Posts tagged ‘A League’

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.

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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

Moving the Goalposts, to a New Venue

“Greatness Awaits” is the tag lines for PS4 the sponsors of the National Premier Leagues in Australia, but one has to ask how long fans of the game will have to wait.

In Western Australia the whole process switching from a State League format which had laboured along to the new promised bells and whistles NPL was heavily flawed. The participation agreement drawn up by Football West and which Not The Footy Show believes no club has still signed, as legal advice warned them not to, would have seen them lose more than they gained.

The competition was rushed through, with Football West under immense pressure from the FFA who wanted to keep good on a promise to the Asian Football Confederation that they had a second tier competition to the A-League up and running by 2014. As a result the outcome was a long way from being as successful as it should have been and the standard of football on display last season instead of improving was overall well below anything the State league produced in the last 20 years.

Football West went through an extensive process to determine the clubs that should be in the new NPL. A process that came under heavy criticism from clubs as to whether it was in fact impartial, and whether all clubs were given what Australians like to call ‘a fair go.’

One team to benefit from this process was Subiaco United, a club that this writer is a life member of. Their home ground at Rosalie Park did not meet the NPL criteria so they played their home games at the WA Athletics Stadium. Many queried this move and whether it was in fact sustainable. It would appear that after one season it has proved it was not.

In fact the club’s selection to the NPL was highlighted in the Football West press release which stated “Subiaco will move from the All Flags State Second Division into the top flight having shown it has the structure, personnel and resources to make a successful transition. The club has committed to make use of one of WA’s newest sporting facilities by playing home games at the WA Athletics Stadium in Mt Claremont.”

Subiaco United will return to Rosalie Park to play its NPL fixtures in 2015. It will be interesting to see how the club satisfies the ground criteria this season in order to remain a part of the NPL.

One requirement is “A temporary or permanent fence fully enclosing the field of play, with a recommended height between 800mm and 1000mm. Any temporary fencing must be approved by Football West. Where it is not possible to erect a perimeter fence, Football West may negotiate alternative arrangements.” There is then the issue of signage, where “24m linear metres is to be reserved for Sony PS4 signage comprising 8m on the centre of the far side of the field (4m each side of the half-way line) and 8m behind each goal.” Unless things have changed Subiaco Council were very rigid in what and how signage could be displayed. Also we have the small matter of seating, “A permanent structure specifically designed for seating spectators situated outside the clubrooms that provides unobstructed viewing to the field of play and that provides seating for a minimum of 120 people. The structure must be approved by Football West.”

All of these are going to be very difficult to achieve as Rosalie Park is a public open space. There is nothing to stop any member of the public walking across the pitch with their dog at any time. Having played cricket, rugby and football at Rosalie Park this has been witnessed first hand by this writer. Having served on the committee and as part of the Rosalie Park Sporting Association, this writer also knows first hand how hard it was to try and achieve these things with the local council.

Cynics will say that Subiaco were only accepted into the NPL due to the massive junior set up that they have. With fees for juniors at NPL clubs being from $700 upwards compared to around $300 a season at a state league club, this argument carries a little weight.

Football West claim that due process was followed, and in fact highlight this by saying “Extensive analysis of compliance and commitment was conducted by Football West staff and clubs conducted presentations to further support their initial written submissions. All applications, videos of presentations and supporting documentation was provided to the Department of Sport and Recreation and Football Federation Australia for comment. Applications were also analysed by an independent football consultant from New South Wales.”

Whatever the reason, the question has to be asked when clubs had to submit a comprehensive business plan how one club’s plan has fallen over in just one season. Did this club underestimate the costs of semi-professional football as many long standing clubs warned? Or have they fallen victim, as a new club playing at this level, to a lack of marketing and promotion of the NPL? Another factor that many warned would end up hurting all of the clubs.

It is understood that after season one of the NPL a few other clubs found the costs to have been more than anticipated. It will be interesting to see how their fare in season 2. Also how they find the funds to submit for a Junior NPL side as Football West moves to introduce such a format in 2016. Surely with the aforementioned fees this is not another ploy to grab money from Juniors to prop up the senior game? Many clubs will feel they have to submit to be a part of this, but the key question is where are the finances going to come to underpin the investment required?

Subiaco’s move, although not a surprise, should not have happened after one season, and one would think other clubs would be within their rights to object to the venue at which their home games will be played. It sadly brings into question once again the process of selection to the NPL and also highlights the strain being put on clubs. Season 2 of the NPL will we expect be a defining one. Will the league expand as planned or will clubs opt out in order to survive and protect their club’s history and heritage.

Then again if the AFC throw Australia out of the Confederation everything could change once again; although many say this is unlikely to happen there is a strong possibility, as many member nations would be in favour of Australia returning to Oceania.

February 27, 2015 at 9:21 am 2 comments

Asia Becoming The End of The Line

Without taking anything away from the Asian Cup, it has yet to resonate with many football fans around the globe the way that the Copa America or even the African Cup of Nations does.

Currently in India for the Hockey India League, there was hardly any coverage of the Asian Cup, only the final was televised. In the newspapers the tournament was lucky to garner a paragraph. Whereas the African Cup of Nations has demanded a third to a quarter page. The English Premier League still dominates the papers while these tournaments are taking place along with La Liga.

One area Asia needs to be very careful is that it does not become the graveyard of footballers past; something it is heading down the path to become.

Many countries in Asia are now going to become trivia questions as to where superstars of the game played their last professional games. William Gallas, Robbie Fowler, Mario Jardel in the A-League and more recently the likes of Robert Pires, David James, David Treziguet and Alessandro del Piero in the Indian Super League. What is interesting is that in India they realised that del Piero was finished after four games, and he played no further part in the tournament, this was coming off a season in Australia with Sydney FC where he was still being lauded as great. Mind you he did pocket another million dollars!

China too is not helping. With lots of money they too are bringing in players who are quite simply past their best. Is it helping the profile of the League? Not really. Is it helping development of the game? Possibly, but it depends how involved these players are with helping develop the youth.

Nicolas Anelka at Shanghai Shenhua was a disaster, even though he did not end his career there. Although interestingly players of his ilk tend not to end up in China, it is the second string internationals rather than the top names. In fact if you look at the Chinese Super League in the main only Guangzhou Evergrande bring in players on the rise and sell them on for a profit. The rest bring in everyday reliable workmanlike footballers, as is evidenced by the Australian players who have gone to play in China; although the clubs in Australia need the money being offered in transfer fees.  The fact that very few of the top South Korean or Japanese players head to China confirms that their leagues are stronger and technically better. Maybe that is why their remain at the top of Asian football.

Will the big name players heading to Qatar and the other West Asian nations help raise the standard of their leagues or their national teams? History would say that is unlikely to be the case. It may help the profile of the league in the short term but not the standard of football.

Asia may be upset that Australia won the Asian Cup, as well as the Asian Champions League, and thus deprived one of their own a place at the Confederations Cup and the World Club Championship, but rather than sniping at Australia, the powers that be should be looking at what is the best way to raise the standard of football in the region, so that there are more teams vying for World Cup berths. More important is that the Asian Cup becomes a genuinely respected international tournament where more than four of five teams are expected to win the title, so that it does generate more international interest and respect.

The start of this may well be to cut back on allowing big name players to come and graze on their fields.

February 7, 2015 at 4:34 pm Leave a comment

Humility a Good Place to Start

It came as no surprise to hear that on the eve of Australia’s second consecutive Asian Cup final appearance some federations within Asia would like to see Australia returned to Oceania.

This site has covered many of the issues that have been building up and gaining more momentum since 2010. If Australia manages to lift the trophy tonight then many will feel that this will strengthen their position to remain a part of Asia. However it may just have the opposite effect, as with victory will come a lucrative trip to the Confederations Cup a year out from the World Cup in Russia.

If that were to happen Australia would not be the first to suffer such a fate. As the host nation Israel won the Asian Cup in 1964 and were then exiled in 1974 before finally joining UEFA in 1991.

Australia’s best hope will be a change at the top of FIFA, and it may well be that Jordan’s Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein may be their best hope to topple Sepp Blatter as President. The trouble is with so many candidates putting their hands up, and Africa pledging allegiance to Blatter once more, all that may happen is the various candidates dilute the votes from the other confederations and see Blatter sail home yet again.

According to Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein “reform is crucial.”  He has also stated “We have to bring the administration of sport into the current time we live in. I want to bring back that confidence.”

He has also stated that “in the coming months I will be looking to sit down and talk to all our member associations and listen to them. I am not coming in to dictate. I have my ideas but I have to hear back from my colleagues.”

There are many who feel that the World Cup finals may well be opened up to all and rather than having qualification places allocated to various confederations a draw will be carried out which will see the possibility of European teams having to play, African, South American or Asian opposition in order to qualify. Qualification will then be based purely on merit and the Finals will witness the truly top 32 teams in the world.

There is a problem with this plan, what to do with Oceania. This is without doubt the weakest confederation within FIFA. There are some who feel that the confederation should be split, with Australia and New Zealand and the more northerly island nations been incorporated into Asia and play a tournament to go into the main draw. The other nations be absorbed into Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football and play under the same conditions.

For Australia to be returned to Oceania would be ruinous for the game, that has made such strong advances in the last ten years within the nation’s psyche. It would also have a knock on effect on the game in New Zealand as currently they are almost always guaranteed a great chance to qualify for a World Cup, but via one play off match. When they qualified for the 2010 finals New Zealand knocked out a team from Asia, Bahrain, and it was perceived that Australia had helped New Zealand knock out one of its Asian counterparts by having the Wellington Phoenix play in the A-League.

There have been many other issues that have irked members of the Asian Confederation and it would be wise for Australia to show a little humility should they win tonight. The same applies to their post analysis of their hosting of the tournament as a whole.

One thing is clear the FFA are going to clean up their act in terms of how Asia perceives them and the way they operate. They will have their work cut out for them in the months up until the FIFA elections in May, and they will have to think very carefully who they align themselves to, as their future will clearly depend on it.

January 31, 2015 at 3:10 pm 1 comment

Luongo’s Lesson

You’re only as good as your last game, is a term every sportsperson should be aware of. It is crucial to remember as often while wallowing in self satisfaction and the plaudits of others for an outstanding performance you come crashing back down to earth with a mediocre one. Twenty-two year old Socceroo Massimo Luongo will be well aware of this leading into Australia’s next Asian Cup game against Oman tomorrow.

Luongo who must shoulder some of the blame for Australia falling a goal behind, after not tracking his man in a passage of play that lead to a corner and Kuwait’s opening goal bounced back and put in his best performance yet in the green and gold. Credit must go to Ange Postecoglou for realising that Luongo was ready to start in such a key game for Australia, when many pundits around the country questioned his selection.

It has been interesting to read some of the comments relating to Luongo’s performance over the past few days. Many are predicting that it will not be long before he leaves division one Swindon Town and is plying his trade in a higher division; that is a very realistic proposition, but if he helps Swindon gain promotion to the Championship he may well opt to stay where he is and where he is guaranteed first team football. He is after all only twenty-two years old.

One comment, was ‘it is a shame he is playing for such a low ranked club.’ This shows just how naive many Australian fans are about the game of football and also how they have bought into a lot of the propaganda surrounding the A-League. We have heard it said that the A-League is on a par with the second tier Championship in England; It is not and will take at least another ten years to be even close. In fact most Second division teams in Britain, – two levels below the Championship – would have no trouble disposing of the A-League teams. Do not be fooled by the performances of European sides coming out for pre-season games. These are goodwill affairs and merely a public relations execs and the chance to get some minutes in their players during pre-season. These teams would rarely be performing at more than 50-60% of their normal levels.

The other issue this comment raises is this blind belief that Australian players should all sign for Premier League clubs and once there they will gain a first team place. Luongo like many aspiring footballers went to England for trials and in 2011 impressed Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur enough for them to sign him. Note he did not play in the A-League and despite heading to the UK aged 17 there have been no pundits saying he went across to early; which makes a mockery of how often we hear that comment and how players must play in the A-League to have a hope of making it overseas.

Not surprisingly for one so young amongst big name international Luongo struggled to gain a spot in the first team. He was loaned out first to Championship side Ipswich Town and then to Division One Swindon Town. Here he was thrown straight into the first team and so well did he perform in the coming weeks playing alongside another Spurs loanee Alex Pritchard that Swindon signed him on a season long loan, and then permanently. His performances this season are a major contributing factor to Swindon Town sitting in the top echelons of Division One; how much they miss him will be clear when they play Coventry tonight.

Too many Australian players believe that signing for a big club is the be-all and end-all. It is so far from the truth. Getting game time is the key, gaining experience playing in the lower divisions is the perfect apprenticeship for making it in the top echelons of football, as Tim Cahill and Lucas Neill about how crucial their time was at Millwall before they moved to Everton and Blackburn Rovers.

As Luongo’s former team mate Alex Pritchard said after returning to Tottenham, “”it was great for me to be playing first team football at Swindon this season, I needed to get out and play competitively and I loved every minute of it.” The life of a professional footballer is a relatively short one, and it is crucial that you play as much first team football as you can. So there is no shame to drop down a division or two to gain that experience, and as Luongo has shown, by playing regularly you put yourself in with a shout of being selected for the national team, and then if you manage to back up performance’s like his against Kuwait you put yourself in with a chance of climbing up the league’s and playing for a top flight club.

There are plenty of talented Australian players currently in Europe, but too many are with clubs where they are not playing first team football. The key is playing, and playing consistently. Luongo has shown he can do that at Swindon Town under the guidance of Manager Mark Cooper, now he must do it at international level and his biggest test will come against Oman.

(As a Swindon Town fan and a Socceroos supporter I hope he can).

January 12, 2015 at 9:24 am Leave a comment

Turning Up The Heat

To play any sport in extreme temperatures today is nothing short of foolish, yet sadly once again we witnessed the safety of the players and officials put at risk with the scheduling in the A-League.

Last night’s A-League fixture in Perth against Adelaide United was scheduled for a 5:00pm kick off local time; 8:00pm Sydney and Melbourne time. Because of scorching heat the game was sensibly pushed back to 5:30pm.

Perth is always hot at this time of year but yesterday witness the city experience its third hottest January day on record. The barometer hit 44.4 degrees just before 2:00pm, and was still a high 36.3 degrees when the game kicked off at 5:30pm.

A year ago then Perth Glory coach Alistair Edwards complained of kick off times in Perth and how there had to be flexibility when temperatures were high when marquee signing William Gallas made his debut. On that occasion the temperature had peaked at 37 but was 32 when the game started. In 2012 a game against the Central Coast Mariners went ahead with the mercury hovering around 36 degrees in Perth. Again the coaches complained, but no action was taken.

This is nothing new in the old NSL in 2003 Stewart Petrie made his debut for Northern Spirit in sweltering heat in Perth having arrived straight off a plane from Scotland. He suffered a great deal from the heat and dehydration as a result.

Last night Perth Glory’s Chris Harold had to leave the field in the 24th minute due to the effects of the heat according to team mates post match. How long can this continue? Is it going to take a tragedy before anything is done?

To be fair both Perth Glory and the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) had called for yesterday’s game to be delayed further than 5.30pm. Their please fell on deaf ears with the Football Federation of Australia (FFA) as apparently they do not like games to air in the East later than 8pm on Fox.

So who would be held accountable should the unthinkable have happened? Would it be the clubs for sending their players out to play? One legal expect says that if the clubs had proof of them airing their concerns to the FFA prior to the game then ‘they would most likely be absolved of responsibility.’ However our legal expert advised that knowing the temperatures in Perth, it could be argued that the club should never have signed off on the fixtures and a kick off time of 5:00pm to start with, unless they put a rider clause to state that kick off could be moved if temperatures were high.

Assuming the club did both of these things the onus goes back on the FFA. The television station, who works closely with the games administrators ‘is unlikely to be held accountable,’ as once again it is the administrators who sign off on the final fixtures for the season.

So what about the role of the referee? It is the referee’s role to ensure the safety of players, other officials and spectators. This means that he is entitled to make decisions on safety concerns about the match atmosphere or play. The options at hand are suspending the play, addressing the problem or abandoning the match. Those events interfering with the match are then recorded by the referee.

So could the referee be held accountable? Apparently there is a possibility that he could be. The key issue again would be whether players or coaches had raised concerns to the referee prior to the game kicking off and he had chosen to ignore those concerns. It would then mean that the player concerned would have to prove that this was the case. According to legal advice ‘this would be hard to prove, but is a possibility.’

However this issue could take on a whole different level if it was discovered that referees were under pressure from either the FFA, or the television broadcaster to start the game as scheduled. ‘This would be a different matter entirely,’ was the feedback we received and if this were the scenario the broadcaster could become in embroiled in a legal issue.

These very issues raised their head in December 2010 when the Central Coast Mariners took on Gold Coast United at Skilled park. The pitch was waterlogged before kick off and in some areas there were pools of water. Questions were raised as to whether the game should go ahead. The word at the time was that pressure was put on referee Chris Beath to start the match. He did, but after 20 minutes had to abandon it when standing water was preventing the ball from rolling.

This is a very serious issue. In the interests of the game and those who play it – and not forgetting the spectators too- all of the A-League clubs need to discuss this before next season and be agreed upon a course of action. It could be any of the remaining nine teams who find themselves playing in Perth in plus 36 degree heat, and it could be anyone of their players who is affected by the heat. That is why all should be united on this issue. It is not just one that impacts on Perth Glory.

January 6, 2015 at 9:39 am 3 comments

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