FIFA leaves Australia without completing deal


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    The future of Australian football rests in the hands of FIFA after accusations FFA chairman Steven Lowy twice derailed political consensus over an extraordinary 24 hours.

    A joint FIFA/AFC delegation will return to Zurich on Thursday night to report back on what one A-League club chairman described as an “embarrassing” show of the domestic game’s governance.

    FIFA spent two days in Sydney seeking to broker a compromise on its mandate that FFA broaden its congress to allow more stakeholders a say in how the game is run.

    Given the drawn-out and toxic nature of the impasse, such a task was always going to go down to the wire.

    In the end, two capitulations by wavering state federations under pressure from Lowy left furious A-League clubs calling for the chairman’s head, and believing the only way forward is if FIFA execute threats to sack the FFA board and appoint a normalisation committee to temporarily run the sport.

    “We are bitterly disappointed at not having reached consensus with our fellow stakeholders,” said Greg Griffin, chairman of the Australian Professional Football Clubs Association.

    “We are equally disappointed at the obstruction of the process by the FFA board.”

    Incessant drama descended into farce at FFA headquarters on Thursday afternoon when Lowy hauled the state federations into a private meeting lasting two hours, leaving FIFA representatives and some 15 stakeholders waiting idle as valuable negotiation time ticked away.

    It’s understood Lowy, despite being deployed as a facilitator in this process, had already stymied Wednesday’s first breakthrough between the clubs, players’ union and states by calling a snap meeting with the states late on Wednesday night to reassert his influence.

    Hopes for an end to the imbroglio appeared all but lost during Thursday morning’s acrimonious all-in session comprising about 40 representatives from the various parties.

    Yet over a long lunch, the clubs and Professional Footballers Australia again reached resolution with the states, only for that work to come undone in the subsequent behind-closed-doors conference.

    It’s believed the scuppered deal centred on an interim 15-member congress comprising nine votes for the state federations, five for the clubs and one for the players.

    That temporary 9-5-1 model would remain until an independent A-League is created, at which point the clubs would cede one vote.

    Previously, all state federations except the largest, Football NSW, supported FFA’s proposal for a 9-3-1 model which gives the clubs less influence and has since been rejected by FIFA as undemocratic.

    The clubs have long been united with PFA in their campaign for a 9-6-2 framework.

    “A wide range of options has been robustly discussed over the past 48 hours,” Lowy said in a statement.

    “Everyone, including the FFA board, A-League club owners, member federations and the PFA have shown willingness to move from their original positions and this has been noted by the FIFA/AFC delegation.”

    © AAP 2018
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    The Crowd Says (78)

    • Roar Rookie

      August 11th 2017 @ 7:58am
      Grobbelaar said | August 11th 2017 @ 7:58am | ! Report

      The 9-6-2 model means that only one state federation would need to side with the clubs/PFA to effectively control the FFA.

      Little wonder Lowy is fighting tooth and nail to avoid such an outcome, and would rather play brinksmanship with the possibiity of the FIFA normalisation committee stepping in.

      It would appear that the establishment of a 2nd division and P&R will require FIFA intervention.

      • August 11th 2017 @ 12:38pm
        Waz said | August 11th 2017 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

        Lowy should NOT be fighting tooth and nail over anything. He is an employee of the FFA Council not a stakeholder. These past few weeks have shown how confused Lowy is over his role. The Stakeholders (currently the 9 Feds and A league) vote on who to employ on the FFA Board.

        Lowy and the other Board members work for the state Feds and HAL and not the other way around. His is like a director telling the shareholders what to do – it’s the wrong way around.

    • August 11th 2017 @ 8:16am
      RBBAnonymous said | August 11th 2017 @ 8:16am | ! Report

      Quite incredible how this panned out. Expect the A-league clubs to dig their heels in now. I would imagine that Lowy will try to give them all they want now with an increase to the clubs grant. If these clubs have any integrity they will refuse the offer, Lowy’s position as chairman of the FFA is untenable.

      • August 11th 2017 @ 11:49am
        vin said | August 11th 2017 @ 11:49am | ! Report

        Lowy can go and so can his hand picked executive committee all on 1 million + salaries, unreal for a non profit organisation
        if only they gave more Aleague generated income back to the source of this income (the aleague clubs) rather than the socceroos they wouldnt be in this predicament.

        i am sure my $70 per tickets per game to see the socceroos covers the expenses for the socceroos.

    • August 11th 2017 @ 8:30am
      AR said | August 11th 2017 @ 8:30am | ! Report

      It’s difficult to imagine anyone playing their hand worse than Lowy has.

      From the months of faux compromise discussions, to brinkmanship and threats, to mealy mouthed platitudes about togetherness, then to the defiant (and bizarre) 2,000 word statement on the eve of the delegate arrival, and now the final chaotic 48 hours to derail any genuine consensus (followed by a nothing media statement that everyone showed a “willingness to move from their original positions”). Well done Steven.

      What a shambles.

      Well, the Lowy dream is over and the sport (at the top tier anyway) will look very very different in the years ahead.

      One concern I have is for the national teams, who run on an oily rag as it is. Oh well, time will tell.

      • August 11th 2017 @ 12:20pm
        Waz said | August 11th 2017 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

        The national teams do not run on an oily rag; they are one of the biggest expense items in there.

        • August 11th 2017 @ 1:32pm
          AR said | August 11th 2017 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

          Maybe Waz.

          But I’d say the national teams are both a big expense item (in the FFA’s budget book) and also run in the smell of an oily rag.

          • August 11th 2017 @ 1:40pm
            Waz said | August 11th 2017 @ 1:40pm | ! Report

            That might be true sadly

        • August 11th 2017 @ 4:42pm
          Neil said | August 11th 2017 @ 4:42pm | ! Report

          Spot on Waz

    • August 11th 2017 @ 8:34am
      League table speaks said | August 11th 2017 @ 8:34am | ! Report

      Fifa can solve the league structure issue by removing Australia’s exemption from promotion and relegation.

      Some in the US would welcome this too.

      Maybe its time for Fifa to start being more proud of its own football culture and the pyramid system which is inclusive of clubs up and down the tiers.

      Pro rel is one of the best things about our Game. Why shy away from it?

      • August 11th 2017 @ 9:04am
        mattq said | August 11th 2017 @ 9:04am | ! Report

        why do you keep banging on about pro/rel. right now that has nothing to do with the issues which presently need to be resolved. “fifa can solve…. by remoing Australia’s exemption from pr/rel”…. please explain how this would resolve the impasse at board level?

        • August 11th 2017 @ 9:22am
          League table speaks said | August 11th 2017 @ 9:22am | ! Report

          The impasse at board level is symptomatic of the closed league system the Game here has. A closed shop at board and league level.

          Very much at odds with football’s more open philosophy.

          • August 11th 2017 @ 10:29am
            mattq said | August 11th 2017 @ 10:29am | ! Report

            we get that and we all agree pro/rel is the future but it has nothing to do with the immediate issues around governance that FIFA was here to address.

            • August 11th 2017 @ 1:05pm
              League table speaks said | August 11th 2017 @ 1:05pm | ! Report

              One explains the other imo…

      • Roar Guru

        August 11th 2017 @ 1:23pm
        Kaks said | August 11th 2017 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

        And yet, I guarantee you are unable to provide any information which suggest pro/rel is currently financially viable in Australian football.

        • August 11th 2017 @ 1:52pm
          League table speaks said | August 11th 2017 @ 1:52pm | ! Report

          Of course it is viable. Just not under the current model.

          Combine youth league and NPL style cost structures. And blend it in via a pyramid model. Clubs can spend more as they can afford up to the top tier. Works all over the football world.

          Open up the economic model of league football… But thats the “wrong” information, i get it lol …it wouldnt be equal or equitable enough …or something… 🙂

          • Roar Guru

            August 11th 2017 @ 2:19pm
            Kaks said | August 11th 2017 @ 2:19pm | ! Report

            NPL clubs play in their state league’s as the cost to travel around Australia is greater than the income these clubs make – while most NPL clubs are also semi-professional. Remember this is Australia, where it costs $1k for a return flight to Perth from Sydney. This is not England where you can travel by train, bus, or plain for tiny fraction of the price. Remember this is Australia, with a population of 25million on a massive island, not England with a population of 55 million on a island similar to the size of Victoria.

            I went to the Blacktown City vs Mariners FFA cup game which had a tremendous turnout, I then went to the Blacktown City vs Apia Leichardt game a few day’s later which has barely anyone turn up – even though it was a top of the table clash. There is a very, very long way to go until the lower parts of the pyramid will be able to support the rest of the pyramid above.

            Suddenly implementing pro/rel without a viable, national second division even in existence, a grassroots in disarray (having large participation numbers mean nothing), and current political infighting between stakeholders will be suicidal. The game doesnt have the foundation, or the funds, to support it.

            • August 11th 2017 @ 2:29pm
              League table speaks said | August 11th 2017 @ 2:29pm | ! Report

              The youth league did travel nationally as does the wleague. Its very doable. In fact been done. People have also written reasonable analyses on this site breaking down the costs of a basic level travel spend.

              Travel costs are not the reason for resistance to the promotion and relegation model.

              • Roar Guru

                August 11th 2017 @ 2:37pm
                Kaks said | August 11th 2017 @ 2:37pm | ! Report

                The W-league is not viable financially, hence the fact that the FFA run the W-league at a loss.

              • August 11th 2017 @ 4:29pm
                League table speaks said | August 11th 2017 @ 4:29pm | ! Report

                Travel costs are not the issue. Obviously the whole economic model of football in Australia would need to change to make pro rel happen. The rewards would be worth it. On and off the pitch. It is a fantastic model for top level sport.

            • August 11th 2017 @ 2:31pm
              Nemesis said | August 11th 2017 @ 2:31pm | ! Report

              The AAFC is currently working on alternative models for a National 2nd Division. How about we wait for that Report and then decide if it’s:

              a) ridiculous
              b) possible, but will fail
              c) viable

              Why do we always have to say “can’t be done” when we haven’t even analysed the problem with any intellectual rigour?

              • Roar Guru

                August 11th 2017 @ 2:38pm
                Kaks said | August 11th 2017 @ 2:38pm | ! Report

                Because currently, it “can’t be done”.

              • August 11th 2017 @ 2:47pm
                Nemesis said | August 11th 2017 @ 2:47pm | ! Report

                “Because currently, it “can’t be done”

                That’s a ridiculous answer, if you want to have a serious conversation.

                Explain the numbers that you can’t reconcile?

                I wrote an article on this a while back. My figures are based on assumptions so happy to be challenged. But, if we keep it a semi-pro comp, I think it can be done.


              • Roar Guru

                August 11th 2017 @ 3:06pm
                Kaks said | August 11th 2017 @ 3:06pm | ! Report

                Are you talking about a national second division or pro/rel? Because they are completely different things. A national second division is definitely viable, pro/rel is not.

              • August 11th 2017 @ 3:19pm
                Nemesis said | August 11th 2017 @ 3:19pm | ! Report

                National 2nd Division … to begin with.

                I read your comments about travelling costs around AUS would be prohibitive, so I assumed that’s what you were discussing.

                Pro/Rel will be a few years away.

                Maybe, I’m wrong, but my hypothesis is that the ALeague will grow from the wider football community engaging. They don’t have to follow a team. Just watch 1 match each weekend and the TV.

                If we could get 50-75% of the wider grassroots community watching 1 match each weekend the TV $ will sky rocket.

                Then we can talk Pro/Rel with cash behind the Competitions.

              • Roar Guru

                August 11th 2017 @ 3:53pm
                Kaks said | August 11th 2017 @ 3:53pm | ! Report

                “Then we can talk Pro/Rel with cash behind the Competitions.”

                Exactly. However until we have that cash injection, talking about implementing pro/rel “right now” is ridiculous which is why I commented on the original post.

    • August 11th 2017 @ 9:11am
      TK said | August 11th 2017 @ 9:11am | ! Report

      I haven’t found a decent impartial analysis of this stoush. The results of club control i.e. nsl hasn’t got a happy history so im not sure we want that again but the benevolent dictator model has issues also. Club owners want money. Ffa want independent control of the sport including but beyond the A league. Surely there are models from elsewhere around the world that would work? What are the specific outcomes each party are after and work backwards? Or is everyone after the same old thing at(money and power to make self interested decisions) the expense of centralised governance?

      • August 11th 2017 @ 9:22am
        RBBAnonymous said | August 11th 2017 @ 9:22am | ! Report

        It doesn’t matter now, any semblance of trust between the parties will have evaporated. It’s only a few months between now and November. I would imagine that even in 3 days the FIFA delegates would have got a good idea of the disfunction present in Australian football. This is a bad outcome and we have now let the destiny of football get out of our control.

      • August 11th 2017 @ 10:30am
        Newie said | August 11th 2017 @ 10:30am | ! Report

        My read on this is that the State Federations want more money for the grassroots from the new media deal and the A-League clubs want more money for their players/club from the new media deal.

        Is that right?

        On the one hand, if you argue that registrations at the grassroots are too expensive and new money should be given to the states, you can’t also argue that the A-League clubs should have more cash.

        FFA however needs to open the books so that it’s clearer how the pie is divided. Their governance is appalling. Perhaps there is wastage in various areas that could be looked at. Like the massive conflict of interest that is Bonita Mersiades being both a consultant paid handsomely by FFA AND simultaneously being on the FFA board that decides where the money goes. WTF?!

        • August 11th 2017 @ 11:13am
          northerner said | August 11th 2017 @ 11:13am | ! Report

          So far as I know, Bonita Mersiades was never on the FFA board. She was a senior executive there for a while, but was pushed out in 2010.

        • Columnist

          August 11th 2017 @ 11:45am
          Mike Tuckerman said | August 11th 2017 @ 11:45am | ! Report

          Newie, I think you mean Moya Dodd.

          • August 11th 2017 @ 12:33pm
            Newie said | August 11th 2017 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

            Yes, my error thanks Mike.

        • August 11th 2017 @ 12:33pm
          Waz said | August 11th 2017 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

          Why should money be taken from the A League and be given to the States? You wouldn’t consider increasing registration fees to give money to the A Lesgue would you?

    • Roar Guru

      August 11th 2017 @ 9:16am
      Ben of Phnom Penh said | August 11th 2017 @ 9:16am | ! Report

      And to think this level of reluctance to change is merely at the Congress level. Imagine the level of resistance when we move onto the meatier issue of Board composition!

      • August 11th 2017 @ 12:54pm
        Nemesis said | August 11th 2017 @ 12:54pm | ! Report

        I don’t understand, Ben?

        Each Board Member is voted by Congress. We may not like the way Steven Lowy was elected. But, he was elected by the current Congress.

        • August 11th 2017 @ 1:43pm
          Waz said | August 11th 2017 @ 1:43pm | ! Report

          He was. But by all reports he’s no longer listening to his bosses (the congress made up of state Feds and HAL) and instead is telling them what to do. Bizarre situation.

        • Roar Guru

          August 11th 2017 @ 4:23pm
          Ben of Phnom Penh said | August 11th 2017 @ 4:23pm | ! Report

          Not the individuals, but the type and number of positions on the Board and their level of executive control.

          • August 12th 2017 @ 7:14am
            Nemesis said | August 12th 2017 @ 7:14am | ! Report

            Fair enough.

            I’ve browsed the FFA Constitution & the role of the Board & Execs seems aligned with Corporations Laws in Australia.

            I don’t see the current number of Board Members being an issue.

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