Time for A-League clubs to show their cards

Paul Williams Columnist

By Paul Williams, Paul Williams is a Roar Expert


73 Have your say

    The long-anticipated delegation from FIFA and AFC arrives in town this week, as they look the mediate a resolution between the FFA and the club owners regarding the make-up of the FFA Congress – and, ultimately, the future of the game in Australia.
    At the heart of the matter is power. The FFA have it and the clubs want it.

    FFA hold the power of incumbency, meaning it’s therefore up to the clubs to present the alternate vision for the game, but we’re yet to see any detail.

    If they want the keys to the kingdom – well, the A-League kingdom, anyway – then they must lay out what they plan to do with it.

    They want an independent A-League, something most football fans support in principle, but that’s the key – in principle, because we don’t know what they will do with that independence.

    They say they can significantly grow the revenue and the capital that can be invested into the clubs, but where is the modeling? It’s easy to make claims and speak in motherhood statements, but the devil is always in the detail. That’s where FFA has fallen down since the release of its Whole of Football Plan a few years ago.

    The ambition was to be applauded, but it wasn’t followed up with any commitment (well, there was a four-year strategic vision that seems to be going swimmingly…) and three years on we’re probably further away from achieving that vision than when the process started.

    And why? Because the FFA failed to unite everyone behind their vision. It came across as FFA dictating what the vision was, rather than it being a reflection of the game’s vision for itself.

    If the clubs want to unite the football community behind them, they have to answer some specific questions.

    Who will run the league? Who will be on the commission? How will that commission be selected? How will extra money be generated? How will that money be split among the clubs? What are their plans for expansion, second division, promotion and relegation?

    The questions are endless, but we’re yet to see any details. The clubs, apparently, say they have it but won’t release it. That’s simply not good enough.

    If you want the fans and football community to support you, we need to know what your vision is – otherwise perhaps it is better the devil you know.

    Of course, we have seen some A-League club owners voice their theories on how to grow and develop the game and, well, let’s just say it leaves a lot to be desired.

    I speak of course of Tony Sage and Mike Charlesworth’s idea to expand the A-League into Southeast Asia, with teams potentially in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

    I’ve written before about the lunacy of such an idea, but in an independent A-League, would there be anyone to stop them implementing their plan? Does FFA retain a seat on any commission, or a veto power for any decision that is so clearly against the best interest of football in this country?

    Which leads to one of FFA’s main arguments, that the club owners care more about their hip pocket than they do about the development of the game. When you read ideas such as expansion into Southeast Asia, it’s hard to argue with them.

    It’s unlikely we’ll get any resolution to the ongoing saga this week, with FIFA and AFC in town to listen rather than act. But with the issue front and centre on the agenda again this week, it’s time for the clubs to back up their talk and lay their cards on the table.

    It’s the least the fans – many of whom support their clubs – deserve.

    Paul Williams
    Paul Williams

    Paul Williams is an Adelaide-based football writer. Specialising in Asian football, he writes about the beautiful game for a host of publications including SBS The World Game, FourFourTwo Singapore and Al Jazeera, and is a regular guest on the Daily Football Show. You can follow him on Twitter @PaulWilliams_85.

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    The Crowd Says (73)

    • February 20th 2018 @ 6:54am
      MyLeftFoot said | February 20th 2018 @ 6:54am | ! Report

      Good article, I agree

    • February 20th 2018 @ 7:50am
      Fadida said | February 20th 2018 @ 7:50am | ! Report

      Also agree.

      The clubs need to show a model of how it will work.

      Those proposing a second tier need to show a model

    • February 20th 2018 @ 8:49am
      mattq said | February 20th 2018 @ 8:49am | ! Report

      one model spoken about is an independent aleague commission whose decisions on strategic matters must still pass a vote by the expanded FFA board, this specifically relates to decisions which impact on the whole of the game. So id expect expansion into SE Asia would be one of those ideas which would need to be ratified by the board. day to day operational decisions would be made by the independent commission without the FFA board’s interference.

    • February 20th 2018 @ 8:57am
      Nemesis said | February 20th 2018 @ 8:57am | ! Report

      It was reported in December 2017 that the the Australian Professional Football Clubs Association (APFCA) had prepared a 300 page blueprint for the future of professional football in Australia.

      Just because the document hasn’t been released to the public, does not mean the work hasn’t been done.

      Whilst I agree with everything in this article & would dearly love to have more information, the harsh reality of business is that strategic information is rarely divulged to the public during the planning stages.

      From: http://www.smh.com.au/sport/soccer/threehundredpage-blueprint-of-australian-football-sent-to-fifa-for-aleague-future-20171201-gzwz8c.html

      “The dossier outlines how the 10-team A-League is alleged to have operating costs of $7 million spent on wages and benefits – not including travel costs – drawn from revenue of $48 million in 2017. It compares those figures with the Scottish Football League, which spent $2 million on staff with $56 million in revenue in 2015, managing 42 clubs. The English Football League (excluding the Premier League) had staff costs of about $9 million from $220 million for 72 clubs in 2015. The FFA declined to comment on this figure.

      The aim of the document is to help lower the costs of running the A-League, said to have been absorbed largely by wages. The joint blueprint will also address issues of expansion, a new A-League operating model that will see the competition become independent of the FFA and address investment opportunities in Australian football.”

    • February 20th 2018 @ 9:19am
      Waz said | February 20th 2018 @ 9:19am | ! Report

      The trouble is Paul this is an ill-informed article and could have come from the FFAs department of propaganda given its nature. Not that you don’t raise some relevant questions, but it’s the framework in which you set those questions that’s problematic.

      First off, the current debate is not about an independent A League and it never has been, so asking the A League clubs to present a plan for one is kinda pointless because it’s not even an option at the current time even though it’s a relevant debate which several parties have opinions on.

      The current debate is not even about power and control which you flippantly suggest it is.

      The debate is about the make-up of congress which has the vote to determine the who sits on the FFA Board. In a democracy the power sits with the FFA Congress, the control sits with the Board. In effect there is a separation of power and control.

      The current model gives Lowy both power and control and the model for Congress he proposes maintains that power and control. Under this model Lowy gets what he wants and, according to critics, no one else does.

      The AAPFC, along with several other groups, are proposing a congress that breaks absolute power by providing a balance between various stakeholders. Under this model no one has the control or power to get “what they want” and so need support from other groups which means negotiation and collaboration.

      So it’s not that your questions are invalid it’s just that they are severely premature – under a Lowy dictatorship why would the clubs even bother addressing those questions? Lowy is not interested and he doesn’t need to listen because he has both power and control.

      Secondly any independent competition would be done under a charter setting out the parameters with which a competition could be run. These parameters come from Congress via the Board and would dictate many of the key questions you ask here.

      So before the clubs can say what they’re thinking, the FFA must issue the parameters under which an independent competition can operate. Without that you might as well fly to North Korea and announce plans for democratic elections. You can do it but it’s futile and most likely bad for your health.

      The final point, and the context that you completely miss, is that FIFA’s charter expressly states that clubs should be free to organise their own competitions, not the FFA who are merely the games administrators, if normalisation occurs the clubs would be free to form their own comp – because FIFAs charter says they should.

      The state of the game today is an absolute mess. The blame for that sits with the lowy family and no one else. Without addressing that all other questions are irrelevant.

      • February 20th 2018 @ 9:55am
        Square Nostrils said | February 20th 2018 @ 9:55am | ! Report

        “The state of the game today is an absolute mess. The blame for that sits with the lowy family and no one else. Without addressing that all other questions are irrelevant.”

        Only partly accurate Waz. The state of the game at professional level(is it any different at amateur and junior level?) under the Lowys is as a direct result of the state of the game pre Lowys where football was essentially dead in the water.
        Lowy came in at the request of Johnny Howard with his own agenda ,for past reasons as we know(my way or the highway -old soccer vs new football). This worked for a while but essentially you cant change the history of football in Australia and now after 13 years the A-League feels it no longer needs Daddys hand to take it across the street and “Old Soccer” feel they’ve been ignored long enough.
        FIFA and the AFC are here because the game in this country has been run as an amateur hour shemozzle by the various monikers of the FFA forever, the Lowys are just reactionaries against that.

        • February 20th 2018 @ 10:38am
          Waz said | February 20th 2018 @ 10:38am | ! Report

          Look, I can accept the comment that the state of the game is partly a function of pre-lowy power. The two are linked. I can also, perversely, accept that Lowy thinks he’s acting in the best interests of the game and somehow protecting the game from itself.

          Unfortunately Lowy Snr stabilised the ship but in doing so split the game in to old and new and now tend to jump at shadows whenever “old soccer” appears.

          So granted not all the problems are of their making, but it’s now abundantly clear Steven Lowy is part of the problem and highly unlikely to be part of the solution unless the solution is more of the same.

          All is not lost but it might be if we dont see change in the next few months.

          • February 20th 2018 @ 10:55am
            Square Nostrils said | February 20th 2018 @ 10:55am | ! Report

            “So granted not all the problems are of their making, but it’s now abundantly clear Steven Lowy is part of the problem and highly unlikely to be part of the solution unless the solution is more of the same. ”

            Totally agree their Waz, I cant see him being any more flexible , still showing Dads my way or the highway trait., been totally disappointed in his inertia.
            The next few months will be interesting to say the least.

            • February 20th 2018 @ 11:33am
              mattq said | February 20th 2018 @ 11:33am | ! Report

              his old man must seriously be disappointed in Steven’s performance.

    • Roar Guru

      February 20th 2018 @ 9:26am
      Grobbelaar said | February 20th 2018 @ 9:26am | ! Report

      Spot on (in response to Waz)

      The first step forward is for everyone is to acknowledge that the Commonwealth Government allowed one of the wealthiest people in Australia to base the governance of football on a purposefully organised gerrymander that allowed his family to have full control of football in perpetuity.

      Until that point is acknowledged, all these discussions are futile.

      • February 20th 2018 @ 9:42am
        Kangajets said | February 20th 2018 @ 9:42am | ! Report

        How does the EPL work??

        Is it not owned by the 20 participant clubs who benefit from the revenue, with parachute payments to relegated teams .
        …..and the English FA control the pyramid below the premier league.

        • Roar Guru

          February 20th 2018 @ 2:37pm
          Grobbelaar said | February 20th 2018 @ 2:37pm | ! Report

          Well, it’s not run and controlled by one family.

          • February 20th 2018 @ 4:18pm
            Nemesis said | February 20th 2018 @ 4:18pm | ! Report

            No. That’s more the NBL, which is apparently the benchmark for new sporting competitions.

        • February 20th 2018 @ 4:05pm
          spruce moose said | February 20th 2018 @ 4:05pm | ! Report


          That will answer your question.

          The situation is the same for the EFL as well.

        • February 20th 2018 @ 5:01pm
          Waz said | February 20th 2018 @ 5:01pm | ! Report


          The English FA don’t control the pyramid below the EPL, that’s also independent right down to division two which is under the Football League.

          I think even the divisions below that are independent as well – that’s how FIFA works – Clubs organise their own competitions.