Changing to Stay the Same – Was it worth the pain?

August 29, 2013 at 10:49 am 5 comments

Often in the role of a sports administrator you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t on certain issues. The reason being that sport brings out people’s emotions, because usually attached to those emotions are years of history and tradition. If as an administrator you fail to understand that depth of feeling you are always going to find your task that much harder.

On Tuesday of this week Football West announced the successful teams that would participate in the new National Premier Leagues, competition, and once again the game’s governing body in the West has brought criticism upon itself. However on this occasion one has to feel some sympathy, as to all intents as purposes they tried to go about this process in a way that would avoid or at least limit criticism.

First of all let us realise that this re-vamped competition is being forced on state bodies around Australia by the overarching administrator, The FFA, to satisfy promises made to the Asian Football Confederation when they switched to their confederation from Oceania. The FFA have let their state bodies down badly, by simply telling them to introduce the NPL and allowing the criteria to be different in each state, as long as it is implemented by 2014.

There were many issues that left the NPL process in Western Australia flawed. The biggest was the overall communication of the concept and the bullying tactics used to try and force clubs to become involved in something that had very little substance to it. The application document was flakey, and the decision to talk to clubs individually rather than give clear and specific answers to concerns publicly was a foolish one, as it built up more mistrust than already existed. Sadly on many of the issues it is fair to say that Football West did not them selves know the answers; in which case why put these points in the document?

The Football Community were told that this was going to be a new league that would change Football in this state, it was being heralded as ‘a new dawn’ for the game, yet the expectations placed on clubs was going to come at a cost. Only when the clubs did unite as a group – which Football West chose to ignore – did they realise that maybe they needed to revise their initial approach, as feelings were running high. At this point in time there were many unsavoury tactics used ensure that Football West was able to deliver the NPL as promised to the FFA by 2014.

The FFA had already completed a document to be submitted to the AFC stating that Western Australia were on board prior to the NPL deadline. Had the clubs held out it would have brought a great deal of embarrassment to Football West and the FFA.  In the end fear led the clubs to ultimately submit applications; fear and mistrust amongst themselves.  The back-track saw every current state premier league club retained in the NPL with the exception of Bunbury who were replaced by another metropolitan club in Subiaco.

What happened to the initial goal of taking the game to outer metropolitan areas, which was being promoted when the NPL was first put on the table? What about the wonderful work done in the South West by their football administrators? Why with a new stadium approved and due to be built were they thrown out? The South West has been a hot bed of talent over the years but now they have been unceremoniously cast aside. One can be sure though that Football West will continue to use Perth Glory’s Josh Risdon as a pin up boy for their development programs. Where does he hail from? Bunbury.

Football West had a chance to change the game, but when it came to it they bottled out. Why? For fear of the backlash, and because they did not bring in independent football people with knowledge of the game in Western Australia to assess the applications. Board members were the wrong people to be assessing the applications, it needed independent people respected by the football community to judge each application. Then the board should have been the ones to rubber-stamp those recommendations.

The document on which the applications were submitted left too many questions unanswered, which in turn opened Football West up for challenges had they made the changes they initially heralded. The mere fact that in the last weeks before the application deadline, compulsory criteria required was becoming flexible signalled trouble. Sadly it was an ill-conceived and flawed process from the start.

Finally one has to ask if the NPL is to be the start of a new era for football in Western Australia why was the news of the teams to make up the new league only released via a press release? Why was there not a press conference to announce such a key moment in the games history? Would other codes have made such an announcement so meekly? The truth is Football West did not want to face public questioning, especially with no clear criteria on which clubs acceptance was based, justification of the decisions would have been hard.

Football West ‘stared down’ the Football Union as advised to do so by FFA CEO David Gallop in order to push the NPL through, but the mere fact that the Football Union was created made them realise through that caution was required and that is the reason we have seen so little change to the league’s make up.

Now there is a Players Association formed to stand up to proposed changes they wish to implement which Not the Footy Show has been advised will not stand up under employment law. The players will be stronger than the clubs were, as they are individuals rather than voices with members and fans, so the same tactics used to weaken the Football Union will not work.

It is time to start listening and working together. Football is meant to be about bringing people together, and enjoyment, it is not about dictating how things should be done and penalties imposed if you don’t follow that path. Where there is so much feeling, dictating the way things must be done never works. It is worth remembering that even in the former communist societies football was one of the few place where freedom of expression was allowed. We are fortunate that we do not operate under such a regime, but we should never lose sight of what it is about the game that brings us joy. It is the players who can do things others can’t do, moment’s of magic, not everyone doing the same thing in an automated and controlled way. Who will pay to see that?


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Kallis Comeback – Is he the Greatest? Bunbury’s Omission May Be Costly

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Stephen  |  August 29, 2013 at 11:42 am

    The whole NPL process as you say was a disaster, the CEO, thought this was going to be his crowning glory, but now he will have to focus on the Home of Football before he heads back over East.

    The problem with the assessments were that all three people on the initial panel are johnny-come lately’s to football, and all three seem to be there for their own vanity rather than the game.

    To leave all of Bunbury, Rockingham and Mandurah out is a disgrace. Have the feeling there will be massive fall out from this and Mr Hugg may have started his biggest fire yet, especially if funding is pulled for the country areas

    Please Mr Hugg go back where you came from, rest assured no one in the west will forget your time over here.

  • 2. Eddy  |  August 29, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    I’ll be calling at least four local MP’s to ask them to have a look at Footballwest funding

  • 3. All White  |  August 30, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    This has been handled so poorly, but are you surprised? football is run by amateurs who want to play at being important. Peter Hugg was a massive mistake by the board, his CV may look impressive on paper but did they do the due diligence and check his past?

    The board – with the exception of Rob McKay – and Hugg should all step aside. They have let the game down as a whole and if Football West is mentioned in Parliament because of Bunbury’s omission the clubs amateur, semi-pro, women’s and juniors should demand a public meeting and an explanation and their resignation.

    They must stop hiding behind the Standing committees who are nothing more than lapdogs, who for a few freebies will tow the line. The clubs are also to blame they should not have nominated reps for the Standing committee and asked for the body they formed to be recognised, as I hear it had truly independent representation.

    The board is failing the game and the NPL has shown that. I bet the Chairman was unaware of what his CEO and board members were up to during the bidding process. Why were other board members kept in the dark? How many of them were told that half the board were meeting the Football Union? With a divided board and limited information being provided are they really doing what is best for the game? Why is a board member attending a Standing committee meeting? That is not the role of a board member! Why did Bayswater welcome the Chair of the standing committee to their club, after he had been chased out of two other clubs? Could it be because he can win favour with the two men controlling football west? Note Caceres move after the transfer deadline!

    Time for the board to go, standing committees to be scrapped and Mr Hugg to stop embarrasing a game he knows little about and go back from where he came. Time for the players and clubs to rise up and take back control.

  • 4. Super sub  |  September 1, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    I have tended to sit back and watch the developments of the whole NPL scenario here in WA and to be honest the clubs, Football West and the Board and standing committee should all be ashamed. Here are my observations.

    1. Football West is being run as a dictatorship where they tell everyone what to do and if you disagree you pay the consequences. This situation is driven by the CEO and key board members.
    2. The clubs are weak and most of them deserve to fall over. They had the chance to unite. They had you and Gerhard prepared to stand up for them and take the flak, yet when the threats came from Football West instead of standing firm as one, they caved in as Football West knew they would. Floreat hang your head in shame, you started the rot. Was the Cup final just reward for your breaking ranks?
    3. The communication on this and so much more has been appalling.
    3. The whole decision process was flawed from day one, clubs signed a document that they didn’t believe in. Football West continually moved the goal posts to suit their ends. The selection panel was inappropriate but once again the clubs accepted it.
    4. The standing Committee elections should never have happened. The clubs claim they do not believe in this system and created the Football Union but then nominated people for the standing committee. How stupid is that? Or did they, why has it not been revealed who nominated which candidates? These people are totally useless, puppets for Football West and too dumb to realise that their united incompetence has taken the game backwards.
    5. The players association is the last roll of the dice to get football back on track, but once again threats are being used to people from
    Football West HQ.

    If the players association can stay strong the clubs would be wise to re-convene the Football Union if you and Gerhard will come back after the way you were let down, and you force changes to the consitution and remove the standing committees.

    This is the time for change and let the NPL and the treatment of Bunbury be the catalyst for change.

  • 5. Not The Footy Show  |  September 3, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Super sub, thank you once again for your comments which I think many in football share.
    What was disappointing was how the clubs allowed people from outside to destroy their unity so easily, and the underhanded methods used, but they say Politics is a dirty business.
    Personally, I agree that the whole process has been flawed from day one and there has been a lack of consultation with players, coaches, and clubs. Everyone is in favour of taking the game forward but this needs to be done in a way that benefits all, not just the chosen few.
    The standing Committee scenario is a strange one, the clubs don’t believe in it yet as you say nominate people. Then co-opt people, some who were not even nominated, the same people who worked so hard to break the Football Union, go fathom that one out.
    It is very nice what you say about the Football Union, but I doubt the clubs will come and ask for us to re-convene and I would have to think hard about that if it did eventuate; I cannot speak for Gerhard.We always prefaced every meeting with the words that we were only there as long as the clubs needed us. That moment appears to have come and passed.


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