The announcement from FIFA that the Australia-New Zealand bid had won selection for the 2023 women’s World Cup has sent the football community over the moon.
I am by nature an optimist. Another natural inclination of mine is look for the good when everyone says bad and look for bad when everyone says good.
Often, I am accused of overestimating the skills of management and also often assured of underestimating what people say.
Without getting into the whys and wherefores, I don’t see the mature and huge football market in Australia with everything lolly pops, lemon drops and sugar-coated candy drops, if we only do this and that.
With my optimistic nature and sense of looking for the good and smart moves by management, I wish to explain how a recent FFA announcement has the potential to be the circuit breaker the game needs to learn how to become positive and supportive again.
Since the failed World Cup bid, coverage of football progressively worsened. Into the mix then came two critical turning point moments, that if handled better or smarter would have lessened the growing negativity in our media.
First was the media attack on Wanderers fans by Rebecca Wilson and Alan Jones, and the second was the replacement of Frank Lowy.
There was a lack of support for football culture by David Gallop and the board at the time as they tried to please media outlets looking for click bait and trigger-point headlines. Steven Lowy’s time was beyond bad.
The media by now had gone from negative to toxic, and no business or activity can grow or even survive in an environment of constant toxic negativity.
Lowy went out, replaced by new governance procedures and largely a new board. Aside from the sacking of Alen Stajcic, the board – even if slow – seem to be heading in the right direction.
Habits are hard to break and while the toxic feel has left the football media, it’s still largely negative.
Who can command respect rather than demand respect?
In the broader sense, the Australian football family is made up of A-League fans, NSL fans who have never left their lifelong clubs, regional association rep folk who never followed the NSL or A-League, Euro snobs, and players who play for fun but don’t connect to the professional game.
James Johnson’s appointment of an expert panel to guide the FFA – a starting XI panel to act in an advisory capacity on technical and development matters – could just be the circuit breaker needed to return to positive media.
Mark Viduka is by far the most important person on the panel. It’s difficult to think of any person who has the respect of the old NSL teams and fans, Euro snobs, A-League fans and media.
If the panel becomes a glorified talk-fest panel, then not much will happen. However, if the panel and the FFA can make some key decisions – and let’s assume they can – beyond this, then we will return to positive and supportive media.
The old business adage is that positive and supportive media equals growth, neutral media equals stagnation and small declines, while toxic media equals decline and often destruction.
So hopefully it’s not the optimist in me, but maybe things are actually starting to change for the better.