Not Alright Jack.

December 11, 2014 at 12:17 am Leave a comment

It was interesting to read former Socceroo World Cup goalkeeper and FFA Board Member Jack Reilly’s suggestion that the FFA should close down the State bodies around the country. His comments raised a number of pertinent issues.

First of all, if we are to be cynical one could say that such a comment has been made to break the ice for the inevitable. The FFA are well aware that the AFC want all National competitions to be run separately from the game’s governing body in that country; the deadline was moved last year with no new date confirmed, although 2017 is believed to be the target.

With the A-League club owners meeting with the City Football Group in Abu Dhabi a few weeks ago, and discussions on the clubs breaking away from the FFA and running their own affairs on the table, the FFA need to start planning for the future. A future without the television rights, or sponsorship dollars that the Hyundai A-League bring in.

Hence the importance of the NPL and clubs handing over so much control when they signed up for the competition. With the Socceroos on the wane in terms of their World Rankings and their performances on the pitch, sponsors have started to leave the brand, such as Optus and Qantas. New revenue streams must be found to fund not only the national team, but also the administration of the game. If these funds cannot be found cuts to administration will be inevitable.

If we look at Reilly’s comments on face value, the question has to be asked have the State bodies served their purpose? Many who criticize forget that these bodies are not just running one facet of the game, they are overseeing, semi-professional, amateur, social, women’s, youth, athletes with a disability, culturally and linguistically diverse programs, referees, Futsal, a W-League side in some cases, as well as coaching courses. It is no easy task to keep so many balls in the air – if you will excuse the term – and keep everyone happy.

Where some of these state bodies have failed though is in their structure. They are top heavy with management positions and salaries that they simply cannot justify. A more well thought out business model would serve the game far better. In Western Australia this very issue was raised close on six years ago by two people at board level, yet nothing has changed.

State bodies need fewer overseers and more doers, people passionate about the game who will put in the extra hours because they care about their jobs, love their work and the game. One question that has been raised but never answered, is why do the state bodies have all their staff working Monday to Friday when their key days of operation are Saturdays and Sundays? Surely that in itself is poor management of resources and staff?

However the blame cannot lie with the State bodies alone. The Standing Committees have a great deal to answer for; although had the State bodies ensured that these were run properly that may have helped, but that of course was not in their interest.

How can a State standing committee have a Chair who has not been elected to a position? How can that Chair take free lunches and invites to key games as part of his role? Should he or she not have to declare such freebies as anyone in the corporate world would have to do? How come there are no minutes of the meetings available to all of the clubs in the Standing Committee representative’s area? How come those elected in the various regions are not sending a report to every club they represent after each Standing Committee meeting? How come an application for a candidate for the standing committee was received by mail within the time allowed in the constitution yet the CEO was able to dismiss that club’s nomination, as they had not submitted it by the electronic deadline?

These issues are relevant, as the Standing committees were created to be a voice of the clubs, parents and players. They were meant to steer the game’s administrators in the direction those they represent wanted. The administrators were expected to listen to their views and where possible instigate such moves for the betterment of the game. With representatives of not only the State body but also board members – who in truth have no place here – sitting in on standing committee meetings, many representatives have felt “gagged” from speaking up and fear retribution for holding a polar opinion to that being pushed by the Chair and the State body. That is not a healthy environment and not what was intended when the Standing Committees were suggested in the Crawford report.

The overriding problem now is the State administrators are taking the clubs and players down a pathway many do not want to go. The standing Committees have no power and no voice; most have no idea of the constitutions under which the game is supposed to operate, so have been unable to stop decisions being steamrolled through. With no correct processes, many with self interest or club interests have assumed positions of power and once again the game has no unity.

Had the FFA had the best interests of the game at heart they would have created a “watchdog” to police the structures and the people appointed, then the system would have worked. The aviation industry like many others has such a body, to ensure all business is carried out as per the regulations. With Football administrators having to oversee so many facets of the game, and the history of corruption in the past, surely such a measure would have been obvious? Now the FFA want total control, after a system they instigated, yet failed to police and surprisingly ended up not the success everyone expected. People should think very carefully before allowing that to happen.

The future starts with those playing the game, who need to ensure they elect a Standing committee that represents them, and whether they will accept representatives being co-opted onto the committee. The last election no one would reveal who voted on the candidates, the fact is not all State League clubs were asked to vote for their representatives in Western Australia, and the Electoral Commission show that hardly any votes were cast.

David Crawford invested a great deal of time in his report to give everyone involved in the game a voice. Many have chosen not to use that voice, some have abused the privilege of being a spokesperson for the masses, and the administrators have chosen to follow the FFA’s path rather than those they are paid to administer. To hand power totally back to the FFA will be a retrograde step. All that is required is for people to take a more active interest in the running of the game and ensuring that correct procedures are followed at all times, and that there is complete transparency in the way the game is run.

Ultimately the game gets the administration it deserves.

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