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Football in Australia is in desperate need of change

Sydney head coach Graham Arnold gestures as the final whistle is blown during the A-League round 17 football match between Sydney FC and Central Coast Mariners at the Allianz Stadium in Sydney, Saturday, January 20, 2018. (AAP Image/David Moir)
Expert
28th June, 2018
170
3083 Reads

The worst thing that can happen for football right now is nothing. The status quo has taken the game this far, but both the Socceroos and A-League need a revamp.

It’s ironic that the most insightful voice on Australia’s three-game trip to Russia is one that will be largely ignored.

“By 2017, I came to the realisation that in fact, rather than me riding on a tidal wave of change, I was in essence on a personal crusade,” wrote Ange Postecoglou for Players Voice of his time as Socceroos coach.

What Postecoglou means is that he assumed he had the backing of his employer to make the changes he felt necessary to transform the Socceroos from a team that tries hard but loses courageously, into a genuine international force.

But when change didn’t happen quickly enough, and with Football Federation Australia no doubt concerned by the prospect of missing out on millions in tournament revenue, suddenly plans were made for a World Cup without Postecoglou in it.

Many see his decision to resign as a betrayal to the cause, and will dismiss Postecoglou’s opinion because of it.

Others – including a few critics of mine – are tired of the FFA being blamed for everything, and have convinced themselves that those who write about mistakes being made do more damage to the game than those who actually make them.

Still others are alarmed by Postecoglou’s propensity for plain speaking, and will ignore his views because they believe the way he speaks means he is egocentric.

But the reality is that the one person who had a clear vision for football in Australia – whether it was the right one or not – stepped down as Socceroos coach before the World Cup because he felt like he had no support.

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Regardless of what you think about the FFA or Postecoglou, is this really where football in Australia should be in 2018?

Ange Postecoglou Football Australia Socceroos 2017

That the Bert van Marwijk era ended so predictably arguably works in Graham Arnold’s favour.

Depending on who you talk to, van Marwijk either did an outstanding job in his seven-game stint as Socceroos coach, or simply an adequate one.

My sentiments lie somewhere in the middle. Van Marwijk did well to offer his team some defensive solidity – but as Postecoglou pointed out, the Socceroos have always had that.

But there was only so much he could do with players whom – unlike Arnold – he was largely unfamiliar with.

Next year’s Asian Cup will be a serious test of Arnold’s coaching skills, but in the meantime the FFA have got more pressing concerns.

Today – a mere 19 days after their own June 11 deadline came and went without a word – the FFA will announce its shortlist of potential A-League expansion clubs.

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It’s expected eight clubs will be on the list – which sounds like a lot, considering the FFA have already stated that only two new clubs will be admitted in 2019, assuming Wellington Phoenix retain their place.

And there may be more meaning behind such a long list of candidates than is first apparent.

By the end of next month, the Congress Review Working Group led by independent chairwoman Judith Griggs will have submitted its proposal to FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation for a new composition of the FFA Congress.

It’s taken an eternity – and FIFA intervention – for the penny to drop, but the FFA have finally realised they can no longer ignore every stakeholder in the game if they wish to remain in power.

It’s in their best interests not to alienate even more voices by summarily ignoring expansion plans.

Four new teams, not two, is what the A-League really needs. And a regeneration of the Socceroos while we’re at it.

Because the worst thing those who run football can do right now is stand still. The game has been stagnant for too long, and what has it got us?

Ten unhappy A-League clubs and one point in the World Cup.

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