In the midst of this governance farce, it’s time for fans to take back football

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

By Mike Tuckerman, Mike Tuckerman is a Roar Expert

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72 Have your say

    If self-interest lead to the demise of the National Soccer League, then Football Federation Australia is in danger of dying a similar death by a thousand self-inflicted cuts.

    What on earth is embattled FFA chief executive Steven Lowy playing at?

    By now we all know about the secretive meetings behind closed doors that locked out even the might of FIFA, thanks in no small part to the investigative work of journalists like Ray Gatt and Dom Bossi – not to mention the well-connected Bonita Mersiades.

    If Lowy can’t sit in a room and find a way to increase the FFA congress and give the rest of football a fairer say in how the game is run, then why is he still the chairman of Football Federation Australia?

    Because if Lowy is in it for the good of the game, the allegations that he talked the state federations out of agreeing to a 9-5-1 power-sharing split with A-League clubs and Professional Footballers Australia reek of a man who is merely in it for the good of himself.

    No one should expect a scion of industry to simply roll over in the midst of complex negotiations.

    But the fact that FIFA’s astonished representatives flew back to Zürich none the wiser as to how the deadlock would be broken is a farce of Shakespearean proportions.

    Put simply, Lowy’s position now appears to be untenable – which is presumably what a seething FIFA will announce the next time they pitch up on our shores.

    Steven Lowy and Peter Lowy

    (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

    In the meantime, there’s some not insignificant business to attend to, including the Socceroos qualifying for a World Cup next year, an official bid to host the FIFA Women’s World Cup in the near future and the start of a new A-League campaign just around the corner.

    Are FFA up to the task? Because at the moment they appear to be spending all of their time waging war on the constituents they supposedly represent.

    It’s enough to make you throw your hands in the air and shout: “But what can we do?”

    And when it comes to issues of corporate governance, perhaps the honest answer is: “Not a lot.”

    But perhaps we can take a more existential approach, even if only among the loyal cadre of commenters here on The Roar.

    Perhaps we can think about what more we can do to contribute to the game we all love. And I don’t mean to think about it ironically, or sarcastically, or to pick holes in every single element of every simple suggestion.

    I genuinely mean to sit back and honestly ask ourselves how we contribute to football in Australia.

    If you enjoy watching an A-League club go around, are you a member? Or if you prefer a more grassroots approach, do you volunteer your time?

    If you’re into the national team, have you thought about lending a hand to the home end? Or if you’re a stalwart of a club in the National Premier Leagues, are you showing up at state league and FFA Cup games?

    Maybe it’s time to remind ourselves of why we love football and remember that while we’re busy pointing the finger at others, perhaps there’s more we could be doing ourselves.

    I’ve been writing this column for close to nine years now, and I don’t write it for personal validation or because I think it might lead to something bigger. I write it to be part of the discourse; because it’s my small way of contributing to our football culture.

    It’s an approach those who wish to hijack the game to further their own cause are welcome to borrow.

    And maybe next time someone tries to use football for their own self-aggrandisement, we might feel slightly more connected and somewhat less bereft.

    Because if football is these days merely the political plaything of the few, perhaps it’s time fans started thinking of some ways to fight back.

    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 from December 2008.

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    The Crowd Says (72)

    • August 14th 2017 @ 7:21am
      Waz said | August 14th 2017 @ 7:21am | ! Report

      Well said Mike, additional involvement can be something very small and seemingly insignificant to a grander activity on a larger scale. It’s amazing what can be achieved when you try.

      As for Lowy & Co, “they appear to be spending all of their time waging war on the constituents they supposedly represent” is a very fair statement. And it’s been going on for years but criticism has been muted by the thought “it’s not as bad as the NSL” which is an appallingly low standard to set – the game can be much, much better than its lowest point surely?

    • Roar Rookie

      August 14th 2017 @ 7:47am
      Grobbelaar said | August 14th 2017 @ 7:47am | ! Report

      There was a small window when all of this could have been nipped in the bud. It was at the point when the chairmanship of the FFA was being passed down from father to son like some sort of family heirloom. All football fans should have been outraged, but the honest truth is that the majority were accepting of the handover. There was very little criticism at the time, minimum negative reaction in discussion boards. Too late now.

      • August 14th 2017 @ 9:04am
        chris said | August 14th 2017 @ 9:04am | ! Report

        So us complaining on this board would have achieved what exactly at FFA?

        • August 14th 2017 @ 10:19am
          R King said | August 14th 2017 @ 10:19am | ! Report

          when they start hearing from the likes of you and me, they may, just may stop and think that if the masses ever start working together we’re stuffed. Which is why all of us should make contact with the FFA, just once and tell them to start working together.

        • Roar Rookie

          August 14th 2017 @ 12:45pm
          Grobbelaar said | August 14th 2017 @ 12:45pm | ! Report


          I wasn’t referring to this board specifically, I meant across all football discussion boards, and across the football media, hardly anyone offered a critique of what was obviously a case of nepotism.

          I’d say the majority of football fans were accepting of the situation because we had been conditioned into thinking the game owed a huge debt to the Lowy family.

          • August 14th 2017 @ 1:23pm
            Nemesis said | August 14th 2017 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

            “I’d say the majority of football fans were accepting of the situation because we had been conditioned into thinking the game owed a huge debt to the Lowy family.”


            I’d say the majority of football fans were accepting of the situations because there are 10 people who vote for the FFA Board & there is absolutely FA that fans can do to influence who those people vote onto the Board.

            If you think fans can make a difference then you are naive about how the FFA Board is elected &, more importantly, how the individual State Fed Chairman are elected.

            • August 14th 2017 @ 1:57pm
              Waz said | August 14th 2017 @ 1:57pm | ! Report

              Fans can make a difference. They just need to get organised. (at the moment they’re not).

              • Roar Rookie

                August 14th 2017 @ 2:17pm
                Grobbelaar said | August 14th 2017 @ 2:17pm | ! Report

                Agreed Waz, there should have been an uproar at the time, from all corners, but there was silence (and in fact, many were supportive, curiously, many remain supportive).

              • August 14th 2017 @ 2:24pm
                chris said | August 14th 2017 @ 2:24pm | ! Report

                Ok Waz I get where you and Grob. are coming from. I don’t know if the average (or even slightly above average) fan knows the machinations of how it should be run and how it shouldnt be run.

              • August 14th 2017 @ 4:02pm
                Waz said | August 14th 2017 @ 4:02pm | ! Report

                Agree Chris. I’m not saying fans would know how to run a league competition either, but my point was fans need to get organised and get a voice – it can make a difference.

              • August 14th 2017 @ 4:15pm
                Nemesis said | August 14th 2017 @ 4:15pm | ! Report

                To get unity across fans who are from different regions & support clubs with a disparity of ambition, etc. is nigh impossible.

                Regardless, let’s say there is a Union that represents ALeague fans.

                What exactly are the Top 5 policy changes this Union should campaign for?

                Apart from Scheduling & Broadcasting, there is nothing that I, as a fan would get revved up about.

                At club level, for sure, I think supporter groups should be given far greater voice. But, at the League level, I can’t see the point and, more importantly, I can’t envisage a model that would bring all fans together where we’d be happy with 1 person representing us at FFA Congress, or ALeague level.

              • Roar Rookie

                August 15th 2017 @ 9:00am
                Stevo said | August 15th 2017 @ 9:00am | ! Report

                Oh sooo negative. What could fans get revved up about? Hmmmm, ticket prices, stadium seating, family friendly HAL scheduling, … You can’t think of anything? Seriously, there are two groups that are the core of any sport, the players and the fans, everyone else is there to make it run smoothly. If Lowy or anyone else think that they are the main act well they are delusional and need to step aside.

    • August 14th 2017 @ 7:55am
      RBBAnonymous said | August 14th 2017 @ 7:55am | ! Report

      Mike well said. There is not much the fans can do now. All we can do is to sit and wait and hopefully this mess can sort itself out. Football will always remain no matter who is in power.

      This would have to rank right up there as one of the more embarrassing episodes in Australia’s football history. I am a little surprised it hasn’t got more air time because the implications are enormous.

      The question now remains how does the FFA solve it because I have absolutely no faith they can get it done. They still need to be able to negotiate with stakeholders who they have undermined. They have not acted in good faith and unbelievably have done this all in front of the watchful eyes of FIFA. Quite astonishing.

      What I am looking at is FIFA coming in and solving the impasse. Now people can criticize FIFA all they like but they have a decent record when it comes to solving problems within the administration’s of their members. It won’t be difficult for FIFA to solve, it’s just that more than likely the FFA in particular won’t like the outcome.

    • August 14th 2017 @ 8:03am
      Nick Symonds said | August 14th 2017 @ 8:03am | ! Report

      “Perhaps we can think about what more we can do to contribute to the game we all love. And I don’t mean to think about it ironically, or sarcastically, or to pick holes in every single element of every simple suggestion.

      I genuinely mean to sit back and honestly ask ourselves how we contribute to football in Australia.”

      Ask not what football can do for you but ask what you can do for football.

      • August 14th 2017 @ 9:09am
        j,binnie said | August 14th 2017 @ 9:09am | ! Report

        Nick – the inference of your final quote is in a speech made by JF Kennedy more that 57 years ago
        57 years!
        Since then Australian football has seen heights achieved that even the most fervent fans would not have thought possible in 1960.
        Just think for a moment . We’ ve had a 27 year long attempt at a semi professional NSL that finally wrecked itself on the “reefs” of self interest, as Mike points out,
        We’ve had a government backed Crawford Report that pointed out what was wrong in our game but did little to change the status quo.
        Despite all the trauma over those years we did manage to qualify for a World Cup, (1974) which if you dig into the background of that effort was done on the smell of an oily rag.
        Then out of the ashes of monumental failure again we had “deliverance” from an unlikely source.We had an individual, invited by the government,to resurrect the game.
        And so the HAL came to pass. The individual was in fact a man who had participated in the NSL for a few short years,7 to be exact ,but had walked away from the game,not because he didn’t like the game ,but because of his first hand knowledge of what was going on “behind the scenes”.
        This individual introduced a totally “new” system of club management into his creation,relying on the ability of each identity to finance itself through the thick and thin of a football season.This required access to finance, some say $5-10 million dollars just to get started. This sort of money was not available to most football clubs in Australia and so the embryo HAL saw many “names” from the past, relegated to their proper place in the overall scheme of full time professional football.
        That brings us up to today, some 57 years after Kennedy’s speech.
        Have we improved in that time? ,of course we have,we have qualified for another three World Cups,we have won the Asian championship,we have a professional league with 10 identities, stuttering along , but the important thing is they are still there.
        So why all the doom and gloom? If Steven Lowy is driven by self interest I put it to you ,and Mike,that he is on the wrong “horse”,he would be far better off spending his valuable time in his father’s property empire ,Westfield
        Why has this angst suddenly arisen.We have probably one of the top organisation in the world ,FIFA, suddenly dictating as to what we should be doing in Australia to improve our football.!!!!
        Questions I could pose..
        Where was FIFA in 2004 when our game was at it’s lowest point ever.
        What was FIFA doing that saw their long term chairman and his cohorts banned from the game, due to—self interest.
        What were FIFA doing when it took an American organisation, the FBI, to tell them to get their house in order.
        I could go on but I think you will get the message. There are forces at work behind the scenes and it is those forces that suddenly bring FIFA to our shores to police an edict that has meandered through Asia
        That poses another question.
        How welcome is Australia into the Asian scenario? ,or could it be we have underlying opposition to our presence in that group.
        Again we are back to politicians and the speeches made by politicians. Cheers jb.

        • August 14th 2017 @ 9:26am
          RBBAnonymous said | August 14th 2017 @ 9:26am | ! Report

          Communism in theory sounds wonderful, but no one wants it.

        • August 14th 2017 @ 9:30am
          chris said | August 14th 2017 @ 9:30am | ! Report

          Some good points JB. I don’t know of any federation being thrown out of a confederation?
          I know Australia is not wanted by some of our west asian friends but to be thrown out would be a precedence that Im not sure FIFA would want to take on at this point.

          • August 14th 2017 @ 9:45am
            Waz said | August 14th 2017 @ 9:45am | ! Report

            By FIFAs own constitution a member can not be thrown out of its confederation. The worst that can happen is suspension.

          • Roar Guru

            August 14th 2017 @ 10:32am
            Ben of Phnom Penh said | August 14th 2017 @ 10:32am | ! Report

            Israel, 1974. Things have changed somewhat since then so you are correct, we won’t get thrown out of the AFC. The worse we can face is suspension from FIFA & AFC competitions ala Kuwait and Indonesia, both of whom have governance issues that make ours appear rather tame.

          • August 14th 2017 @ 12:12pm
            j,binnie said | August 14th 2017 @ 12:12pm | ! Report

            Chris . That was another part of the Lowy success story. Despite what we are told about constitutions etc he managed to get us out of Oceania into Asia. I for one am not so sure that was widely acceptable to our Asian neighbours. Cheers jb

        • August 14th 2017 @ 9:50am
          mattq said | August 14th 2017 @ 9:50am | ! Report

          JB. Being in Asia I think definitely has links to why FIFA are interested now. We are no longer in the forgotten backwater of Oceania. We’re playing with the big boys and if we want to be here we need play properly. Surely no one can argue that greater stakeholder representation at congress level is a negative. You’re not arguing that are you JB?

          • August 14th 2017 @ 12:28pm
            j,binnie said | August 14th 2017 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

            mattqu- It would be nice to think that the ten HAL franchises were chaired by men who not only invested their money but also had the know -how on how to run a professional sporting body.
            Unfortunately in the short history of the HAL there is overwhelming evidence that this might not be the case . In 11 years we have had 3 failures and at least two occasions where the FFA had to move in to support clubs in difficulty.
            We have also seen a large turnover in CEO’s, usually “poached ” from other sports and to date none of these moves have been what one would call a raging success.
            Is the FFA well run???? That is the question to be pondered.
            They have multiple “fronts” in which they are now active starting at Socceroo level right down to under 15’s and of course the successful ladies team is now threatening huge growth in the women’s game
            Is the game ready for a”congress” whose individuals will just as surely push their own barrows when it comes to decision making time.
            That is what we had before and we all know what happened in that time. I lived through it so I know. jb

            • August 14th 2017 @ 2:01pm
              mattq said | August 14th 2017 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

              I know JB and I respect your knowledge but why should Australia be any different to any other FIFA members? I think the game has moved on from how it was run pre-HAL. Trust me I certainly don’t want Greg Griffin running the game but something needs to give, the current model doesn’t align with FIFA’s statutes so we have little choice.

            • August 14th 2017 @ 2:30pm
              Midfielder said | August 14th 2017 @ 2:30pm | ! Report


              You and I share a similar concern ….

              has been a issue for as long as I can remember, always somebody wanting something extra for themselves…

              Me thinks putting in the full recommendations of the Crawford report would go a long way to solving most of the problems..

              I think the A-League should stand alone and administrater itself but given other issues there needs to be some acceptance that the A-League needs to support FFA fully and make up short falls in FFA income…

              One thing I am certain of is no group or most groups do not want to move away from the closed system…

              • August 14th 2017 @ 4:04pm
                Waz said | August 14th 2017 @ 4:04pm | ! Report

                Before the HAL can make up shortfalls in FFA funding the various parties would need to see the financials. No way should the HAL be funding massive seven figure salaries and an army of support staff.

        • August 14th 2017 @ 11:09am
          Nick Symonds said | August 14th 2017 @ 11:09am | ! Report

          “So why all the doom and gloom? If Steven Lowy is driven by self interest I put it to you ,and Mike,that he is on the wrong “horse”,he would be far better off spending his valuable time in his father’s property empire ,Westfield”

          The sport itself has come leaps and bounds since the end of the NSL. Australia has qualified for 3 successive world cups and the A-League is well attended by world standards. Currently the A-League is the 15th highest attended top flight worldwide and if the A-League was in Europe we would have the 8th highest.

          In terms of participation, the federal government’s Ausplay survey at the end of 2016 showed that football had
          increased it’s participation by 46 percent between 2001 and 2016, while AFL was down -1% and rugby league was down -27%. Rugby Union fell 63% down to just 55,000 players.

          Looking at the state of the game it looks quite healthy. The only reason to change the board is so that special
          interest groups can promote their own agendas. But FIFA would have to balance replacing the current board with
          the good of the game in general. They might not want to.

          All Steven Lowy has to do is show them what the NSL was like and then show them a highlights reel of
          the A-League. Would FIFA want what happened to the NSL happen to the A-League?

          I’d like to know, are FIFA’s statutes on governance structure hard rules that have to be followed or are they really more like guidelines like the “pirate code” in Pirates of the Caribbean?

          • Roar Rookie

            August 14th 2017 @ 12:50pm
            Grobbelaar said | August 14th 2017 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

            The FIFA statute on governance is pretty broad. It’s basically one or two sentences referring to representation, and it also mentions gender equality specifically.

            For starters, they should make sure that the W-League has one vote in congress.

    • August 14th 2017 @ 8:11am
      Buddy said | August 14th 2017 @ 8:11am | ! Report

      Somehow, and with a few exceptions, I suspect it might be a case of “preaching to the converted” at least as far as regular contributors on the roar is concerned. Apart from running a grassroots club, coaching a couple of teams, being part of the local disciplinary process, refereeing, supporting an A League club and watching a few of my ex players perform in youth league, I’m not sure what other contribution I can make? I could attend a few more socceroos games but in recent times have witnessed far worse behaviour from so called fans than anything I have seen at ALeague games and as a result I don’t feel too inclined to go along. I am sure there are similar stories from many of the regular contributors here – involvement as volunteers, not as fans at internationals. In NSW we have witnessed FNSW go through terrible times down the years, splits, mergers, statements of good intent and now these days a mirror of FFA so apart from the shaking of the head or nodding sagaciously at the goings on, there is more to be gained from making sure our small part of the football world is ticking over and performing as it should and personally, I try and steer people away from worrying about life at the top as we can exist at grassroots level perfectly well without any of them.

      • August 14th 2017 @ 2:19pm
        Lionheart said | August 14th 2017 @ 2:19pm | ! Report

        you’re full on already Buddy
        well done, and thanks

    • August 14th 2017 @ 9:10am
      Lee said | August 14th 2017 @ 9:10am | ! Report

      Hopefully the fans will take note of the upcoming game involving the Socceroos and Japan in a few weeks time. I will be supporting Japan as I am unhappy at the damage that asso football is doing to other sports in this sunburnt land. If the Socceroos qualify for the World Cup, the popularity of asso football will continue to grow at the expense of other codes.

      • August 14th 2017 @ 9:52am
        mattq said | August 14th 2017 @ 9:52am | ! Report

        lol. go away

      • August 14th 2017 @ 10:02am
        Brando Connor said | August 14th 2017 @ 10:02am | ! Report

        Really? I dont understand your point. So long as kids are up off the couch playing some sport then its all good. It doesn’t matter if it is soccer, rugby, league, footy, netball, baskball, hockey, curling… etc.

      • August 14th 2017 @ 10:24am
        Sydneysider said | August 14th 2017 @ 10:24am | ! Report

        ” I will be supporting Japan as I am unhappy at the damage that asso football is doing to other sports in this sunburnt lan”

        Get used to it Lee.

        Check the immigration levels and which countries people are immigrating from. We are part of Asia both economically and politically.

        Get used to it.

      • August 14th 2017 @ 12:08pm
        Ken Spacey said | August 14th 2017 @ 12:08pm | ! Report

        Have you noted that as the AFL gets richer the standard of Australia’s overall sporting performance is dropping? Both the Opals and the Matilldas are a couple of few extra stars away from world and Olympic titles but the cynical AFLW push dressed up as inclusiveness is robbing Australia of it’s full potential. Ok this is opinion but I can say from my own experience in issues of campaigns for public interest and open space for sporting and recreation land, the traditional codes have done absolutely nothing to ensure and expand that resource but now they need more fields they are eyeing off football’s hard won and overused fields.

        • Roar Rookie

          August 14th 2017 @ 12:53pm
          Grobbelaar said | August 14th 2017 @ 12:53pm | ! Report

          Relax Ken, Matildas currently look more formidable than ever, and the poster girl herself, Sam Kerr, has disowned her original football code.

          • August 14th 2017 @ 2:00pm
            punter said | August 14th 2017 @ 2:00pm | ! Report

            Amazing, what a comment, says shaking head, truly delusional.

            • Roar Rookie

              August 14th 2017 @ 2:21pm
              Grobbelaar said | August 14th 2017 @ 2:21pm | ! Report

              You disagree that the Matildas are currently more formidable than ever?? (now I’m the one scratching my head)

              • August 14th 2017 @ 2:39pm
                punter said | August 14th 2017 @ 2:39pm | ! Report

                No the comment about Sam Kerr, just ummmm.

                While the Matilda’s performance are outstanding, you cannot compare it to the men’s where the depth are so much higher.
                Ken’s comments are far closer to the mark then whatever point you trying to make.

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