Show Us The Money

March 25, 2014 at 12:16 pm 2 comments

On the 4th of April 2012 the then CEO of the Football Federation of Australia, Ben Buckley announced that a new team would be entering the Hyundai A League, a club from Western Sydney, which at the time had no name. At the announcement he stated, ““I’m delighted that the funding from the Gillard Government will help create a fertile environment for the new Hyundai A-League club in Western Sydney, from day one of its existence the new club will have a core focus on community engagement. The community will have a say in the culture, colours, name and logo of the new entity and we will explore a model that would allow for community ownership. In partnership with Football NSW, FFA will ensure the club is truly integrated in community football, schools programs and the elite player pathway. We intend to build a model that will be driven by the passion of the football people in Sydney’s west.This represents a major investment by FFA in the future of the game and aligns with FFA’s Strategic Plan endorsed by the recent Smith Review.”

It is fair to say that the Western Sydney franchise has been a huge success. To make the Grand Final in its first year of competition was a remarkable achievement. Yet the new club was given dispensation and allowed more foreign players thanks its A-League competitors. The club also employed more staff than any other A-League franchise (If You Were Wondering about Wanderers).

The one issue many had with the Western Sydney franchise apart from the FFA being able to pull in national team sponsors to support the club, was how much the running of this club actually cost the FFA. Not the Footy Show posed this question to Ben Buckley’s replacement David Gallop when he visited Perth last year, but he refused to answer the question, and simply said he wished to sell the club as soon as possible as it was not an “ideal situation” having the game’s governing body owning it. He has now done that.

Many in football felt that the “Football Family” as the FFA like to call players, fans and followers, had a right to know how much money the FFA had spent on setting up and running this club. Yet no one would be open and share that information.

Just over a week ago it was announced that the club had been sold. Ownership of the club was passed to a consortium chaired by Primo Smallgoods businessman Paul Lederer. Mr. Lederer will be joined in running the club by Pirtek founder Peter Duncan, Filipino-Chinese businessman Jefferson Cheng and a fourth investor who FFA Chairman Frank Lowy confirmed would be David Slade. Co-incidentally Slade is a family friend of the FFA chairman and a partner in British fashion outlet Topshop-Topman.

The sale of the club is believed to be in the region of $10million. Yet the FFA will not disclose the exact figure. Which again raises questions, “The Football Family” pay money into the FFA and therefore should they not be allowed to know how much the FFA sold the club for? Of course where this claim falls over is that the State bodies are not even members of the FFA, they are only associate members. So despite the Crawford report advising a structure for the game that would give all sections of the game a voice and avoid the game’s governing body ‘hiding’ information, the game of football finds itself in exactly the same position.

Western Sydney Wanderers it has been reported received $4million funding from the Government of the day. The FFA press release actually states that “the Prime Minister Julia Gillard unveiled an $8 million funding package for football development in Western Sydney.” It goes onto to state, “the $8 million funding package includes $1 million to be allocated to the development of women’s football and the Westfield W-League and $3 million for the redevelopment of the Football NSW headquarters at Valentine Sports Park, Glenwood.” The Prime Minister actually announced the $8 million grant would include $5 million to help develop growth in participation in grassroots football of which $1 million will go to women’s football in the area. Another $3 million is set aside for the redevelopment of Football NSW’s headquarters at Valentine Sports Park in Glenwood. So once again there is some confusion on the allocation of the funding.

Of the $10million from the sale it will be interesting to see where the money goes. It would appear that the club like many of its A-League counterparts was running at a loss, despite huge membership figures, as Frank Lowy was quoted as saying “”I don’t dare to tell you (the expected surplus). We don’t have the final result and I don’t like to talk before then, but we’ll be sharing some of the surplus with the clubs.”

One question that has to be asked is why would the surplus be shared with other A-League clubs? Surely this money should be spent on the game as a whole as all of the A-League clubs are private businesses, that should not require any more hand-outs from the FFA?

Mr Lowy was asked where the money would be allocated and simply responded by saying “The whole of the game will benefit from this.” Another vague answer from the man at the top. The “Football Family” justifiably feel they have a right to know where this money will be spent, and most if asked would say it should not be ploughed back into the A-League, but spent on the levels below to ensure that Australia does produce another “Golden generation.” The NPL is supposed to be the competition “Underpinning the A-League” so why is the FA not putting their money where their mouth is an investing this windfall into this competition?

If the sale of the Western Sydney Wanderers does result in more money for A-League clubs the rest of the “Football Family” have a right to ask questions, the trouble is they have no avenue through which they can pursue answers. Not even the state bodies can raise the issue and have a vote against such a decision, again because of the way the FFA has been set up.

The only hope is having invested at least $4million to set the club up, and now having witnessed its sale, the Government may want to see where the money they invested, from which the FFA have made a profit, is now being spent. They may demand the return of that money if given to private owners of clubs, as that was never what it was intended for. It is hoped though that someone in government will ask pertinent questions and ensure that the money is redirected to grassroots development, they may even insist that is spent in Western Sydney as intended.

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Hacked off With Football Winners Really are Grinners, Or Are They?

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Stephen  |  March 25, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    Yes, the FFA should have to declare what it cost them to run Western Sydney and what they made from the sale. If they are wanting the public’s respect they will open the books and declare everything. They won’t though.

    I hope the Government reads this post and does in fact insist on them re-investing that money into that area. That is why it was given to them, it was not given for them to make a profit from it. In fact why don’t they pay the $4million back to the Government and restore some public goodwill? After the debacle of the World Cup bid it may get a few other codes on side again.

    Reply
  • 2. All White  |  March 29, 2014 at 10:06 am

    Totally agree, if money not being given back to the area for development it should be returned to the Government. Why should Tony Sage and Perth Glory get any money and where will they spend it? It will be wasted and never seen again. The Government should demand it be returned.

    Maybe you can confirm $500,000 to each A-League club. Disgraceful.

    Reply

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