Posts filed under ‘Football’

The Blame Game

Perth Glory find themselves once more in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. The club having received its second show cause notice from the Football Federation of Australia.

This is no surprise to many. The first show cause notice being issued in December and we covered this in our piece FFA Backed Into A Corner. 

At that time Perth Glory CEO Jason Brewer and coach Kenny Lowe were locked in a room working out the best way to respond, a move that implied the coach was aware that the club’s administration had breached the $2.55million salary cap. At the time he managed to stay focussed on the job and results continued to go the club’s way. A dip in form until Josh Risdon’s winner against Western Sydney Wanderers maybe showed that the off field issues were beginning to take their toll.

Maybe the realisation has dawned on some of the players that if they have indeed been receiving money “under the table” has huge tax implications. Implications that could lead to a spell in prison if the Australian Tax Office feel that they have been deliberately defrauded.

Perth Glory have been asked to respond to allegations on the following issues: Payments outside of the Standard Player Contract, Payments to a player’s family member, Payments of player agents’ fees, Payment of a third party sponsorship, Pre-payment to a player, Payment of travel costs, Accommodation allowances, and Provision of motor vehicles.

Interesting there are at present no mentions of players being paid into overseas bank accounts, which a club insider has alleged has happened. With the Australian Tax Office giving people a moratorium recently to declare earnings overseas that are paid into a foreign bank account one would hope that the players made the relevant declarations. With new communication between a number of countries if this has indeed happened, then these earnings will soon be found.

Looking at the FFA’s questions who is to blame? The players for accepting the payments? The player agents for encouraging the club to make such payments? The CEO? The Owner of the club? Or maybe the FFA for continuing with the salary Cap?

Word is that the CEO Jason Brewer will be the man to fall on his sword and that is to be expected if the club is found guilty of the breaches. It has been reported that owner Tony Sage has distanced himself from this latest scandal. Yet his CEO Jason Brewer said on Not The Footy Show, when we were on air, that he had daily conversations with Tony Sage. That being the case surely he would have advised the owner as to the arrangements that had been negotiated between players and the club?

Of course the FFA’s investigations are not purely into this season. Which brings into question Mr Sage’s choice of CEO’s and the fact that when the club had a purge on staff following the infamous Hatt Report they removed the one man who understood the FFA salary Cap rules. Maybe that was where everything went wrong?

There are many who believe that the Salary Cap is in fact to blame. The reasons for its implementation made perfect sense. The idea being to have all clubs operating on the same level and not extending themselves beyond their means. The trouble is the club have to spend the money. The end result is very average players are being paid more money than their talent warrants. The knock-on affect of that is it pushes up the expectations of other less talented players.

Another example and in Perth Glory’s case advocated by the FFA is that of the Marquee player. The FFA broke its own competition rules to allow the Perth Glory to upgrade captain Michael Thwaite to a Marquee player status; section 7.23 “A Club cannot 1. (a) change the status of a Player on the Player Roster;”  Section 7.18 reads “A Club must apply to FFA for approval of a prospective Marquee Player, Homegrown Player, Guest Player, Replacement Player or Contracted NYL Player using the relevant Prescribed Form before it concludes any contractual negotiations with such prospective Marquee Player,”

Nothing against Michael Thwaite personally but a Marquee player is meant to be a player that helps bring in extra fans through the gate, or is a stand out player clearly a cut above the rest on the park. Very few defenders will pull in extra punters, a few would but the are few and far between, Paolo Maldini is one that immediately comes to mind who would have, John Terry and Gerard Pique are two more. The question is should Michael Thwaite have been approved as a Marquee player? Is he a big enough player even in Australia? He is undoubtedly consistent at this level, but he is not one of the first defenders on the team sheet when Ange Postecoglou is making out his team list for the Socceroos. By allowing Perth Glory to make him a Marquee player have the FFA not exacerbated the situation and pushed up expectations of players and agents and forced clubs to pay more to secure a player?

It may seem unfair to single out Michael Thwaite who has served the club well this season and been consistent week in week out. Another example would be Matt McKay at Brisbane Roar. McKay burst onto the scene with Brisbane Strikers in the NSl and was a key component with the Brisbane Roar when they won back-to-back titles. He then left for Glasgow Rangers at the worst time possible as the Scottish giant was going through its financial troubles and was relegated from the Scottish Premier League. He moved to South Korea and then to China where he struggled for form. His two year contract was terminated after six months by mutual consent. He then came back to Brisbane as a Marquee signing aged 30. Did his career warrant him being a Marquee signing? Does Matt Mckay bring extra fans through the turnstiles? Or was this just reward for a local boy who had served the city so well? There are more players who fall into this category.

So are the FFA partly to blame for approving these Marquee status players, for forcing clubs to use the majority of the salary Cap and pay players more than their career experience and performances may warrant?

Whatever the answer, if Perth Glory are found guilty and indications are that they will be, a new debate will unfold once the punishment is handed down as to who will take the blame on their shoulders. As the supporter of a club who broke the rules in the UK and were punished severely, players will leave, as will administrators, but as is always the case, the fans will remain. They will pick themselves up, dust themselves off and start supporting again, believing quite rightly that they deserve better.

 

April 2, 2015 at 10:14 am 7 comments

Monumental Decision

As someone who has gone through testicular cancer the Dylan Tombides Foundation is a great initiative to remind young healthy men that cancer is undiscerning and that your life can be snatched away from you ate any time.

Dylan unfortunately  lost his battle with testicular cancer in 2014 aged just 20. West Ham United the club which he was signed with in England’s Premier league paid him the biggest honour by retiring his shirt number, 38, an honour that previously had only been bestowed on former captain of the club and England when they won the World Cup, Bobby Moore.

Tombides joined West Ham aged 15 and was tipped for great things having represented Australia at U17 and U23 level, but sadly he never lived to fulfil his full potential.

There is talk that a statue may be erected in his memory outside NIB Stadium. Just over a week ago Liberal MP Ian Britza presented a letter, written by Socceroos’ Captain Mile Jedinak on behalf of the DT38 Foundation, to Premier Colin Barnett asking the Western Australian State Government to fund the estimated $100,000 cost of the monument.

This does raise a number of questions, if the state government agrees to fund such a monument, will they not be opening the floodgates for monuments to other young athletes whose lives end abruptly and prematurely? Western Australia has produced many remarkable individuals who have contributed greatly to society, yet few have such a memorial funded by the state.

The sum quoted is a great deal of money and one cannot help feeling that such a sum of money could be used far more effectively in order to alert young men from the ages of 16-35 to be aware of the signs of testicular cancer, because if caught early it is a very curable disease.

If a statue is to be erected, is NIB stadium the best place for it? Sure Dylan was a talented footballer so there is a link to NIB Stadium, home of Perth Glory, but Dylan never played for the A-league side, so will a statue have the resonance and desired effect at the this ground rather than say Stirling Lions where he played his junior football?

As this is a young man’s disease one cannot help thinking that the statue should be in a location where many young men would pass it on a daily basis, so that every day as they walk past the loss of one so young resonates. If it makes one man a week go for a check up, and saves more than one life a year it would be worth it. Tucked away at a stadium used roughly one day a fortnight, one wonders if it would have the same important impact.

According to the DT38 Foundation website the mission of the Foundation is “To provide testicular cancer support and awareness through education and opportunities.” The vision is to ‘Change the way testicular cancer is diagnosed.’ If that is truly the case one has to ask how much a statue – as lovely a gesture as it is – will help the Foundation achieve those goals.

As the website quite rightly states delay is deadly. Education is the key. So if we are to truly honour Dylan such decisions need to be thought through very carefully and some of the emotion needs to be taken out. What truly is the best way of making sure his life did not end in vain, what is the best way of ensuring that his legacy is that in passing he saves the lives of other young men?

April 1, 2015 at 8:39 am 1 comment

Finding Her Identity

Last week’s result by the Socceroos securing a draw with World Champions Germany n Kaiserslautern was another feather in the cap of national team coach Ange Postecoglou. It was also a wonderful result on the back of the team’s Asian Cup victory.

Despite these successes there is something that Ange Postecoglou has managed to achieve that no other Socceroos coach has achieved, and for that the game should be eternally grateful.

Rale Rasic back in the Seventies awoke the nation with is team of part-timers making it to the World Cup in 1974 being one of just 16 teams that participated in the finals. It was almost a surreal experience according to those who remember it.

Guus Hiddink broke the jinx, and in truth had some luck in seeing the team qualify for Germany in 2006; in a penalty shoot-out the result can go anyway, unless you are playing Germany! Yet when the tournament started he showed his tactical acumen and managed to steer the team past the group stage, and almost past eventual Champions Italy.

Pim Verbeek achieved the remarkable steering the team to the 2010 finals conceding just a single goal against Japan in the final round of qualifying, with a team that was clearly on the wane. His mission was accomplished. He has suffered major criticism for the 4-0 defeat against Germany, yet the same team went on to beat England 4-1 and Argentina 4-0 before bowing out to Spain in the semi finals.

No one except the FFA and Holger Osieck will ever know what the total brief was at the time of his appointment. One key factor was another qualification for the World Cup which he achieved. He was criticised for not blooding enough young players, yet he achieved the task that he was set.

What all of these failed to do, that Postecoglou has managed to do in his short time as coach, was play a style of football that taps into the Australian psyche.

In the past week this writer has spoken to three people who confessed they never watched the Socceroos before ‘because they were boring.’ They still admitted they did not watch most of the game but they would tune in because the current team is ‘exciting to watch.’

There is no doubt that the Golden generation featuring the likes of Schwarzer, Viduka, Kewell, Bresciano, Grella, Neill and co, were technically more gifted than many of the current crop of players. There were also more of them playing football at a higher level than most of the current crop. Yet the team never managed to achieve what Postecoglou’s players have achieved.

Postecoglou is without doubt one of the best home grown coaches Australia has produced. Like many of the great coaches an injury curtailing his career – just as happened to Brian Clough – saw him enter management at a very young age. Success in the NSL was a regular achievement. When the A-league started he was coach of the national Youth team, which proved with hindsight to be a great learning experience. Back in club football in the new A-League with Brisbane Roar he again created a team that played attractive football and won championships. When he became national coach many wondered how he would fair and early results were not promising. Yet during those games a pattern was evolving.

A pattern that has seen Australia for the first time have a football team with an identity. By that we mean an identity in terms of the style of football that the national team plays.

Australian football under Frank Arok was again blessed with extremely talented players, many who were still forced to be semi-professional. The team was always combative, the team never ever gave up, but the style frequently changed depending on the opposition or the importance of the match.

It was the late Spurs and Northern Ireland captain Danny Blanchflower who once said “Our tactics have always been to equalize before the other team score.” It may sound crazy but one feels the sentiment is there in this Australian team.

Postecoglou has tapped into the Australian sporting Psyche, that Australians in every sport like to be the aggressor. Look at the Cricket team, the Wallabies, the Kookaburras, all are teams that are immediately on the front foot against their opposition. All of them like to take it up to the opposition and make them know that they are not in awe of them. Previous Socceroos coaches have focussed on trying to limit the scoring opportunities of the opposition and therefore tended to play very defensive football. It appears Postecoglou realises that currently Australia’s defensive stocks are not world class, and therefore the team is bound to concede against quality opposition. However rather than sit back and try and limit the damage, his teams go on the attack. The theory being that Australia will score more than their opponents. It is a style that has resonated with many Australians who have never followed the game, and he may well have finally given the nation a style that becomes synonymous with the Socceroos.

Japan knew they could never compete physically with the bigger European players, so they developed a fast paced game based on speed touch and fitness in order to be competitive and it has paid dividends to their national team and is now a style that is expected from their teams. They focussed on their strengths and improved their weaknesses.

Postecoglou has done exactly the same. He has tapped into Australia’s desire to be the team on the attack and a new style of football has evolved. A style that seems to have captured the public’s imagination. Hopefully is a style that can be maintained, and will just like Japan become synonymous with the Socceroos.

To quote the inspirational Danny Blanchflower again ” The great fallacy is that the game is first and last about winning. It is nothing of the kind. The game is about glory, it is about doing things in style and with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom.” It would appear that Postecoglou shares those sentiments.

Blanchflower was a part of a Tottenham team that won the double and also steered Northern Ireland to the quarter finals of the 1958 World Cup in the same year he lost his brother Jackie in the Munich Air disaster. Spurs with him in the side played an attractive brand of football, a brand of football where they believed if the opposition scored one, they would score two.

It would appear the Socceroos under Postecoglou have the same sense of belief. It certainly appears that they have found a style that resonates with the people of Australia. Let us hope they continue to win fans over playing football in this manner and like Spurs and Northern Ireland with Blanchflower in their side are rewarded with success. Most of all let this be the style of football for which Australia is known.

March 30, 2015 at 10:35 am Leave a comment

FFA Right to Say “No” To Asia

Football fans in Australia will no doubt have breathed a sigh of relief this morning when reading on the World Game website that the FFA have rejected a move from the A-League club owners to expand into Asia. This is the right move by the game’s governing body despite the fact that they still have plenty of work to do to get their house in order in Australia.

The news that the move was supported by Brisbane Roar, Newcastle Jets, Adelaide United, Perth Glory, Western Sydney Wanderers, Central Coast Mariners and the City Football Group, which controls Melbourne City, was no great surprise. Seven out of the ten A-League franchises is more than anything proof that the Franchise model adopted by the FFA when they created the A-League is flawed.

In fact this should be the point where the FFA seriously considers finding a way to move away from such a model.

The news that seven club owners are advocating such a move is proof that this is purely about business and nothing to do with football or player development.

Central Coast Mariners owner Mike Charlesworth is quoted as saying “Expansion north can tap into tens of millions of football fans, significant commercial opportunity and subsequently a raft of top EPL marquee players who have already expressed an interest in helping grow football across the region.If we truly want football to become the biggest sport in Australia we need to be more ambitious and this platform would not only help us achieve that but put domestic Aussie football on the global stage.”

It is hard to agree with his sentiments. Very few A-League clubs are likely to garner support from regions in Asia. They are many many miles from having the regional pull, let alone global pull of clubs like Manchester United and Liverpool. Most A-League clubs have struggled to create supporter bases in cities outside of their home one within Australia, so why should we believe that they can achieve this in Asia where fans focus is first the Premier League and then their local clubs? This is another key factor, most football fans – Manchester United probably being the exception – support their local team, and follow them above and beyond all others. Football has and always will be about local identity. If you fail to tap into your local market you will never succeed.

Ironically Mr Charlesworth owns a club where they have tapped into the local market and created a local identity better than most in the A-League, however he and his staff are still unable to make this work. Whose fault is that? Have they set unrealistic goals and budgets? If there was more local involvement, or dare we say local ownership would this help swell the gate on a match day? Would this make people more determined to see the club succeed and climb out of their armchairs and go to the ground?

What also seems contradictory in Mr Charlesworth’s comments is the fact that the clubs want to tap into the “significant commercial opportunity” in Asia, yet want to bring washed up EPL stars out to play in the A-League. Case in point even though he was not an EPL player, Alessandro del Piero was finished as a top class player when he came to Australia. He could not run, could still pass exquisitely and strike a deadfall with precision, and dare we say fall over an outstretched leg convincingly. Officially he cost Sydney FC $1million a season; a club source has said it was closer to $3million. He was good for PR and media, but was he good for the A-League? He went to India -not renowned for its football – to play in the new Indian Super League and in four games they realised he was finished and he did not play another game. Yet in Australia we still have people lauding him playing here and his performances. If we are to move the game forward there has to be more honesty. Fans do not like being conned.

Ex EPL players in decline are not what the A-League needs. If these owners want to tap into the Asian market why are we not seeing more Asian talent coming to play in the A-League? The reason is simple. The club owners, and to be honest most Australian football fans know very little about Asian football and the leagues, even though we are a part of the Asian Football Confederation.

Mr Charlesworth is right to talk about ambition, but he is naive if he thinks a few ex EPL players at the end of their careers are going to help raise the profile of the A-League overseas. With so much football on television around the world, fans know whether a player still has it, or if his career is on the wane. They cannot be fooled. Hence the massive crowd drop offs when the likes of Robbie Fowler, Harry Kewell and del Piero played their first and second games. As the NSL proved these players are a very short term solution, and one would have to say ultimately cost the game money that could be invested more wisely.

A prime example of a less known player showing what he can do in the A-League and also showing where the A-League stands in terms of standard is Perth Glory’s Andy Keogh. He has been outstanding in his first season. Yes, he played in the Premier League but was a fringe player, yet he still has International pedigree, and in truth he would have been fairly unknown before coming to Australia. Yet he has come while he still has a good few years playing at the highest level in him, and he has been outstanding. The test for him will be to maintain the standard he has set in season two in Australia. Often that drop in standard starts to show in a player’s second season. Thomas Broich and Besart Berisha are two other examples of players who have played in top leagues, although struggled for regular first team football, but who have been stars in this league.

Asia is definitely not the way to go at this point in time in the A-League’s development. We need to have the clubs on more solid ground financially before such a move. Also rivalries are beginning to evolve in the A-League; and we are not talking about the contrived ones such as the lame “desert derby.” Rivalries take time and often arise out of what appears an insignificant incident, ten years in the A-League is beginning to see this becoming a reality. To go to Asia would dilute these.

If this went ahead when the Asian sides came to play in Australia one has to question whether these same owners, who moan about home crowd attendances, will not in fact witness more games with low gates; ultimately costing them more money. The average fan in Australia knows little about these teams and so the game will have little meaning or relevance. Meaning without extensive marketing – another cost clubs do not want to pay – that these would be the games that a family and on a budget will opt to miss. Crowds at many of the Asian Champions League games are proof that fans are not that engaged with Asian teams, purely due to a lack of knowledge on the Asian leagues and teams.

Let us get our house in order here in Australia before looking to head overseas. Let us see the clubs on strong foundations, marketing of the clubs and the league lifted to another level before trying to match it with our Asian counterparts. Let us show our keenness to integrate with Asia by importing more Asian players, showing more Asian football on television and having more Asian coverage in our papers and online. We need to show Asia more respect, rather than simply see them as a way to make money.

Ultimately though we need to see clubs move away from the current ownership model. There has to be more community involvement, without this, as has been seen around the country, some fans and sponsors will not walk through the turnstiles as long as they feel people with no genuine passion or understanding of the game own ‘their club.’

March 28, 2015 at 3:09 pm 1 comment

Premier League Clubs Looking Local For Success.

Despite football clubs always on the look out for big name signings to not only perform on the pitch but also help sell merchandise off of it, a recent report has shown that home grown talent is in fact proving a very successful and beneficial way to go for many clubs; a fact many fans have been promoting for years.

Manchester United were the first club to show what home-grown talent could achieve, when the likes of Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, David Beckham, Nicky Butt and Gary and Philip Neville broke through and lifted the Champions League title.

How times have changed since then, when Manchester United played Tottenham Hotspurs a fortnight ago they had spent GBP149million over the Summer on their squad. Tottenham on the other hand had five players who had come through the juniors sides at White Hart Lane.

As one of those young players said in the national press in England, it is harder for youngsters to break through than in other European nations, where they actively promote local talent.

“There are a lot of talented players who are not given the chance and then they get lost in the system and maybe things don’t work out for them in football.” Ryan Mason was quoted as saying. “The more clubs who give players these chances the better.”

Mason praised coach Mauricio Pochettino for giving youngsters a chance at Southampton, and carrying on that ethos at Tottenham. Mason said that he believed that England had the depth of playing talent, but that many managers opt for foreigners to fill key positions rather than entrust that responsibility to a local player.

Interestingly Paul Scholes, a player who knows the importance of being given a chance when young has backed Mason to break into Roy Hodgson’s England squad sooner rather than later. Mason may not have made the recent squad but his Spurs team mate Harry Kane aged 21 did.

This season Tottenham has given five local players who came through their youth system and who are aged 24 and under regular starts. Arsenal have given 8 players who came through their youth system games, the oldest player being 25 year old Kieran Gibbs, while Ainsley Maitland-Niles is the youngest at 17. QPR has given three local players games, West Ham, Crystal Palace and Chelsea two each.

With a shift to local talent being given a chance one has to question the benefit of young Australian players heading to Premier League clubs and their chances of breaking through. As Massimo Luongo has shown, having come through the Tottenham youth ranks, a move to a lower division side and playing regularly for that side may be the better option in the long term. Luongo showed in the Asian Cup that he can step up and perform at international level and with consistent performances at club level has a number of clubs in higher divisions monitoring his progress. As the old saying goes all that glitters is not gold.

It will be interesting to watch in the coming seasons whether the trend being followed by Arsenal and Tottenham is taken up by other clubs. Is buying big still a guarantee for success?

March 26, 2015 at 9:18 am Leave a comment

Record Losses

Now we all know that there are plenty of nation’s fans who love to see England lose, but would you pay almost half a million pounds for that pleasure?

One art lover and we presume sports fan did just that a week ago picking up Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan’s black granite sculpture which is engraved with every English footballing loss from 1874 to 1999 when it was crafted. Some anonymous buyer paid GBP425,000 at Sotheby’s for this permanent reminder of England’s defeats.

The list ends with England’s 2-1 loss to Romania in the 1998 World Cup but pictures show that there is plenty of room to add the more recent defeats.

Is this turning losing into an art form?

(NTFS would like to apologise for the lack of posts recently we were supposed to be updating the website, but there have been problems transferring the posts. We will keep working on this. Thank you for your understanding).

March 26, 2015 at 8:02 am Leave a comment

Premier League Clubs to Bankroll the World Cup?

Recent reports out of Russia, the hosts of Football’s World Cup, claim that the game is on the breadline, and President Vladimir Putin has had to ask for help from two billionaires with Premier League connections.

Roman Abramovich owner of Chelsea and Alexander Usmanov owner of Arsenal are two of the oligarchs being asked to help bankroll the tournament as the impending recession has the government very concerned.

Sports minister Vitaly Mutko has already revealed ten per cent cut in the original World Cup budget of USD$22billion. FIFA President Sepp Blatter has also hinted that the number of venues used may well be reduced, a suggestion that Mutko has denied. He has said that designs will be simplified but will still meet FIFA requirements.

He did not deny that The Kremlin is trying to attract private donors but would not reveal who these were. Other sources are convinced that Abramovich and Usmanov are top of the list as these two were asked to help out when Russia staged the $51billion winter Olympics in Sochi last year. These were the most expensive winter games on record.

The World Cup will be an event no where near as lavish as the economy begins to bite. Many believing that this will indeed, despite a very impressive bid document in which all visitors were promised free travel in Russia, a World Cup put together on a shoestring budget. Corners may well be cut, let us just hope that no lives are lost a result of work not being done properly.

Could FIFA have foreseen the problems that Russia now faces. Some politicial analysts have said that the writing was on the wall, when votes were cast. Sadly the FIFA Executive rarely look that far ahead, all many of them are interested in seeing is what is under the table.

March 6, 2015 at 9:01 am Leave a comment

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