Football in Australia has rarely been united, aside from our support for the national teams.
In fact, most of our history is made of various camps each believing they hold the knowledge and have the ability to grow the professional game in Australia.
In brief, pre 1955, football’s professional clubs were mainly regional association teams. From 1955 in Sydney a new group of clubs emerged who had the backing of influential people. Then in the ’70s along came the NSL, and in the 2000s came the A-League.
One thing that each group that came to power lacked was the ability to unite with the former powers. More often it was almost open warfare between old and new.
The constant fighting has often led to bitterness between the groups.
FFA chairman Chris Nikou has said unity is essential if we want football to reach its potential.
I have heard these words before, and they have been lip service to the outside world so it looked like we were trying. However, mostly it was not true.
When controlled by the Lowy family, the FFA had a disdain for many former NSL clubs. Equally, many former NSL clubs had a disdain for the A-League. Before that many regional associations had a disdain for many clubs in the NSL.
Recently, the FFA released their support for the introduction of a second division. The second division support was made after extensive talks with many stakeholders, including the Association of Australian Football Clubs chaired and championed by Rabieh Krayem, who has since moved on to be the new chair of Macarthur FC.
The biggest point of contention is the structure of any professional league. Most want to move to a FIFA model but with different timelines and structures to achieve this outcome.
Under Chris Nikou, the FFA seem not only willing to hear from other stakeholders but also happy to listen to what they say. The support for the second division is a good example of this.
The Melbourne Knights have offered their thoughts on the proposal, which broadly supported the FFA’s ideas.
Maybe the football family is starting to get on the same page.
However, the Knights disagreed with some aspects, particularly around foreign players, as well as the timeline for promotion and relegation.
FFA director Remo Nogarotto, who I understand was the driver behind the FFA’s white paper, also said it was up for discussion rather than a cast-in-stone blueprint.
It appears different stakeholders are finally acknowledging what the other sides have got right and acting in a spirit of what’s best for the code.