While the composition of a letter can be used as a satirical and humorous tool to make a point, this particular one is nothing of the sort.
Off the back of my piece last Thursday entitled ‘Even as an innocent bystander, football is implicated‘, and my frustration at the silence of the FFA, I wrote this letter to David Gallop.
With the game used pathetically as some sort of reference point to either placate or highlight the issues in the AFL around crowd violence and brawling, football took another one on the chin.
Personally, I would have liked to have heard from the man in charge; seen him on the front foot, positioning himself as a meaningful player in Australian sport, rather than once again, appearing reactionary and risk adverse.
The Chief Executive
Football Federation Australia
Level 22 / 1 Oxford Street
Darlinghurst, NSW 2010
24th July 2018
Dear Mr Gallop,
I write to you from Sydney as a writer, freelance journalist but most of all, a long-term fan and supporter of football in Australia.
I am not sure of your preferred weekly football reading staples but I would like to think that you have stumbled across the odd piece I have written on The Roar. If not, you should log on, create a profile and have a surf around the football tab. Those engaging in online discussions would appreciate the access and your effort to connect with the concerns and queries of coalface football fans.
I wanted to congratulate you on the long-awaited A-League expansion plan to which the FFA has now committed. While the delays in its implementation have been frustrating for the many aware of its necessity and importance, it is pleasing that we have finally reached that particular point in the A-League’s journey.
Personally, I hope the final selection of the new licence holders will be informed by long-term and visionary thinking and not merely a commercial choice made to re-energise the league with a new derby and little else.
The W-League was constructed with that type of thinking in mind. It was the pioneer in terms of women’s professional team sport in this country.
After more than a decade of competition, the unquestioned quality of the play and its power to lure top class players from overseas, the league has played a key role in the surging success of the Matildas.
It took years for the AFL, rugby league and cricket to follow suit with women’s competitions and while they experience a more prominent commercial face in terms of mainstream coverage, I hope the FFA remembers the vision behind the W-League concept.
A truly national A-League competition would feature markets such as Wollongong, Canberra, Northern Territory and Tasmania.
Sure the Gold Coast and northern Queensland ventures failed, yet they too would be an integral part of an expanded A-League in the long term.
In whatever direction the FFA decide to head in terms of expansion clubs, I hope that long-term vision lies at the heart of the decision and there is some sense of altruism in the choice.
Similarly, a national second division and the associated promotion and relegation appear far off. Fans have felt frustrated by the FFA’s perceived aversion to them. The move to a structure that mirrors the vast football world and meets FIFA’s requirements would address many of the issues that exist around player development.
The stark reality for young Australian footballers is that many of them do not have a competition commensurate with their talents in which to compete. Young A-League players who receive limited minutes in the top flight often find themselves playing in youth leagues, rather than a competitive second-tier competition.
The Australian psyche grapples with this concept as other codes move towards an Americanised version of ‘game day’.
Rugby league is a prime example. The weekend match has become a one-off event, devoid of reserve grade play. A key stepping stone to the top level has been removed and players are struggling with the leap from junior football to the NRL.
Filling the similar chasm that exists in football is essential.
The tiers that exist in world football are vital to player development and the NPL competitions are doing as well as they can, despite being hamstrung financially.
Aligning the more successful and better resourced NPL clubs would provide a wonderful second tier. As with the FFA Cup, where early scepticism has proven unwarranted, any fears around promotion/relegation will be allayed when the benefits are reaped in the future.
From a financial perspective, while I appreciate your concerns and risk adverse approach to releasing the purse strings of the A-League clubs and freeing up their spending, the salary cap must go.
There has been astonishing development in Asian football over the last decade. Australia is destined to fall well behind unless local teams are able to attract more quality international footballers to the league and also retain local talent more readily.
As more and more of our young stars leave our shores thanks to financial restraints that limit the buying power of our A-League clubs, the competition remains stagnate. A quality product it is, yet comparatively it flounders, as Asian football booms.
The increased number of teams permitted at the World Cup might be a godsend for the Socceroos considering how difficult qualification through Asia has become. No doubt it is evidence of other Asian countries’ investment and subsequent advancement and Australia’s treading of water.
Hopefully, these and many other issues are front and centre in your thinking. Sometimes it is hard to know considering the infrequent times we hear from the FFA. Last week was such an example, as football was conveniently and crassly drawn into the discussion around AFL crowd violence.
On top of that, the treatment of the Perth Glory supporters at Optus Stadium provided further opportunity for critics to allude to ‘problems’ with football crowds, despite the fans doing absolutely nothing wrong.
I had anticipated you being on the front foot and demanding that other codes focus on their own issues and stop dragging the innocent bystander into the debate via an archaic stereotype.
It was a golden chance to allude to an exciting promotional campaign for the upcoming A-League season and reference the Socceroos who did us proud in Russia. It was a week where we needed your voice, firmly and confidently defending and supporting football.
In much the same way, Australian football needs your voice to be bold, informed and sage-like when it comes to some of the big decisions pending in the manila folder on your desk.
Worrying a little less about the presence of an Italian flag on the kit of an NPL team and a little more about that folder would build some faith with Australian football supporters; many who feel the FFA is more concerned with maintaining leverage in a power struggle than advancing the game.
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It is a crossroads for the A-League, our status in Asia and the future of our NPL clubs and I wish you the best of luck as you embark on the next phase of the journey. Hopefully, the think tanks you have already constructed and those that lie ahead will include the people to whom this all means the most.
Football fans know what works, can see structural flaws and limitations and understand the game in a truly international way; something the FFA haven’t appeared to do at different times.
I hope the exciting and revolutionary changes that lie ahead are implemented with a sense of wisdom and adventure; knowing that a step or two backwards initially may lead to far greater gains in the long term.