Our governance issues are overshadowing the A-League

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

By Mike Tuckerman, Mike Tuckerman is a Roar Expert


136 Have your say

    “Football is not a matter of life and death,” said Bill Shankly. “It is much more important than that.” He was wrong, of course. It’s simply part of the entertainment business.

    The most revealing aspect of Shankly’s quote is how thoroughly it’s been taken out of context over the years.

    Referencing the friendly rivalry between Liverpool and Everton fans, here’s what the legendary former Reds manager actually said in full.

    “I am not saying they love each other. Oh, no. Football is not a matter of life and death… it’s much more important than that. And it’s more important to them than that. But I’ve never seen a fight at a derby game. Shouting and bawling… yes. But they don’t fight each other. And that says a lot for them.”

    So an oft-repeated quip about the “life and death” importance of football is really about how supporters of two clubs from the same town get along reasonably well.

    Talk about your mixed messages. It’s an apt metaphor for how the A-League is going – decent football, dodgy administration.

    What’s the biggest story in Australian football right now? Is it table-toppers Sydney FC meeting moneybags Melbourne City at Allianz Stadium tonight?

    Is it Brisbane Roar taking on Melbourne Victory in what is at least the 40th competitive meeting between the two sides at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday?

    Or is it Football Federation Australia allegedly tapping up Sky Blues coach Graham Arnold for the Socceroos role – a move which prompted Sydney FC chief executive Danny Townsend to write about Arnold on Twitter, “He is a contracted coach and it is clear our priority is to keep him”.

    Ah yes, the FFA. It wouldn’t be an average week in Australian football if we didn’t talk about their influence on the game.

    It says much about the way head office runs things that no one seems to find it problematic when clubs like Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory are rewarded for domestic success by potentially having their head coach spirited away midway through the season.

    Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold

    (AAP Image/Joe Castro)

    And perhaps that’s as it should be. After all, the World Cup is bigger than the A-League, is it not?

    But if the governing body that controls the A-League can only treat it as an afterthought, then why should they expect anyone else to view it differently?

    Hang on a second! Let’s take stock here.

    Haven’t I criticised the FFA enough? Shouldn’t I acknowledge that running a football competition is hard, that finances are tight and that everyone involved has the best of intentions?

    Wouldn’t it be better if I just didn’t comment on any of this negativity at all?

    Yeah, nah.

    Because the A-League is part of the entertainment business, and right now we’re so focused on governance, very few of us are being entertained by any actual football.

    It’s why Alex Brosque roasted the FFA over lacklustre attendances. It’s why Townsend pinpoints “scheduling/fixtures” as the number one reason Sydney FC can’t get more fans through the gate.

    It’s why the biggest stories are always about coaches and Congresses, but rarely about action on the pitch.

    Alex Brosque Sydney FC A-League Grand Final 2017 tall

    (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

    “Write about the football!” say readers in the comments section. But then when anyone does, no one comments on it.

    You don’t want to talk about the football. You want to talk about the big topics.

    Right now, those topics are around governance and who will coach the Socceroos.

    And that’s a problem for the FFA, because despite their (mis)handling of both the Congress and the national team coaching position, we should really be talking about what’s happening on the pitch.

    I’ll be at the Roar game on Sunday, despite the fact I’ve now seen this same fixture more times than any other game.

    The A-League is stale. It needs expansion teams.

    It needs to get back to what it’s supposed to be doing – entertaining us.

    And it needs us not to turn a blind eye, but to keep speaking the truth. Because football belongs to all of us. Not just the FFA.

    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 (136)

    • December 15th 2017 @ 7:13am
      Not so super said | December 15th 2017 @ 7:13am | ! Report

      Great excuses Mike

      • December 15th 2017 @ 7:34am
        punter said | December 15th 2017 @ 7:34am | ! Report


        • December 15th 2017 @ 8:28am
          chris said | December 15th 2017 @ 8:28am | ! Report

          Punter I’m going as well. Don’t you love that people that never go to games are the first posters on here?

          • December 15th 2017 @ 9:21am
            punter said | December 15th 2017 @ 9:21am | ! Report

            Yes Chris, big game tonite.

            • December 15th 2017 @ 9:28am
              Kangajets said | December 15th 2017 @ 9:28am | ! Report

              Sydney 3-1 I’m tipping

          • December 15th 2017 @ 11:31am
            spruce moose said | December 15th 2017 @ 11:31am | ! Report

            I’ll be there. My last game for 2017.

    • December 15th 2017 @ 7:19am
      marcel said | December 15th 2017 @ 7:19am | ! Report


      • December 15th 2017 @ 7:34am
        punter said | December 15th 2017 @ 7:34am | ! Report

        I’m going to the football tonite. Are you going to a game this weekend?

        • December 15th 2017 @ 9:41am
          marcel said | December 15th 2017 @ 9:41am | ! Report

          Definitely SFC tonight..
          I will be up the coast on the weekend so I’m hoping to catch the Mariners v Wanderers if can get it together.

    • December 15th 2017 @ 7:46am
      Fadida said | December 15th 2017 @ 7:46am | ! Report

      Here we go again.

      We alll know negative headlines attract more clicks. Even better when you can create a code wars controversy. After a while it becomes a negative feedback loop, and this is what we have at the moment. Lots of clicks though.

      Anyone who isn’t going to games because of “governance” issues is a child. We even had a poster saying he stopped following the Roar because Qld doesn’t get international matches and the Suncorp pitch was dangerous.

      Arnold is the best performing, best credentialed A-League coach. FFA would be negligent not to be considering him.

      Write about the football Mike, or at least stop rehashing the same story.

      I believe crowds are down because of;
      a) all of the best supported clubs struggling on field
      b) WSW lacking a “home” ground and the loss of atmosphere
      c) the weather/uncovered stadia (historically this is a fact)
      d) the Sydney market not getting the new big name marquee they need to keep the casual fan interested. They want Hollywood, not Matt “the Axe” Simon.

      How many kids were saying to parents, “dad, I don’t want to go to the game this afternoon. All of the kids are saying the governance is poor”? Already this season I haven’t taken the family to a Jets game because of storms and I know plenty of others in the same boat.

      Yes FFA have some serious issues to sort out, but they aren’t the main reason for decreased attendances

      • December 15th 2017 @ 8:21am
        Nick Symonds said | December 15th 2017 @ 8:21am | ! Report

        “Already this season I haven’t taken the family to a Jets game because of storms and I know plenty of others in the same boat.”

        Maybe the reason for poor crowds in Newcastle is the lack of docking facilities at McDonald Jones Stadium. This should really be a priority for the NSW government as part of their stadiums upgrade strategy.

        • December 15th 2017 @ 9:03am
          Fadida said | December 15th 2017 @ 9:03am | ! Report

          Agree Nick, AU, CCM both have huge uncovered areas too. This is one the factors I think most effects crowds

        • December 16th 2017 @ 1:55am
          Jarren said | December 16th 2017 @ 1:55am | ! Report

          Well, you should try Australian Unity Fast Footy, you will not want to bother with A league again. Problem solved.

      • December 15th 2017 @ 8:40am
        Peeko said | December 15th 2017 @ 8:40am | ! Report

        Fadida, you make a lot more sense than the author

      • December 15th 2017 @ 8:52am
        jamesb said | December 15th 2017 @ 8:52am | ! Report

        It’s sad that the Sydney market needs a marquee player. The team is winning, and it has two quality imports in Ninkovic and Mierzejewski. Ninkovic has played 28 times for Serbia, while Mierzejewski has 40 caps for Poland. Both of those players are no mugs.

        Football fans need to be more educated, rather than acting like starry eyed teenagers.

        • December 15th 2017 @ 9:31am
          Kangajets said | December 15th 2017 @ 9:31am | ! Report


          Those 2 Sydney players are top quality, I believe at Newcastle we would happily give them bling marquee status

        • December 15th 2017 @ 10:21am
          marcel said | December 15th 2017 @ 10:21am | ! Report

          James…I think the Sydney market works like this…Marquee = publicity = visiblity = attendance.

          Not everyone goes looking for information in the way that we do…and if you dont make a specific effort to find it…then the A-League is pretty much invisible.

          • December 15th 2017 @ 2:39pm
            jamesb said | December 15th 2017 @ 2:39pm | ! Report

            “Not everyone goes looking for information in the way that we do…”

            That’s very true. To follow that logic, the shambles around the congress shouldn’t be the reason why crowds are down. And if the FFA market the league, then slowly people will start to know who the players are. No marketing = invisible.

        • December 15th 2017 @ 9:02pm
          Kenneth said | December 15th 2017 @ 9:02pm | ! Report

          Why is it sad the MLS is flooded with marquee players and it’s going gangbusters .it does work . All you purists don’t understand Australia is spoilt for choice when it comes to sport so much on offer just like USA so therefore fans need a bit of a nudge to attend a game then provide it . This is not Europe where one football code rules and it never will be.so whatever it takes to get bums on seats is good enough for me.the days of Del Piero is proof that it works ,now for the FFA they need to get their act together because it’s their inannactions that have stalled the A league in this country .expansion to Fourteen teams as a minimum is a must do now not later. No more Sydney or Melbourne teams we need new additions from new cities it’s about expansion of the game not concentration in Sydney amd Melbourne .

          • December 16th 2017 @ 2:51am
            lesterlike said | December 16th 2017 @ 2:51am | ! Report

            The days of Del Piero just prove that dumping a half retired 38 year old in your team is a great way to nuke your own season.

      • December 15th 2017 @ 11:04am
        Ian said | December 15th 2017 @ 11:04am | ! Report

        Good points. I also get value from your insatiable appetite for Matt Simon jibes.

        A couple of years ago my eldest daughter walked out with the players at a Roar game at Suncorp vs SFC. She walked with the SFC team. Matt Simon in particular.
        She is ok.

        • December 15th 2017 @ 11:51am
          Fadida said | December 15th 2017 @ 11:51am | ! Report

          She didn’t cop a stray elbow?

          • December 15th 2017 @ 12:30pm
            Ian said | December 15th 2017 @ 12:30pm | ! Report

            Yes, but we were happy that was all she copped.

            In seriousness though, he was nice to her so that was all we could hope for. Apart from her actual wish of walking out with Broich or Jamie Maclaren instead.

            • December 15th 2017 @ 12:48pm
              Fadida said | December 15th 2017 @ 12:48pm | ! Report

              It might surprise you to find out that I’m no fan of Simon the footballer (thug)!, but am not condemning him as a person. I’ve met Muscat a couple of times and he’s a really likeable man, away from the field.

              • December 15th 2017 @ 6:12pm
                Ian said | December 15th 2017 @ 6:12pm | ! Report

                No of course I didn’t think you would consider his on-field behaviour to reflect off-field. Unless there was good reason. Applies to Berisha the same, especially in his Brisbane days – many non-Roar supporters have their opinion of a player, and him, but meeting him at training sessions and having photos with kids and fans he is the polar opposite of what happens on the field.

    • December 15th 2017 @ 7:47am
      AR said | December 15th 2017 @ 7:47am | ! Report

      In one sense I totally get it.

      Write about games and tactics – 15 comments.
      Write about crisis and scandal – 150 comments.

      And there’s no doubt that the most interesting FFA stories for the past 12 months have occurred off the field. Of course, the FFA drive much of this trend themselves. For a sports boss, Gallop talks incessantly about metrics and the juicy broadcast deal and becoming “No. 1”…at least he used to. So it’s no surprise that the mob pick up that ball and run with it.

      Perhaps some of the criticism that Mike attracts is that he is *perceived* to:
      – write about crisis and scandal far too often; and
      – rely too heavily in his articles on ‘code war’ triggers or hand grenades to the ‘base’.

      Then again, Mike’s in the sales/clicks business, so I totally get it. It’s not life and death.

      • December 15th 2017 @ 8:20am
        Fadida said | December 15th 2017 @ 8:20am | ! Report


      • December 15th 2017 @ 9:01am
        punter said | December 15th 2017 @ 9:01am | ! Report

        The Irony of it all for AFL fans like you.

        Write about games and tactics – 15 comments. Mainly football fans, never seen you on any of these articles.
        Write about crisis and scandal – 150 comments. You & your merry men of AFL fans come in droves, making football seem more popular then it is, you have never missed to comment on Mike’s articles.

        Oh Shakespeare would love you, the IRONY.

        • December 15th 2017 @ 2:49pm
          Post_hoc said | December 15th 2017 @ 2:49pm | ! Report

          Nailed It

        • December 15th 2017 @ 5:28pm
          AR said | December 15th 2017 @ 5:28pm | ! Report

          punter, I’m not sure you understand what irony means.

          Mike said people mostly comment on crisis/scandal articles.
          I agreed with him and I posted. Then you posted.

          Wait…maybe you *do* understand irony!

          Well done !

          • December 15th 2017 @ 11:58pm
            punter said | December 15th 2017 @ 11:58pm | ! Report

            PH above says it all mate.

    • December 15th 2017 @ 7:54am
      Onside said | December 15th 2017 @ 7:54am | ! Report

      Hi Mike, Olympic FC , (feeder club for Brisbane Roar) have signed a teenager from Noosa Lions.

      Taj Suffolk, an Australian U19 schoolboy representative, will now be introduced to Greek food at
      that splendid home ground canteen.

      I’ve got two grand kids at Olympic.

      All over Australia there are hundreds of clubs ,each with hundreds of players, enjoying football.

      The FFA and HAL might be at the top of the pyramid , but they are not the strong foundation on
      which the game in Australia is built and continues to thrive.

      • December 15th 2017 @ 8:04am
        Waz said | December 15th 2017 @ 8:04am | ! Report

        Best food and canteen in NPLQ; and a great club as well ?

        Agree with your sentiments – but you’ll also know the turmoil and strife that’s playing out under Football Queensland’s leadership as well – so the foundations aren’t too healthy either ?

        • December 15th 2017 @ 9:01am
          Pauly said | December 15th 2017 @ 9:01am | ! Report

          The chicken souvlaki is divine

          • December 15th 2017 @ 9:27am
            Nick Symonds said | December 15th 2017 @ 9:27am | ! Report

            “The FFA and HAL might be at the top of the pyramid , but they are not the strong foundation on which the game in Australia is built and continues to thrive.”

            The cafeteria ladies deserve a vote on the new FFA congress. And Groundskeepers. And any other volunteers who are the lifeblood of any club.

            • December 15th 2017 @ 9:33am
              chris said | December 15th 2017 @ 9:33am | ! Report

              Nick after a while, continual use of sarcasm just becomes tiresome.

      • December 15th 2017 @ 1:52pm
        Lionheart said | December 15th 2017 @ 1:52pm | ! Report

        feeder club? are you trying to be ironic?

    • December 15th 2017 @ 8:01am
      Waz said | December 15th 2017 @ 8:01am | ! Report

      Just a lot Mike, just a lot.

      The FFA, who after all have an annual budget of $19m to administer and market the HAL, first allowed the competition to stagnate over the last few seasons while fighting continuous battles with key stakeholders including fans, and then this year created a lose-lose season with crowds and viewership plummeting.

      It’s a lose-lose because:

      If you’re on the FFAs side then the clubs are nothing but greedy private enterprises intent on destroying the wider game. So why go to the HAL?

      If you’re on the Clubs side then the FFA is a power hungry, command and control entity that’s prepared to trash the competition to get what it wants. So why go to the HAL?

      The evidence is irrefutable – attendances are collapsing and the worst is yet to come, and tv viewership is embarrassing and again, the worst is yet to come.

      There is no doubt that fans who watched last season are not watching this season, the most probable cause is the governance crisis enveloping the game.

      Would it be better if people like you didn’t write about it? That argument suggests that ill-informed supporters would still turn up. I doubt it.

      Anyway, the easy answer is for the suits to sort this mess out. Journalists are not the cause of this crisis, the FFA are. Or more correctly, Steven Lowy is.

      It’s time to stop the rot. Like many others on this site, I’ll go to many/all the games again this season, and watch most on tv, but a large proportion of our fellow supporters from last year won’t be. That’s a problem with writing about.

      • December 15th 2017 @ 8:29am
        Fadida said | December 15th 2017 @ 8:29am | ! Report


        Show me evidence that people are sitting at home on a Saturday afternoon and saying “you know what, I’ve followed X through the last 10 years of the A-League, but you know what, despite all the enjoyment, the great atmosphere, the people I sit with, I’m not going any more. The football is fine, but this governance thing is stopping me enjoying what I watch on the field”

        The points I have made above are more plausible reasons for attendances being down than abstract “governance” issues.

        Attendances are down because of “governance”. I call Bollocks.

        Which isn’t to say FFA haven’t stopped the ball on expansion.

        • December 15th 2017 @ 8:49am
          chris said | December 15th 2017 @ 8:49am | ! Report

          Fad in the main I agree with you. I will go to games regardless of who is running it and whether they are doing a good job or not etc. But I also think that with all the negative press (and virtually nothing written about the actual football) the less committed fan will probably stay away. Its happening in league as well. All the negative press I think has, over the years, greatly impacted on the crowds.

          • December 15th 2017 @ 9:22am
            Fadida said | December 15th 2017 @ 9:22am | ! Report

            A negative loop Chris. If people choose to only write negative stories then negativity gathers momentum. In this age of sooky self indulgence people then become offended because internationals aren’t being played in their own state and stop watching their (unrelated) club team.

            Only in Australia

        • December 15th 2017 @ 8:53am
          Waz said | December 15th 2017 @ 8:53am | ! Report

          In your earlier post you listed out a long list of reasons you thought crowds were down and yet you offered NO EVIDENCE for your own opinion …. but somehow you expect me to spoon feed you with evidence.

          I get it fadida, you love the FFA, they’re beyond criticism for you, they can do no wrong; I get that you think crowds are down this season because of the weather and we didn’t have weather last season, or it’s because we don’t have roofs on stadiums but we had roofs last year, or because wanderers don’t have a home ground but they had one last season, or because crowds are down because big teams are struggling yet crowds were down in R1 and R2 before they were struggling. I get all that.

          It’s a difference of opinion, that’s all. Don’t turn in to a bully over it.

          I strongly believe the reason crowds are down is because the game is in crisis, and it’s a crisis that’s been brewing for several years.

          If the current trends continue we will end up with an average crowd of less than 10,500 for the season, down more than 2k on recent seasons, I do not believe that is being caused by any of the factors you list – but I get you do, I just disagree.

          Don’t turn into an internet bully mate, feel free to ignore my posts just don’t reply with unreasonable requests for evidence when you yourself don’t provide any.

          • December 15th 2017 @ 9:20am
            punter said | December 15th 2017 @ 9:20am | ! Report

            Fad, you know I loves ya, especially at this time of year, but Waz has got a great point, where is your evidence about pt 4? Sydney needing marquee, yeah I think Del Piero was different, it wasn’t just SFC crowds were bigger, he drew big crowds everywhere he went.

            As per your point about governance not affecting crowds, for fans like me & you, no way, especially how well SFC & Newy are playing.

            But try this scenario, either family or friends discussing.

            ‘Christmas party on friday night’,
            ‘No way, SFC are playing’
            ‘But the crowds are down & there is hardly any fanfare, all the news lately has been about the governance, it’s pretty boring really.’
            ‘Yeah I know, but SFC are playing well, but I know what you mean, hardly any news on how well they are playing, it’s all about Lowy, Gallop, Griffiths & FIFA.’
            ‘Come on, Mick & Ted are coming to the chrissy party.’
            ‘Ok then’.


            ‘After Christmas party on Boxing day, free drinks & everything’
            ‘No way boxing day Test match, it’s traditional, Bluey & Phil are up for it’
            ‘I’m sure the party will have the TV in the background’
            ‘Like I said no way, we are killing them, Smith v Anderson, Warner v Broad, it’s all over the papers, big crowd expected’
            ‘Yeah it would be horrible to miss it’.

            • December 15th 2017 @ 9:28am
              Fadida said | December 15th 2017 @ 9:28am | ! Report

              But what leads to the negative talk? People like Mike with 3/4 of their articles choosing the negative path.

              Who are these weak, childish people who are influenced by negative media? If you enjoy the football you go.

              Waz, I have offered reasons why crowds are down. Weather is a fact. Roar, MV, WSW are struggling on field. WSW crowds dipped the second they moved to Spotless. Understandable. Sydney is spevuksyin, but the ADP experiment suggests it’s the case.

              Show the evidence that this nebulous “governance” theory is having an effect on crowds

              • December 15th 2017 @ 2:21pm
                iuyu said | December 15th 2017 @ 2:21pm | ! Report

                I am evidence, Fafida.

                I deeply hate the finals system in a bread + butter league.

                I hate the lack of pro-rel. It changes the emotions of a Football game. I want to feel that emotion, that EVERY games counts…

                I cannot enjoy a Football game where bottom clubs have no fear to be relegated. The FEAR creates a better game. In an European league EVERY game is important, not just the finals. Bottom clubs are scared to be relegated, middle clubs are trying to get into Champions League and Europa Cup and the top clubs MUST FIGHT EVERY game from the first to the last if they want to win the league title.

                I CAN FEEL that emotion in the European leagues. I grew up with it. I can FEEL + SEE with my own eyes how it changes the Football game. It makes the game ATTRACTIVE.

                I miss that in Australia. I cannot feel real competition + fear. That makes it dull.

                So, I hope it is crystal clear now, that the reason why I’m not following the A-League is NOT because I stubbornly and childishly try to “stick it up the FFA”, but because I don’t enjoy it, because there is a lack of fear and emotion.

                All I can see in an A-League game is a bunch of spoiled players and coaches who can’t get sacked/relegated and have a bit of a show (NRL/AFL-style) That doesn’t push them to learn and improve.

                When I do a bad job, I get sacked. That pushes me to work better. When A-League players and coaches do a bad job, they don’t get sacked and relegated. That’s a ridiculous situation.

                I know there are more Europeans and Asians living in Australia feeling the same way as I do.

              • December 15th 2017 @ 10:24pm
                Kossie said | December 15th 2017 @ 10:24pm | ! Report

                Ok. So you are 1 of approximately 1000 spread across a few online forums, who is likely a fan of 1 of the 10 current clubs, who has stopped going to 1 of the 5 games each weekend, in this particular season! You probably represent about 5 empty seats in a stadium!

                As pro/rel has never existed and the finals system has always been in place in my lifetime I can assume you have not been to an NSL or A-league game. Nemesis has a name for posters like yourself!

              • December 15th 2017 @ 3:15pm
                chris said | December 15th 2017 @ 3:15pm | ! Report

                iuyu – can’t argue with what you are saying. Hopefully that will all come in the not too distant future.
                And you are right, there is nothing like fear, risk and reward to get the blood flowing and to get that fix week in week out.