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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    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 @ 11:10am
      Nick Symonds said | August 13th 2017 @ 11:10am | ! Report

      “they all will be reported by a media that enjoys conflict”

      Nope, they’re too busy following the troubles in Cricket and Rugby.

      Football is only a “minor” code and can’t even manage to attract bad publicity (as much as the others).

      Once the season starts people will pay more attention to the big matches in the first 3 rounds. Sydney FC v Melbourne Victory in round 1, the Melbourne Derby in round 2 and the Sydney Derby in round 3. All live on FTA.

      If those are a big success and then FIFA comes in and puts in a normalizing committee, then people will pay attention.

      • August 13th 2017 @ 11:28am
        Nemesis said | August 13th 2017 @ 11:28am | ! Report

        @Nick Symonds

        You probably don’t live in Australia, or you don’t follow the news. Every major media organisation: Fairfax, SBS, New Corp, The Guardian, ABC has had daily reports & op eds on this issue. I don’t follow the FTA TV news so not sure if they’re covering it, but I’ve seen daily Tweets to news articles from WWOS, 7 News & 10 News.

        • August 13th 2017 @ 11:58am
          Nick Symonds said | August 13th 2017 @ 11:58am | ! Report

          It’s the FTA TV news I was talking about. It’s only a minor story compared to cricket and rugby.

          Western Force is a big story because it’s relevant to rugby league which gets Sydney’s attention and cricket is important because Australia will be facing England in the Ashes.

          A-League gets low TV numbers and doesn’t seem as important for a short newscast, which is like the T20 of news coverage. The top story on Offsiders and Sports Sunday was Sally Pearson. FFA was somewhere down the back.

          Unless FIFA actually intervene anything going on at FFA will have a much lower profile. Except in the papers which are like the test form of journalism. But does anyone still read those anymore?

          • August 13th 2017 @ 12:06pm
            Nemesis said | August 13th 2017 @ 12:06pm | ! Report

            I’m sorry, but I don’t really have any regard for the demographic that still watches FTA TV news as being at the forefront of News & Current Affairs.

            But, if it still turns you on, good luck to you.

            • August 13th 2017 @ 12:34pm
              Nick Symonds said | August 13th 2017 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

              This calls for a pub test. Go down to the pub (or maybe a few) and ask a hundred people what they think about what’s going on in the administration of cricket. Then ask them about FFA.

              My guess is that most people will know a lot more about the former than they do about the latter.

              If they don’t know much about FFA then any bad news coverage hasn’t cut through.

              Write it up and send in your findings to The Roar.

              • August 13th 2017 @ 1:31pm
                Nemesis said | August 13th 2017 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

                “This calls for a pub test”

                Depends which pubs you go to. I certainly don’t go to the sort of pubs where the patrons would be likely to gain their news & current affairs from commercial FTA TV.

                But, do whatever turns you on. I don’t expect you & I would ever meet in real life, either. But, the internet throws us together so we hear from people whose ideas of the world are alien to us.

                Having said that, if the unwashed masses of Australia are unaware of the FFA situation – even better. It means comments of “bad look for the Game” are nonsensical, since the unwashed masses don’t even know about the issue.

            • Roar Rookie

              August 13th 2017 @ 12:41pm
              c said | August 13th 2017 @ 12:41pm | ! Report

              fuss nick is correct soccer is a minor sport on FTA media

            • August 13th 2017 @ 10:43pm
              AR said | August 13th 2017 @ 10:43pm | ! Report

              “I’m sorry, but I don’t really have any regard for the demographic that still watches FTA TV news…”

              Fair enough.

              Pity though, the FFA are still utterly obsessed with the demographic that tunes in to FTA.

              • August 14th 2017 @ 9:19am
                northerner said | August 14th 2017 @ 9:19am | ! Report

                I wonder if Fuss has ever really been to an A League match. Some of the active support would appear to me to come directly from the FTA-watching, “unwashed masses” he so deplores. Perhaps he doesn’t realize that football is the world game precisely because it attracts all types, unwashed masses included.

          • August 13th 2017 @ 1:01pm
            Mitcher said | August 13th 2017 @ 1:01pm | ! Report

            Western Force have absolutely nothing to do with rugby league.

            • August 13th 2017 @ 2:30pm
              Nick Symonds said | August 13th 2017 @ 2:30pm | ! Report

              “Western Force have absolutely nothing to do with rugby league.”

              Unless the NRL move in. Just the latest episode in Unions decline in Australia.

    • August 13th 2017 @ 1:38pm
      Chris said | August 13th 2017 @ 1:38pm | ! Report

      the Australian football media need to be selling the fact that we had Mooy and Ryan both start in the biggest football league on the planet . I know we have had that before but now the EPL is clearly the biggest and most watched football league on the planet. These players need to be our next marketing campaign for the A league and too attract even more young fans to come and watch and discover the next Mooy playing in our own A league

    • August 13th 2017 @ 2:55pm
      Midfielder said | August 13th 2017 @ 2:55pm | ! Report


      Me thinks the issue is Steven Lowy…

      I think all the key stakeholders share similar views on the structure of the competition over the next few years.

      What the issue is we lack a leader capable of leading the Football community…

      Me thinks the football community as a whole has lost faith in Steven Lowy… his inability to change and try to hold onto a model introduced in desperate times but no longer needed as it is and needing change is holding Football back. Further allowing or sorry opening up many areas of argument.

      No body can deny Football has ever been in a better place in Australia than it is now…. the key decisions is what is the best way forward and Lowy has lacked the ability to led us… who has this talent is a mute point as so many groups have differentiating opinions ..

      But I think we will have a new model within 4 to 6 weeks maybe earlier and from there we hopefully can move on.

    • Roar Rookie

      August 13th 2017 @ 5:49pm
      Grobbelaar said | August 13th 2017 @ 5:49pm | ! Report

      I don’t think it’s fair to say they have their fingers in the till, but it is true that they have tried to keep control of Australian football within the family, and how the stakeholders of the game every allowed it is beyond me. The very ones we are hoping will now come together to change the constitution to have a new congress structure are the very ones who allowed the transfer of power of snr to jnr in the first place.

      We must now suffer the ignominy of having one of the most corrupt administrative bodies on Earth step in to fix our governance shortfalls.

      • August 13th 2017 @ 10:15pm
        Ken Spacey said | August 13th 2017 @ 10:15pm | ! Report

        I agree that it is unfair and unsubstantiated to suggest that any Lowy family member is in it for the money? Firstly there doesn’ t seem tobe any money to steal and secondly if S.Lowy was offered a job to run another company they would offer him greater salary to ditch football admin as it would be an impost on his job. In some ways he is losing money to run football. Heaps of folks dislike the Lowy era but the idea they are in it for the money or don’t care for the game has no logical basis. But Clive Palmer loves football doesn’t he?

    • August 13th 2017 @ 5:52pm
      Lionheart said | August 13th 2017 @ 5:52pm | ! Report

      Well at least it hasn’t affected the game. Yet.

    • Roar Rookie

      August 13th 2017 @ 10:04pm
      Stevo said | August 13th 2017 @ 10:04pm | ! Report

      In the Crawford report of 2003, it recommended a national council of Soccer Australia (take it to mean the congress as it’s called now) to comprise of :

      The voting structure of Soccer Australia’s national council be as follows:
      Each state member affiliate — one vote
      For each state member affiliate with individual registrant numbers exceeding 50,000 — one additional vote
      For each state member affiliate with individual registrant numbers exceeding 200,000 — one additional vote
      For each state member affiliate with individual registrant numbers exceeding 400,000 — one additional vote
      The representative of the coaches’ standing committee — one vote
      The representative of the Futsal standing committee — one vote
      The representative of the players’ standing committee — one vote
      The representative of the referees’ standing committee — one vote
      The representative of the women’s standing committee — one vote
      The representative of the NSL — one vote

      What we have today and what is proposed is barely representative of the stakeholders in our game as envisaged in the report. Shambles. Clearly when Lowy Snr had free reign to set up the new structure he made sure that the chairman (himself) had an iron grip on proceedings. ‘It’s time’

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