It’s very easy to create lists of what’s wrong with football in Australia today.
There is a perception that those running football are out of touch, self-interested and empire-builders. This has resulted in a total lack of trust in the FFA by most if not all stakeholders and fans in general. Further, there’s a lack of trust in the management of a number of clubs, including Central Coast, Wellington and Brisbane.
At the core is the desire – nay, belief – by many in creating a full FIFA system and, further, that the move to a full FIFA system is being stalled by the opposition by many in management at both FFA and A-League management levels.
Many of those wanting a full FIFA model argue Australia is not a unique market but rather a normal market. It’s at very least not sufficiently different to apply to it special rules that sit outside the full FIFA model.
My concern is not that we need a full FIFA model, an independent A-League, a second division, promotion and relegation et cetera; my concern is the assumption that it’s easy to do in the Australian market.
While I agree the Australia sporting marketplace is not so different from those elsewhere in the world, it’s naive to think that the money, mainstream media support and traditional affection for existing codes is not a major issue affecting to the growth of professional football in Australia.
In addition to this is the huge travel distances – no other country aside from maybe Canada has similar issues. It’s way too easy to simply not consider the issue of distance and travel.
This does not mean we stop trying to get a full FIFA model. However, the time line and the planning required are underestimated by many.
Moving forward depends on the FFA and the proposed independent A-League and the difficulties they face.
Why do those running the game need to explain? The simple answer is trust. Recent events, including the recent sudden sacking of the Matildas coach, has further illustrated the lack of trust by the football community in the management teams running football in Australia today.
As trust has been eroded, many people have independently determined the best way forward – journalists, A-League clubs, former NSL clubs, fans, Professional Footballers Australia, former Socceroos and so on.
Just as trust has gone, so too in many ways has logic. Many of the ideas floated by various groups have holes in them and do not deserve to see the light of day, yet they are often talked about at length thanks to a clear lack of direction from the top.
The end result is football today is consumed by a very negative media at the professional level and constant negativity on social media.
To restore logic and trust is not an easy task, but certainly what is needed is a leadership team capable of commanding, not demanding, respect.
The leadership team needs to articulate a workable time line for a full FIFA model, but they cannot do it all. All stakeholders, including fans and professional journalists, need to listen to what the end result is. If the end result is what is wanted but the journey to this result is via a different pathway to what you want, is that such a big deal?
At some point we have to get behind the game again, as endless and constant negativity does hurt the income metrics.
Football has a bright future, more so if we can unite the tribes. We need some circuit-breakers to assist the rebuild.
Replacing David Gallop with Craig Foster and appointing Bonita Mersiades to some role in an independent A-League or at the FFA would be a good starting point.