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All the politics don't mean a thing until the FFA fix football's problems

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Expert
22nd November, 2018
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Here’s some free advice for new FFA chairman Chris Nikou. Most fans don’t care about the machinations that you got you into the job, they simply want you to fix football’s problems.

If Football Federation Australia’s biggest issue was that its former leader Steven Lowy was viewed as an out-of-touch corporate suit answerable only to himself, then the appointment of Nikou is unlikely to kick-start the radical revolution many were undoubtedly hoping for.

And if the previously publicity-shy Nikou is worried about being portrayed by the media as yet another shadowy boardroom politician, then he’d better get on the front foot and start doing the rounds.

An FFA board member since October 2014 – meaning he served under the Lowy regime – Nikou told The Age’s Michael Lynch that the suggestion he had a foot in both camps was “an insult”.

But here’s the problem, Chris.

For too long football has been held hostage by faceless men – and they’re almost always men – who have obstructed the game’s progress by making rent-seeking decisions designed to keep them in power at the expense of the game.

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And the idea that no one should hold these faceless men to account was precisely the sort of undemocratic principle that got Steven Lowy into such trouble in the first place.

If Nikou wants to draw a line in the stand, he should start with a root and branch clean-out of the state federations who continue to obstruct the game’s progress at every turn.

But despite this week’s transition into a post-Lowy era, there’s a lingering perception that Nikou’s election as the new FFA chairman will simply yield more of the same results.

Perhaps that’s why former FFA employee Bonita Mersiades was allegedly labelled “an agitator” by one state federation president when she stood for the role of Independent Chair of the Women’s Council.

Mersiades herself predicted that her nomination would not be supported, and just like former Socceroo and current SBS analyst Craig Foster, she was denied the chance to serve the game by a bunch of anonymous electioneers.

For the sake of full disclosure, I should point out that I know Mersiades personally and occasionally contribute editorials to her Football Today website.

But I gain nothing – either personally or professionally – from highlighting the fact that football fans in Australia have every right to demand greater transparency from those in control of the game.

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I can guarantee, however, that plenty of people in positions of authority don’t like it when you start posing even the simplest of questions.

I certainly hope Chris Nikou isn’t one of those people.

And you could say the same of the rest of the board – with Kelly Bayer Rosmarin and Crispin Murray now joined by Heather Reid, Joseph Carrozzi and a familiar face in Remo Nogarotto.

Fox Sports commentator Simon Hill wrote earlier in the week that he’d never even laid eyes on either Rosmarin or Murray before, so what chance does the average punter have of knowing a single thing about these key decision makers?

At least in Reid and Nogarotto, the board now has a couple of representatives who have some skin in the game.

That’s perhaps more than can be said of Carrozzi, who conspicuously resigned from the board of directors at AFL club Greater Western Sydney shortly before the results of the FFA election were made public.

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Carrozzi attended Tuesday night’s Socceroos game against Lebanon with Deputy Leader of The Nationals, Senator Bridget McKenzie.

That’s all well and good if what the game needs is more suits with scarves enjoying a night out on behalf of football.

But actions speak louder than words, and while it’s a promising start that Carrozzi has engaged with fans on Twitter, most of us have had our fill of executives dining out while the game flounders.

Football belongs to all of us – not just an elected few.

That’s the first lesson the new FFA board should take heed of as they look to repair the fractures of a wasted couple of years.