FFA congress skullduggery a rank distraction

Evan Morgan Grahame Columnist

By Evan Morgan Grahame, Evan Morgan Grahame is a Roar Expert

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32 Have your say

    So when will the mini-series come out? What Logie-baiting cast will be assembled and to what depths of melodramatic villainy will they have to sink to do the whole noxious affair justice?

    Of course early script drafts will have to wait, because the narrative is still unfolding, laying malodorous limbs over Australian football, paralysing progress to the point where even FIFA is surveying the scene with wrinkled noses and curled lips.

    Sydney FC just signed a former Polish international, still in the midst of his prime years, further adding to what will surely be an impressive title defence. But it’s hard to celebrate evidence of the game’s growth when the stench of the governing body’s internal chaos is wafting over everything, choking our whoops of joy.

    Each new development is more stunningly repugnant than the last. The tension, which began some time ago now, between the FFA and the A-League clubs and PFA always threatened to spill out into acrid warfare; it was a logical eventuality, even when the situation was in its early stages as a dissatisfied thrumming in the background we all assumed would be put right before things devolved into fisticuffs.

    The statements from the clubs have gone from hopeful nudging to outright attacks, and tracking the public statements of some of the more prominent A-League club chairmen gives an accurate record of how the relationship has curdled.

    In 2015 the Victory’s Anthony Di Pietro spoke on the subject with words cushioned by diplomacy and restraint; “There needs to be a review of the engagement between the A-League and the FFA” he said when Frank Lowy stepped down.

    Two years later and Adelaide’s Greg Griffin is making no attempt to mince words, speaking incandescently on the congress stalemate as well as threatening legal action against the FFA over their refusal to open up their books to the clubs.

    This week saw remarkable back alley shenanigans, with Steven Lowy and the FFA scurrying frantically to twice disrupt an agreement between the state federations and the A-League-PFA alliance over an acceptable proposal for a new congress structure, one that would broaden the influence of the A-League clubs over congress decisions and pare back the power of the FFA in the process.

    Evidently unhappy with the prospect, Lowy inspired a sudden, last-minute change of heart in the state federations, and Greg Griffin – who is also chairman of the Australian Professional Football Clubs Association – spoke openly about how disappointed he was by the FFA board’s blatant meddling.

    (Image: AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

    It’s hardly surprising – however galling – that the FFA was so active in its skullduggery; the uncharacteristically fiery statement Lowy released last week implied the FFA were prepared to act in new, vexatious ways to defend the status quo.

    All the while a FIFA committee sent to mediate and oversee a resolution to this toxic deadlock was watching on, no doubt enjoying a distorted sense of pleasure from somehow being the party relied upon to give advice on how to better democratise and make transparent the governance of football.

    The A-League – and Australian football more generally – is cautiously stepping out of its adolescence, but it is still tender; like an awkward teenager, its parents, with one embarrassing public episode, can send it sloping back into its bedroom to crumple into an antisocial heap on the bed.

    The FFA’s governance has been objectively awful, at least with respect to their ability to diplomatically lubricate the relations between itself and the various quasi-segregated elements that fall within its purview.

    Obviously the desires of the A-League clubs are going to be in many ways irreconcilable with the state federations’ demands. The way the A-League is estranged from the NPL competitions means catering for all parties, let alone investing appropriately into lower grassroots football, is difficult. But the opacity of the FFA’s inner workings and now this week’s excruciating incidents are all factors that have eroded away our sympathy for Lowy and co.

    It’s not just the club chairmen – or the rest of those with a tangible stake in things – who are fed up; we’re all weary and irritable.

    The FIFA committee has gone now, having observed the last few torrid developments and having done little to loosen the impasse while they were here. Perhaps they thought their mere presence would scare the FFA into softening their position, but they now know how deep heels are dug in. An official FIFA statement, perhaps even one that begins the process of removing the board, may come in the next few months, certainly before this November.

    There are a great number of issues that Australian football should be addressing, but none of them can be looked at properly while this overarching stoush rumbles on. Prosperity can hardly survive surrounded by dysfunction this acute, and all trust between the parties has, by now, dried up, turned to dust and blown away on the harsh winds raking over the war zone.

    The battle is filled with adversaries, most of them fuelled by opposing desires, some linked by compatible convictions, all of them ideally allies in the campaign to grow the game.

    Everyone yearns for the war to end.

    Evan Morgan Grahame
    Evan Morgan Grahame

    Evan Morgan Grahame is a Melbourne-based journalist. Gleaning what he could from his brief career as a painter, the canvas of the football pitch is now his subject of contemplation, with the beautiful game sketching new, intriguing compositions every week. He has been one of The Roar's Expert columnists since 2016. Follow him on Twitter @Evan_M_G.

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    The Crowd Says (32)

    • August 13th 2017 @ 6:55am
      Waz said | August 13th 2017 @ 6:55am | ! Report

      It’s inconceivable that we are still talking about this topic, it should have been resolved by now. It’s also clear that Steven Lowy does not understand his role as someone who works for the State Federations and A League clubs and not the other way around. On that basis alone Steven Lowy must go.

      And FIFA must return one more time, to meet with all the members of congress and other stakeholders. But this time the meeting should not be in Sydney, the FFA should not be in attendance, and mobile phones should be banned.

      The stakeholders are close to a deal – only Lowy is stopping it and that’s not in his job description.

    • August 13th 2017 @ 7:14am
      Rob Sinclair said | August 13th 2017 @ 7:14am | ! Report

      And Soccer shots itself in the foot AGAIN!

      • August 13th 2017 @ 7:27am
        Waz said | August 13th 2017 @ 7:27am | ! Report

        Well, this time Lowy shoots football in the foot … with the help of some spineless State “leaders”

      • August 13th 2017 @ 9:13am
        chris said | August 13th 2017 @ 9:13am | ! Report

        The NRL and ARU are doing the same thing in their game. Whats with the administrators! Nothing but a bunch of self serving bunch who would gladly burn their sport if they dont get their way

    • August 13th 2017 @ 7:36am
      RBBAnonymous said | August 13th 2017 @ 7:36am | ! Report

      How the hell are they going to start the A-league season with this dark cloud hanging overhead. Expect the next few months of hilarity and embarassment.

      No resolution to the salary cap grant.
      No resolution to the governance issue.
      The A-league and the FFA basically at war.
      FIFA witnessing first hand the level of distrust and acrimony between the stakeholders. I have no doubt that FIFA will be back here in November because by then there will be nothing left to lose.

      • August 13th 2017 @ 7:50am
        Waz said | August 13th 2017 @ 7:50am | ! Report

        Agree. It’s a shambles, and it’s been 2 years in the making. Too many people have buried their heads in the sand over this issue but time has now run out. This is a fight that needs to happen now rather than be dragged out until November.

    • August 13th 2017 @ 9:11am
      Nemesis said | August 13th 2017 @ 9:11am | ! Report

      Whilst I’d rather we lived in a world without conflict, conflict is inevitable – in personal life, in your office, in the boardroom, in the halls of government.

      This issue will be sorted. Just like last year’s issue with the players’ CBA issues were sorted. Just like the fallout from Palmer & Tinkler were sorted.

      But, until the treaty is signed, there will be lots of punches thrown – some will land, some will miss; but they all will be reported by a media that enjoys conflict and, often creates conflict when none exists.

      At least these FFA issues are more intriguing than the contrived power struggles & conflict that reality TV throws up every night on every TV channel.

    • August 13th 2017 @ 10:44am
      pacman said | August 13th 2017 @ 10:44am | ! Report

      Spot on Nemesis, “…they all will be reported by a media that enjoys conflict and, often creates conflict when none exists.”

      Then you add the bystanders and commentators, who behave similarly to teenagers around a fire pit, throwing accelerants on the fire to see what will happen, with little or no interest in the results of their activities

    • August 13th 2017 @ 11:06am
      Ken Spacey said | August 13th 2017 @ 11:06am | ! Report

      Greg G can’t deal with a minor govt authority so he moves games to an NPL ckub’s ground giving them a major cash boost (refuting several elements of HAL/NPL disconnect). The home club promptly show why they are an NPL club by being unprepared for HAL crowds (who inevitably turn up late in Adelaide and it is a weeknight) and for good measure hire a security company despised by reds fans. So AUFC draw MV which should get 10,000 anywhere anytime so that is slated for the Marden venue run by a club not up to the task to deal with 4,000 locals and no travelling fans. How will Victory fans get there and what will they do before and after? Its a true suburban reserve in the middle of a residential suburb with little else close by, Cue SA Police over reacting and moronic media putting on extra staff in case it all goes wrong.

      The point is that in this scenario is everything that smacks of self interest and lack of awareness and professionalism by all parties.

      GG as an administrator and a peron with a who;e of football vision is debatable.

      Many NPL clubs are small and small minded which is why they are in the NPL.

      The FFA and the relevant state feds are letting this happen.

      The AFL groupies aka SA govt (see your govt re same for AFL/NRL) who allow football to be screwed whilst building a few synthetic pitches in the middle of nowhere. Griffo can’t get 5,000 seats at Coopers while the SA govt fund Kochie’s china wank fest and ignore AUFC being in Asia full time.

      Go figure

      • August 13th 2017 @ 2:18pm
        Nick Symonds said | August 13th 2017 @ 2:18pm | ! Report


        “Adelaide chairman Greg Griffin says playing women’s matches at Norwood Oval is an exciting concept, with the club also talking to Blue Eagles about W-League matches at Marden Sports Complex.”

        “Why not (at Norwood)? The only problem we have is the surface,’’ Griffin said.

        “The Reds women’s side played most of last season’s home matches at Angle Park, where the pitch is considerably smaller than FFA’s W-League standard 105m x 68m.”

        “The synthetic pitch has also met with criticism from Professional Footballers Australia, the players’ union, with claims the turf is not as healthy for athletes as natural grass.”


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