping on key policies in desperate times is fraught.

      I’m not sure what the formal FIFA policy is about ethnic-based clubs? Can anyone assist?

      • Roar Guru

        July 31st 2017 @ 9:02am
        Grobbelaar said | July 31st 2017 @ 9:02am | ! Report

        Some of the most famous clubs in the world have an ethnic or immigrant origin.

        In fact, not only is Athletic Bilbao a proudly Basque club with a predmoninant Basque fan base, it has a policy of only signing players of Basque origin.

      • July 31st 2017 @ 9:08am
        Nemesis said | July 31st 2017 @ 9:08am | ! Report

        “I’m not sure what the formal FIFA policy is about ethnic-based clubs? Can anyone assist?”

        Happy to assist if you can define what you mean by “FIFA policy about ethnic-based clubs”?

        A policy about ethnic-based clubs would need clear definitions about “ethnic-based”. What definition are you using? DNA testing of players? Administrators? Checking the canteen for Kosher & Halal-certification?

        Let’s know your definition for “ethnic-based clubs” and then we can explore whether FIFA has a policy on this issue.

        • July 31st 2017 @ 11:51am
          marron said | July 31st 2017 @ 11:51am | ! Report

          As far as I understand it, if you have a great grandparent who was born overseas, you are ethnic and evidence for multicultural harmony facilitated by sport.

          • July 31st 2017 @ 12:05pm
            Nemesis said | July 31st 2017 @ 12:05pm | ! Report

            So, how does that apply to Football Clubs? How does a club become defined as “ethnic-based”?

            Do 50% (or 75%) of the players have to have a great grandparent born overseas? Or, is it the majority of the directors of the club must have great grandparent who was born overseas?

            If all the players and all the directors in a club have a great grandparent born in Great Britain or Republic of Ireland will the club be considered ethnic-based?

            What if 23 players in the squad have great grandparents who were born in 23 different nations? Which ethnic-base will that club be?

            • August 1st 2017 @ 4:40am
              matt jones said | August 1st 2017 @ 4:40am | ! Report

              i wish you would emigrate

        • July 31st 2017 @ 5:57pm
          AR said | July 31st 2017 @ 5:57pm | ! Report

          Hm. That was a non-answer.

          Maybe Fuss doesn’t know about this, but the FFA has a clear “no ethnic policy” for new ALeague franchises:

          “The National Club Identity Policy says that any new or revised club names, logos and emblems of clubs may have the following components; words or letters in English; and/or references to the broader geographic area in which the club is located; and/or colours; and/or references to flora; and/or references to fauna, provided that these components do not carry any ethnic, national, political, racial or religious connotations either in isolation or combination.”

          So my question remains: does FIFA have an equivalent policy, or is this one just for unique Aussie “new football”?

          • August 1st 2017 @ 10:50am
            mattq said | August 1st 2017 @ 10:50am | ! Report

            why would FIFA have such a policy? Maybe you should be asking do other FA’s have a similar policy. You’re full of it.

          • August 1st 2017 @ 10:59am
            Nemesis said | August 1st 2017 @ 10:59am | ! Report

            You’ve quoted a paragraph from the NCIP to define “ethnic-based club”?

            Fine.

            South Melbourne complies with the NCIP, so, using your definition of “ethnic-based club”, we can conclude:

            South Melbourne is not an ethnic-based club.

          • August 3rd 2017 @ 12:51pm
            Steve said | August 3rd 2017 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

            If the above statement was ever challenged in an Australian Court, you would find it is discriminatory.

    • July 31st 2017 @ 8:01am
      Waz said | July 31st 2017 @ 8:01am | ! Report

      This is the latest off-season we have had a major crisis involving the FFA and the people that “lead it”. Nothing now can improve without change in personnel at the top which is looking increasingly like a complete and utter cleanout of the suits. Which is a frightening prospect as Australia is hardly blessed with a surplus of great sports administrators let alone any that have genuine empathy for football.

      The FFA got it wrong from the beginning but we were all so desperate for survival we believed they got it right. Now the model is broken at the FFAs own admission and they act as if they have no motivation other than their own self-preservation.

      For me, the bridge that needs to be built is between HAL clubs, AAFC and the PFA – if they can find common ground the game can move forward; if not we are doomed to more infighting and petty politics which allows the likes of Gallop and Lowy to survive.

      • Roar Rookie

        July 31st 2017 @ 9:47pm
        Brendo51 said | July 31st 2017 @ 9:47pm | ! Report

        Spot on Waz

        The real issue is how can a 2nd tier get up while satisfying all three of the main stakeholders

        The PFA only want a fully professional 2nd tier

        The AAFC want a second tier at any cost but only if it doesn’t send them broke

        The FFA want everybody to be patient and wait until there is more revenue as they are having enough issues meeting the current club’s demands and don’t want to put more money in.

        Finding common ground between the three is why we are not moving forward

    • July 31st 2017 @ 8:15am
      punter said | July 31st 2017 @ 8:15am | ! Report

      Off topic here, but Matildas up 3-1 against Japan at halftime. Sam Kerr with a hat trick of goals.

      • July 31st 2017 @ 8:42am
        punter said | July 31st 2017 @ 8:42am | ! Report

        4-1 up now.

        • July 31st 2017 @ 9:02am
          Waz said | July 31st 2017 @ 9:02am | ! Report

          Should have been 5. There’s a big crowd there too …. wonder if they let them all in for free?

          • July 31st 2017 @ 9:09am
            punter said | July 31st 2017 @ 9:09am | ! Report

            Haha. Finished 4-2 with late goal from Japan.
            Sorry to take this off topic.

            • Roar Guru

              July 31st 2017 @ 10:38am
              Grobbelaar said | July 31st 2017 @ 10:38am | ! Report

              No need to apologise for a contemporaneous update on how one of our national teams is going.

    • July 31st 2017 @ 9:11am
      Greg said | July 31st 2017 @ 9:11am | ! Report

      There are so many stakeholders in football at the moment wanting to speak out and force their way. And it is not just football, taking a look at cricket, rugby league and rugby union at the moment shows a similar trend. But football is unique due to its size, huge participation base and global competition for players, sponsorship and investment.

      As for South Melbourne joining – no. It makes no sense. I wish South Melbourne all the best as a club, but due to their long history they have a reputation and brand that has no attracted large appeal. They do not have the supporter base required and have less room for growth than newly established clubs such as Melbourne City. This is why the A-League went the way it did only a decade ago! City may not have the history, and they have been given every favour to try and make it work (as is common in modern sport), but they already have a bigger following than South Melbourne now, or South Melbourne would have had if they were to be included in the A-League. South Melbourne’s room for growth is very limited. I accept this is all pure speculation, but that is what the decision needs to be based on. And given the success in the first decade plus of the A-League, there needs to be a continued push on this model to help the clubs grow further.

      In regards to general governance – mark my words – at some point in about 3 to 5 years people will ask why the game turned control over from a wealthy Australian family with strong business experience and connections that follow the game and are passionate about it to a handful of A-League owners who have had little involvement or experience in the game and look out mainly for their vested interest, being their A-League clubs.

      Nobody likes the look of Stephen Lowy walking into the Chairman’s role. But it should not take away from the fact that:
      a) he is a well qualified candidate; and
      b) the current structure of the FFA, with the Board being elected via the State Federations (i.e. as representatives of the games participants).

      The idea of A-League club owners getting a, lets say, 30% to 40% say in the operation of the game (note the use of the word game and not A-League competition) is absurd. The A-League represents just one (albeit the largest) competition administered under the FFA umbrella. So do all the 1 million plus participants….Lets put into some perspective what the game is in the country that the FFA administers and what say an A-League club owner (who is unelected and simply purchases the club) should get. Their apparent $1m – $2m per annum losses are insignificant in the grand scheme of things, particularly when places into the context of:
      a) the fact they bought the club knowing these losses would occur and things have actually improved; and
      b) their personal wealth already.

      The question should be asked to Griffin and Sage, if you don’t like the model you signed up to and if the losses are too much to handle, have you looked into a sale of the licence. I realise that contractually this can be complicated, but as seen with Melbourne City, it can be done. Imagine that, turning all those unbearable losses around a realisable sale value.

      Now let’s cut through the rubbish that the A-League owners have an issue about money, it is a fight over power and nothing more. The question now becomes, what should the game’s governing body be controlled via a:
      a) bottom up approach whereby the federations (as representative’s of the participants) elect a board to administer the national body; or
      b) a structure whereby I can simply buy a club and be gifted with that a percentage of control over the whole game.

      • July 31st 2017 @ 12:02pm
        League table speaks said | July 31st 2017 @ 12:02pm | ! Report

        South Melbourne should have the right to play their way up the tiers and into the top flight like everyone else.

        This Is Football.

        On the pitch.

        Everything else your post is wrapped up in is secondary. Politics of new football is just as bad as old soccer.

    • Roar Rookie

      July 31st 2017 @ 9:28am
      At work said | July 31st 2017 @ 9:28am | ! Report

      I would have no problem if SMFC were installed as another team in the A League, my issue is that they seem to think it’s their right to be the next club let in, compared to many other great old NSL clubs. I’ll give them credit for self promotion though, many clubs could learn a thing or two from them.

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