Posts tagged ‘Brisbane Roar’

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.

 

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April 2, 2015 at 10:14 am 7 comments

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

Wide Of the Mark?

They say that winning changes everything and that would appear to be very much the case with SBS football pundit Craig Foster.

Foster’s heated debate on SBS’s the World Game when current Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou was the national junior coach is one of Australian television’s most famous on air stoushes. In it he was demanding the coach resign following his team’s failure to qualify for the Youth World Cup.

Now in a column on The World Game website following the Socceroos Asian Cup victory he stated “the last year should also put to rest the debate on results, at both senior and youth level. Yes, we love to win, but all our national youth teams are learning to play and the benefits of this will be long lasting. Like the Socceroos, the short-term pain will see long-term gain. Every coach must be accountable for the performances and development of the team, but the fixation on only results should be behind us, thank god.” Talk about a 360 degree turnaround.

Foster then credits the National Curriculum for the success at the Asian Cup. He believes that it was the curriculum that convinced Ange Postecoglou to play a 4-3-3 system. According to Foster, “we just won the Asian Cup with the Curriculum. High pressing, winning ball back as quickly as possible, effective possession of the ball (meaning playing forward where possible), the 1-4-3-3 system of play. It’s all there. Hopefully, arguments are now at an end and we can move on to improving the national plan with everyone on board. There is a massive amount of work to do. Without complete integration from top to bottom, we beat ourselves before we begin.”

The formation had more to do with Ange Postecoglou’s mush talked about “Vision,” the way the coach likes to see the game played and has shown that initially at South Melbourne, then at Brisbane Roar. Postecoglou, was struggling though to find the players capable of playing the way he wanted at international level, and that is what he was learning through all of the friendlies in the past year; although he had many of us worried. In fact if you look at the squad that Postecoglou picked very few of the players in that squad would have had any dealings with the national Curriculum. Of the younger players Luongo was in England playing with Tottenham and was missed by clubs in Australia. Tomi Juric was developing his game in Croatia before coming back to Australia and signing with Adelaide United, while Jason Davidson was in Japan and then Portugal.

A curriculum should exist purely to teach the rudimentary skills such as trapping,passing and heading a ball. Beyond that it will in fact hold Australian football back. Sadly no one wants to look at examples around the world to learn this lesson.

In 1978 Brazil appointed Claudio Coutinho as coach. He was a theorist of football. He was multilingual, and had studied the history and tactics of football. He deliberately tried to copy the Dutch system following their destruction of Brazil at the World Cup in 1974. He soon found out that football is about more than theory in a manual. Brazil ended fourth in the World Cup losing to Poland while Argentina who stuck to their own style and principles lifted the World Cup. In the ’80’s Brazil reverted to their natural style, but focussed on working on their defence.

England are a nation who have not seen success on a football field for close on 50 years. They too are bemoaning the structural coaching system that they adopted, as the system has failed to produce anyone close to the skills of a Glenn Hoddle or Paul Gascoigne. That natural flair and skill has been coached out of players, or if not they have been rejected as having a discipline problem, not doing what the coach has instructed.

The same is happening in Australia and via the National Youth League and NTC systems, “natural” footballers creativity has been crushed. Seriously would we be extolling the performances of Luongo, Juric or Davidson if they had come through the Australian Curriculum?

Mr Foster is playing politics when he says the Curriculum is the reason for Postecoglou and the team’s success. Is he trying to deflect some of the glory from Postecoglou? Maybe, but ultimately all he has done is damage his credibility.

February 4, 2015 at 12:12 am Leave a comment

The Cream of the A-League?

Goalscorers will always steal the headlines; ask any goalkeeper. Besart Berisha did it at Brisbane Roar, Archie Thompson at Melbourne Victory and Michael Theo was in goal for both teams while they did. At Perth Glory this season Andy Keogh is doing the same, and the performances of Danny Vukovic are often being passed over. That is football.

Andy Keogh’s strike for the opening goal against Melbourne Victory was quality. He eased passed a labouring Adrian Leijer and then fired a superb angled shot past Nathan Coe.

This was a goal that showed the quality of Andy Keogh, and how important a striker who can finish opportunities is to a team.

The A-League has in truth lacked true goalscorers in the mould of Keogh and Berisha. Shane Smeltz has been the only player to win the golden boot two years in a row at Wellington Phoenix and then Gold Coast United, but none of the other winners of this award have had their name on the lips of fans across the country, with the possible exception of veteran Daniel McBreen in 2012/13 when his goals helped the Central Coast Mariners to their first Championship.With McBreen it was the romance of a veteran who appeared unwanted, scoring consistently to win a new contract and a League title.

Keogh and Berisha though stand apart. They are special, in that both players have the ability to make you watch the game closer when the ball comes near them. Both make intelligent runs, both are physically strong, both know where the goal is and can arrive at the perfect moment to tap a ball over the line, or turn a defender and rifle a shot home from the edge of the area. They have that “X factor.” Both are what the A-League needs. These are true marquee players, as they pull people through the turnstiles.

It is interesting to compare the two. Keogh played in the English Premier League with Wolverhampton Wanderers, having been a key player in helping them gain promotion playing 42 of 46 games, despite scoring their first goal in their return to the Premier League his opportunities were limited due to injury.

Besart Berisha signed for Bundesliga side Hamburg in 2004 but struggled to break into the side and was sent out on loan. In 2006 he made his Bundesliga debut and also became the first Albanian to score in the group stages of the Champions League. Having made 14 appearances that season a change in coach saw Berisha out of favour.

Berisha tried his luck with Burnley in England but struggled and eventually returned to the second division of the Bundesliga before heading to Australia. His form in Germany was again far from impressive with his appearances limited, just 2 goals in 28 appearances.

Keogh left Wolves and went back to the Championship first of all on loan to Cardiff City, Bristol City and Leeds United, before a permanent move to Millwall. Like Berisha his goals per game ratio was nothing to write home about, but the word is he was often used as a holding striker, which is something many fail to take into account when judging statistics.

Unlike many other players from overseas Keogh has come to Australia aged 28. Berisha was 26 when he signed for Brisbane Roar. Both still have plenty of game time left in them.

Berisha scored 48 goals in 76 games for Brisbane Roar, and has 7 goals in 12 games this season for Melbourne Victory. Andy Keogh in his first season, one where many new players struggle has 8 goals from 13 games.

Fans love goalscorers. These two players show that the A-League needs players who have played at the top level but maybe did not get the breaks required. These types of players need to come to Australia while they still have age and a desire to play on their side. There is no need to be bringing over big name players who are well past their best. The likes of del Piero may bring Sydney FC publicity, but they cost the club financially and they won nothing.

Australia has an obsession with South American players but once again how many have performed at a continually high level in the A-League? Fred was outstanding for Melbourne Victory but never had the same impact at Wellington Phoenix or Melbourne Heart. Amaral was sheer class for Glory until he was injured. Marcos Flores shone brightly but only momentarily. The same could be said for Henrique and Sidnei at Brisbane Roar and Perth Glory respectively, both show glimpses of the talent they possess, but lack the consistency to bring it week in week out; that is why they are playing in the A-League. Finkler at Melbourne Victory is more consistent but still not influencing the games from midfield as much as his coaching staff or the fans would like, although one feels that day is not too far away. Even Carlos Hernandez from Costa Rica only showed A-League fans a glimpse of his talents, and like Fred and Marcos Flores, never matched his form at Melbourne Victory.

Is it to do with geography or is it simply the age at which a player is brought to the A-League? Is it a gamble in as much as a coach can never be 100% clear on a player’s attitude until he sees him at training? Look at Western Sydney Wanderers who identified Vitor Saba two years ago and now want offload him not even halfway through a two year contract. It is never an exact science. Some players play better under certain coaches, some players suit a certain style of play, some players do get homesick and struggle to settle. There are so many variables to consider when recruiting a player.

Despite all of that two of the best recruits to the A-League in terms of their quality, their ability, their desire, and their ability to excite, would have to be Besart Berisha and Andy Keogh. Will coaches analyse why they have been so successful, what their pedigree was and the ages at which they have come to Australia? We will all have to wait and see. Let us hope that they manage to unearth more of the same.

January 5, 2015 at 1:47 pm 5 comments

Could FFA Cup Spell the End of Finals Football in the A-League?

When Australian football moved Confederations from Oceania to Asia there was a long debate between those at the top of the FFA and those at the Asian Football Confederation as to which teams from Australia would earn a place in the Asian Champions League.

The AFC believed that it should be the team that finished top of the League, the FFA stated that they would be sending their Grand Final winner. After six months of going back and forth eventually Australia was granted two spots – at the expense of Vietnam- and both teams were accepted into the Asian Champions League.

Now with the dawning of the FFA Cup Adelaide United as inaugural Champions believe that they should be given a place in the competition and there will be many who will agree with them.

Currently Brisbane Roar who were last season’s premier’s plate and grand final winner will play, along with runners up and losing Grand Finalists Western Sydney Wanderers, as well as the Central Coast Mariners Mariners who finished third on the league ladder have a play off spot to qualify for the competition. Surely the FFA Cup winner should move ahead of them?

To be fair the Football Federation Australia announced earlier this month that next year’s FFA Cup winner is in line to win a berth at the 2016 Champions League, however Adelaide are believed to be keen to fast track the Cup winners into the tournament in 2015.

Adelaide Chairman Greg Griffin has been quoted as saying “We are the cup winner, I don’t know yet (if we’ll contest the decision), it’s disputable (the rules). Cast your mind back when it was Adelaide United versus Persipura in the ACL (Champions League).’’  Griffin was referring to 2012 when the Indonesian club was granted a play off spot in the Asian Champions League at the 11th hour.

Adelaide wrote to the Asian Football Confederation asking for clarification on the ruling of Champions League clubs participants before the FFA Cup final was played.

Despite Adelaide’s claims in a ten team league where the top six make the finals series and have a chance to be crowned Champions it is ridiculous that a third of the teams in the competition should be competing in the pinnacle tournament in the region. Also with Australian teams currently struggling financially within the A-League surely clubs need to get their house in order here before trying to compete in Asia, and have to cover the extra costs of competing in the ACL?

There are many who feel if the AFC wants the Asian Champions League to be taken seriously, there honestly should be no more than two teams from any country taking part in this still fledgling competition. The more you dilute the competition by bringing in non-champions the competition will take longer to take a hold in the psyche of the average Asian football fan.

There is a bigger issue at play here though, and one that could change the face of Australian football.

The AFC has specific rules for Australia’s Champions League allocation for 2015 in the “Manual for decision method AFC Champions League participation” document.

In phase five of the document it states that member association (Australia) is allocated three Champions League slots, which shall consist of the “winner of the national top division league, winner of the national knockout cup and the runner-up of the national top division league.”

Based on that Adelaide have a very strong case, and the teams representing Australia in the 2015 Champions League should be Brisbane Roar, Western Sydney Wanderers and Adelaide United.

The issue here for the FFA is that they have stipulated in the past that the grand final winner is the cup winner.  If the AFC opt to recognise Adelaide United ahead of the Grand Final winner, suddenly there becomes little value in winning the Grand Final and the finals series has to be looked at as a different competition from the League season.

The AFC may well have met the FFA halfway almost ten years ago, but will they eventually get what they always wanted, the team that is the top of the league at the end of the regular season being the team that is crowned Champions?

Just another situation for the FFA to manoeuvre their way out of without harming the current competition in Australia. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out.

December 29, 2014 at 9:01 am Leave a comment

Fanning the Flames Rather Than Extinguishing Them.

There are times when people have to make the right decisions even if there is a cost in the short term. This is when leaders gain respect. This is when people know the boundaries that they must not cross. Leadership can be lonely it can be unpopular, but that is why many of our leaders are paid the big dollars.

A few weeks ago on the show we stated that the honeymoon was over for Football Federation of Australia CEO David Gallop. He has been in the job for a year and it is now time we start to see his leadership come to the fore. He has had time to asses the overall operations and work out what needs changing, what needs tweaking, and what should stay the same; of course he may find financial constraints hard to overcome.

Last night at the A-League fixture between Melbourne Victory and Brisbane Roar a number of flares were let off, and it appears a woman aged in her 20s and a 12-year-old boy received burns.

The clubs have a duty along with their security staff  to ensure that flares do not get into the grounds. A fact that they are all very well aware of. Although some will always sneak through and as we saw in the old NSL fans would go into the ground days before the game and hide them so that when searched on match day they were clean. People who wish to let these things off will find a way. However the clubs need to be more vigilant.

Victoria Police’s North West Metro Commander Rick Nugent was quoted in a Police press release as saying “The increased anti-social behaviour we are seeing at the soccer this season is completely unacceptable. Last season, there were eight instances where flares were let off. Since the first match on 10 October this season, we’ve already seen 38 flares let off and approximately 200 chairs broken.This is not acceptable.”

“Flares are extremely dangerous. They can burn at more than 1000 degrees Celsius and are not designed to be released in highly populated areas. As we saw last night, people can get and will get injured if this behaviour continues.” He continued.

So last night was not a one off incident. Seven games into this season and 38 flares have been let off. That is an average of five per game.

As Mr Nugent said in the same release, “We have been working closely with the Football Federation Australia, the stadiums, the clubs and security to make matches a safer, more enjoyable environment for match-goers. But clearly there is more that needs to be done.”

Most fans would agree with that sentiment. The FFA had the perfect opportunity to lay down a marker and state that they will not tolerate such behaviour. The obvious penalty would have been for Melbourne Victory to be forced to play there next home game behind closed doors; a penalty many clubs around the world have suffered as a result of their fans behaviour.

Instead the FFA issued a statement of their own today which said they are ‘working with all stakeholders to ensure those responsible for discharging flares at last night’s Hyundai A-League match at Etihad stadium face five year bans under the FFA Code of Conduct. FFA stands firm with its stance against anti-social behaviour and is working with the Victorian Police, Etihad Stadium and Melbourne Victory to ensure the unique atmosphere and environment at A-League games is protected and those responsible last night face bans.’

Head of the A-League Damien de Bohun is then quoted as saying “”FFA has a zero tolerance policy in relation to anti-social behaviour and will enforce all sanctions available under the Code of Conduct. The incident last night shows the dangers of discharging flares and FFA will continue to show zero tolerance. The incident is a police matter and FFA will not make any further comment.”

Will the FFA take stronger action than just fining Melbourne Victory, the answer is that such action is very unlikely as to do so would ruin one of the FFA’s major marketing tools, crowd figures. They continue to tell us how the game is growing based on crowd figures at Hyundai A-League games. Melbourne Victory’s next home game is a blockbuster against arch rival Adelaide United a game that saw 33,000 pack Adelaide Oval in round two. So they would not want to see a game which can make the crowd figures look rosy damaged by forcing the Victory to play behind closed doors.

Fans need to be asking how would the FFA react if Perth Glory, Newcastle Jets or Wellington Phoenix had such a record with flares. Melbourne Victory is one of the two biggest clubs in the A-League along with Western Sydney Wanderers – whose fans had incidents of their own last season – and they will never punish the big clubs in a way that will damage the overall image of the A-League. Those less supported clubs mentioned would have faced far greater penalties as to make an example of them would not hurt the league so much.

If you find this hard to believe think back on how when Sydney FC were the blue riband club in the competition, they broke the salary cap and won the League, yet were not stripped of the title. Imagine if Perth Glory continue their splendid early season form and go all the way to win their first A-League title, and then the FFA find that they have assembled their squad by topping up player payments outside of the club; something nearly every club has done every season. David Gallop stripped Melbourne Storm of their NRL titles when he was the head of that game, would he take the same action in the A-League? Would he make an example of a club like Perth Glory where John O’Neill chose not to with Sydney FC?

There are many who feel that the A-League is run on a one rule for some and another for the other clubs. Their handling of these multiple flare issues just add fuel to the fire. If you will excuse the phrase.

In the meantime we pray no one else gets hurt as a result of a flare, and wish those injured a speedy recovery.

November 22, 2014 at 4:53 pm 2 comments

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