Posts tagged ‘salary cap’

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

Prejudice Paying Dividends

Like him or hate him, Sir Alex Ferguson is hailed as one of the great football managers of all time. One of the key aspects of his success at first Aberdeen and then Manchester United was his instilling in his players ‘it is us against the rest’ mentality. Now when Kenny Lowe has instilled the same attitude to great effect amongst his charges at Perth Glory the East Coast Australian media are telling him he must stop it, why?

Perth Glory have been prejudiced against ever since the A-League started whether you want to believe it or not. First there was the matter of three seasons in a row having to play more away games than home games, when the FFA said it was on a rotation basis. Then we had the Boxing Day game in Perth, East coast clubs complained about having to fly out on Christmas Day; Newcastle Jets complaining they had to leave even earlier. Now who has to fly East on Christmas Day? Perth Glory.

One issue that may appear small but one that was raised by three consecutive Glory coaches, was the fact that when playing away if a player is a 60/40 chance of playing, and East Coast team can afford to fly that player and an extra one up and down the East coast in the hope he may be fit for the game. Perth Glory cannot afford that luxury as rather than spending $200-300 on an airfare, they have to spend $800-1000.

When the FFA actually ran Perth Glory, Ron Smith was told to start rebuilding the club for the future. He was encouraged to sign the best young talent around the country, yet when a youth international came up and those who were progressing in the first team were called up, the Glory’s A-League fixtures still had to go ahead, even though the squad had been decimated. Talk about hanging a coach and a club out to dry.

The fact that Perth has become the most expensive city in Australia to live in and a few years ago rental properties were being auctioned to the highest bidder in terms of rent, made it very difficult to attract players across the Nullarbor. The FFA were asked on several occasions to allow Perth a “Weighting Allowance,” but once again their requests fell on deaf ears. For those unfamiliar with such an allowance, it is used when employees move from a lower cost location to a major city such as New York or London, to help them adjust to the increase in the cost of living. If Perth Glory has indeed given incentives to players outside of the salary cap one can totally understand why they did; as year after year their cries for help or even a more even playing field fell on deaf ears. It does not of course make it right, if they have, but it does make it understandable. When playing by the rules does not work, sometimes people look for other ways to stay up with the big boys.

The final straw in ten years of prejudice against the West was the hosting rights of the FFA Cup final. In making their way to the final Adelaide United played one FFA Cup game away from home and that was against Sydney FC in the quarter finals. They hosted three games at home. Perth Glory on the other hand had three games away from home and only hosted one game in Western Australia, their quarter final against Melbourne Victory. Based on trying to help clubs get ahead and make money to stay viable everything would say the final should have been hosted in Perth.

Kenny Lowe is no fool. Lowe was employed as an assistant coach under Ron Smith and stayed on in the role when Dave Mitchell took over the reins. In that time he would have seen the problems the coaches faced. He would have no doubt looked at things that they tried, and in his own mind worked out what wasn’t going to work and what would. Lowe is without doubt a great student of the game, and he would have been well aware of the mentality Sir Alex Ferguson created wherever he coached. Knowing how at every turn Perth Glory seem to get a rough deal and having experienced it first hand, instead of protecting the players from it, he has used it to invigorate them. There have been many pluses this season but the key has been Perth Glory winning on the road. Up until recently every week, the pundits over East wrote them off, and Lowe played along. Every week Perth Glory made the pundits eat their words. Now it appears that some are choking on them.

Kenny Lowe has managed the expectations and the media superbly. He has cleverly tapped into the parochial vein that pulses through the most isolated city in Australia and it is paying dividends. Rest assured if the ‘us against them’ mentality continues to produce some of the best football played by Perth Glory in ten years, and the battling display shown against Melbourne Victory on Friday night, there will be no complaints from Western Australians. If it also results in complaints from over East, then that will be the icing on the cake.

Very few criticized Sir Alex for adopting such a culture, so why should Kenny Lowe cop it for using the same policy to equally good effect?

January 5, 2015 at 9:12 am 1 comment

FFA Backed Into A Corner

Credit must go to Perth Glory coach Kenny Lowe and his players for keeping their minds focussed on their game after what proved to be a very tough week in the lead up to games over the Christmas period.

The club was accused of breaches of the salary cap by the Sydney Morning Herald. Yet the players responded the only way they could by continuing their unbeaten run with a 4-1 win at home against Central Coast Mariners and a 1-1 draw against Melbourne City.

To many the accusations did not come as a great surprise. Neither did Chairman Tony Sage’s response that the accusations were “bullshit” according to the Sunday Times.

What was interesting following the proceedings was that initially the head of the A-League Damien de Bohun told The World Game that there was nothing to worry about on December 15th. He was quoted as saying in relation to Michael Thwaite and Nebojsa Marinkovic being upgraded to marquee players “Dates, in terms of when contracts are lodged with us, the reality is that it’s a dynamic environment,” he said. “Different players are signed up before the season starts, some contracts carry over and in the january transfer window, some players go and new players come in.” A very Political response.

Yet the FFA Player regulations state quite clearly under section 7.23 “A Club cannot 1. (a)  change the status of a Player on the Player Roster;”

However more telling is section 7.18 which 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, Homegrown Player, Guest Player, Replacement Player or Contracted NYL Player.” The key phrase being, “before it concludes any contractual negotiations.”

Interestingly two days after that initial story, the same Damien de Bohun who said there was nothing to worry about, advised the Sydney Morning Herald “FFA has noted the allegations raised about Perth Glory and we’ve spoken to the club today. FFA is looking into these matters in line with the usual salary cap compliance practices.” Why the sudden change? Are these the actions of an organisation or a man in control of the competition he runs?

Word is on the 18th while the club was trying to appease the media and douse down the flames, coach Kenny Lowe was behind closed doors with CEO Jason Brewer trying to work a way out of the situation the club found itself in.

According to The World Game, and confirmed by the FFA, Perth Glory had the change in status to the two aforementioned players approved on October 22, two games into the regular season. A decision that goes against the tournament’s own competition rules. How can this possibly happen many fans of other clubs will be asking?

The answer is simple, the Football Federation of Australia cannot afford for Perth Glory owner Tony Sage to walk away while they already have two A-League clubs perilously close to collapse, Central Coast Mariners and Newcastle Jets. At present their focus is keeping these two clubs afloat and maintaining a ten team competition.

It was easier to allow Perth Glory to change the status of these two players, – who are questionable in terms of marquee player status – than to fine the club or deduct points. Perth Glory has been desperate for success, and as much as they will try and deny it the A-league needs Adelaide United and Perth Glory to be contenders. Every club in the A-League has been looking at ways to circumnavigate the salary cap, Perth Glory is not alone in that. If true, one can understand the leadership at the club feeling that it was time to go for broke, and that the FFA was in its weakest position to punish the club for fear of the ultimate consequences, the owner walking away.

The biggest question all this  raises is should the salary cap now be discarded? Did it really make for an even competition? Seven of the nine Championships have gone to three clubs. Only Sydney FC of those three clubs have won a Championship without winning the Premiership, while Central Coast have won two Premierships and one Grand Final. Three teams have won six of the nine Premierships.

It will be interesting to see how the FFA react should they find irregularities, will or rather can the A-League afford for David Gallop to take such strong action as he did with Melbourne Storm when head of the NRL? Will Glory escape with just a fine if found guilty or will they lose points as well, as Terry Butcher’s Sydney did; the coach punished for the crimes of his predecessors. We will all have to wait and see, one thing is for sure this is one storm the FFA could do without at the current time.

In the meantime Kenny Lowe and his team can just keep on doing what they have been doing so well all season, winning games!

December 29, 2014 at 10:17 am 6 comments

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

Promoting Relegation

One reputation that Australian sport has around the globe is that the nation is not a good loser. Frequently when beaten, the officials are blamed, the conditions, etcetera, rather than accepting that maybe on the day they were beaten by a better team.

Is this strong hatred of losing, that has embedded itself into the psyche of Australian sports so strongly, the reason for the current aversion to punish teams appropriately by throwing them out of a competition for, for want of a better word, cheating? Is this the same reason why the FFA, and in fact many sports in the country are against bringing in relegation to their league competitions at national level?

With a failure to perform not being punished by relegation elite sport becomes extremely protectionist, a closed shop. CEO David Gallop’s comment last week that the A-League expansion would be based on population rather than merit, was one that disappointed many football fans across the country.

It would no doubt have disappointed the Asian Football Confederation who requested relegation to be implemented, and the fact that the National Premier Leagues is supposed to in the words of the FFA “underpin” the A-League.

Many believe that the Champions of this competition should earn the right to replace the bottom placed team in the A-League. Although there are so many issues attached to such a move.

Firstly as the FFA Cup has so far proved, full time footballers are a lot fitter and stronger than their semi-professional counterparts. That is not to say that the semi-professionals with the same training and commitment could not match, or even surpass those playing at the moment. However it will take time.

Another problem is that the FFA model for the A-League, which involved private investors owning clubs, creates another massive issue when pitted against a community based semi-professional club. If the privately owned club is relegated, the private owner will most likely walk away and the FFA faces either finding a new owner for the club, or an established club folding. What about “Parachute Payments” to the relegated A-League club as per those teams relegated from the English Premier League to the Championship? These are payments to assist clubs in paying higher wages than in the league the find themselves playing in, and assist them to adjust their books to meet their new environment. The problem here is the FFA does not have the money for such payments. Another issue is that most A-League clubs do not have a ground that they can call “home.” So where are they going to play their games and generate income?

Many will say that the players will walk away, but how can a player under contract walk away? If relegation were to come in, and the A-League was to be a league based on reward, then a transfer system would need to be implemented, so that newly promoted clubs could in fact purchase players from the relegated team should that club wish to release them. With the FFA struggling to handle international transfers as it is and still taking a percentage of these, even though FIFA stated that this was illegal (Cashing In), a domestic transfer system is extremely unlikely to happen in the near future. Although there is no reason why it should not occur at NPL level.

What about the Salary Cap? Newly promoted clubs would be faced with making the leap from administering a wage bill in the hundreds of thousands to one in the millions. Could they cope? Do they have the experience and wherewithal to handle such larges sums of money? Many of these clubs are currently run by well meaning committed volunteers, who love football, but many clubs are struggling to make ends meet. How therefore would they cope in a professional environment? Would they be prepared to bring in experts to run the club and relinquish their control? Ultimately this is a decision for each club, but it is a real issue that needs considering by those who advocate the promotion and relegation system.

There are many who say that new clubs to the A-League should not have to make such a giant step in terms of meeting the current salary cap. That they should instead be allowed to build their club based on a budget that they feel is achievable, and will not put the established club in a financial position that could ultimately see it fold, if it fails on the pitch. There is merit in this school of thought, however yet again clubs need to become professional in the way they operate. At NPL level we need to see contracts back in place, clubs not approaching other players without doing it properly, by asking the President first. Unless these clubs are run along professional lines and employ proper football etiquette, they will never survive in the full time professional environment. Is this an area the FFA should be helping? Maybe, but do the FFA really want any true community-based clubs with history in the A-League? It is unlikely they will invest time and money in helping the clubs they claim are “underpinning” the A-League, as the last thing they want is the possibility of a former NSL club resurfacing. They would rather create new clubs “where there are millions of people not hundreds of thousands,” as Mr Gallop said last week.

There is no doubt that Promotion and Relegation would enhance the football experience in Australia. It is a fact that the AFC want to see it introduced. There is no doubt it would benefit the players immensely as suddenly they know what it is to play in do-or-die games, something many A-League players have never experienced, because they have been cotton-wooled from this environment, by travelling the “football pathway.”

Former Australian coach Terry Venables stated to this writer that his biggest challenge as national coach was trying to teach Australians how to hang onto a 1-0 lead and kill a game. The problem he said, was they did not play enough competitions where they needed to do that, and were happy to continually bomb forward and attack; The Iran game in 1997 maybe a case in point, although Venables was blamed for his tactics. Whatever your thoughts on that, this is where Pim Verbeek’s achievement of having the Socceroos qualify for the World Cup in South Africa without conceding a goal is an underrated achievement. His was the first real change in approach since Venables comments, he built a team that qualified on a strong defence. Now pressure from the media and others has seen Australia revert to type. Ange Postecoglou, who has done a great job since taking over as National coach is encouraging attacking football, but the Socceroos are leaking too many goals, an issue that needs to be addressed quickly. To win or progress in international tournaments you need to learn to kill a game when you have a lead, as unattractive as it may seem, Italy are masters of it, hence their repeated success at the highest level. Sadly the National Youth League is still not teaching this. Fighting for promotion and the prize of a place in the A-League, or the threat of relegation may well help develop this side of the game in Australia. An important part of a player’s development and one that will assist in the national team progressing in major tournaments.

Will we see promotion and relegation happen in the next ten years of the A-League? Hopefully. Will we see it realistically? Unlikely.

 

 

The trouble is with A-League clubs being privately owned, most owners would walk away once their club was relegated as few are genuinely there for the game as a whole. Hence the reason the FFA needs to protect those clubs.

September 24, 2014 at 8:49 am Leave a comment

Expansion that Backs Young Talent

On wednesday night’s show, Adelaide City coach Damien Mori stated that he felt his side’s victory over last year’s A-League Grand Finalists Western Sydney Wanderers in the FFA Cup showed that the A-League was ready for expansion.

Mori who was until recently the Socceroos’ highest ever goalscorer felt that they current set up in Australia was causing too many talented young players to slip through the net. A view held by many others in and around the game.

The Hyundai A-League has a habit of recycling mediocre players for the simple fact that coaches and clubs are not prepared to take a risk on young talent; they would rather go with an average player whose capabilities and limitations they are aware of. Some would say the same could be said of coaching staff.

Mori pointed out that with five foreign spots in each A-League side in the ten team league the maximum number of places for Australian players is 180. He questioned whether that is enough for Australia to live up to expectations on the international field of play.

He made an interesting point that if the FFA enforced a salary cap on new clubs based on their financial backing and capabilities, so a means tested cap, some clubs would be forced to sign young local talent. He admitted that they may struggle in the first year or so but with time they would soon be able to match the established sides. Maybe he has a point. Maybe new clubs should be invited into the league based on this form of Salary cap.

If they were though it would be important that transfer fees were implemented to ensure that those clubs who were prepared to take a risk on young players and nurture them to a point where they are desirable to bigger clubs are suitable rewarded. Although of course a player and his agent can always get around a transfer if he so wishes.

There is no doubt that the current salary cap has not had the effect everyone had hoped, where the Champions were spread across all of the clubs. Already Brisbane Roar have won three titles, Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory two each and Newcastle Jets and Central Coast Mariners one apiece in nine seasons. So five clubs out of 13 who have participated in the A-League have won the title.

Even if we look at who the Premiers have been, the league leaders at the end of the season its a similar picture, Central Coast Mariners (2) Melbourne Victory (2), Brisbane Roar (2), Adelaide United, Sydney and Western Sydney Wanderers all with one title; six clubs out of 13.

Sadly the restriction that clubs must spend “x” amount of the salary cap has seen some players play some players inflated salaries. The truth is that some clubs have managed the salary cap better than others and these are the clubs that have seen a smaller turnover of players and have tended to be those listed, who have in turn won honours. How many of the clubs in the A-League are in truth living beyond their means with the current salary cap? How many would welcome a lowered ceiling?

Damien Mori has been around the game a long time both as a player and now with eleven years experience under his belt as a coach in South Australia. His suggestion is one that should not be simply dismissed but one that should be listened to, looked at and thought through, as it could give the Australian youngsters and our national teams the boost they currently need.

August 15, 2014 at 8:55 am 2 comments

Decision Time

This week Perth Glory are expected to announce their new coach. As usual with the Western Australian club there have been mixed messages coming from the club as to how the process has been conducted, and where it is at. The most embarrassing being when owner and Chairman Tony Sage stated that ex Socceroo Mark Bosnich was chairing a selection panel, something the CEO, Jason Brewer, had denied on Not the Footy Show three days earlier, and Bosnich himself denied within 24 hours of the owner’s statement. This once again raises the issue of how close an interest Mr Sage takes to the running of his club and whether he in fact listens to information given by his CEO.

It is hard to know what to believe, the public and fans have been told that a short list was drawn up of six candidates, four of which were foreigners and two were local Australian coaches.

Some facts are that former Sydney Olympic NSL winning coach Gary Phillips withdrew from the race. On Monday last week just prior to his sacking in Japan, Central Coast Mariners A-League winning coach Graham Arnold threw his hat in the ring. Obviously desperate to stay involved in football and gain another position in the A-League. It is understood though that his wage demands far exceeded the Glory’s budgeted remuneration. Whether that can be overcome time will tell.

Other local names in the mix, are rumoured to include Fox Sports analyst Mark Rudan, current caretaker coach Kenny Lowe and ex Gold Coast United and Queensland Roar coach Miron Bleiberg.

First of all let us look at the foreign coach situation, in which the most high profile name to be bouncing around is that of Gianfranco Zola. He too may well have priced himself out of the job, especially when he requested AUD$40k to play one game in Perth several years ago.

The two foreign coaches to win the A-League have not stayed very long in Australia, Pierre Littbarski and Viteslav Lavicka at Sydney FC. Josep Gombau at Adelaide United is now the flavour of the month as Adelaide scraped into the finals – they claimed sixth spot – this season, but is he the success everyone is hailing him to be? Has he really stuck with the style of football that he was trying to impose? Did he maybe find out that the players at his disposal were not of the calibre he was used to working with at Barcelona’s youth team? One would have thought that his time in Hong Kong with Kitchee may have prepared him for that. The truth is Adelaide’s style has changed dramatically since they lost to ten man Melbourne Victory. Gone is the high defensive line that Gombau was trying to play, and it would appear that a meeting of minds has taken place where the coach has compromised his ideals to keep the players happy and the style is more in line with what the players are used to. Interestingly in the last 24 hours Gombau has stated that it will take him until 2017 to complete the possession-based, cultural revolution he started and put on hold at Adelaide United.

“I think the minimum is two seasons for a coach but with this project it should be four years. We will see where we are after that,” Gombau is quoted as saying. This is a key factor when it comes to Perth Glory, the club needs a quick turnaround in form on the pitch and the owner has demanded of every coach a Finals appearance in the first two years or they are out the door. It will take a foreign coach at least a season in most cases to learn the intricacies of the A-League. This is a unique football league with the salary cap and no transfers and limits on squad numbers, foreign players and the inclusion of a set number of players under 21. That will take time to come to terms with. Littbarski was lucky he was there in season one so knew what he had to do and Sydney, as we now know broke the salary cap to entice the best players to what was then, the blue riband club.

If we look at Graham Arnold briefly, he has learned the hard way that the grass is not always greener on the other side. Ange Postecoglou had a brief spell coaching in Greece after great success in the NSL. He struggled and returned to Australia. Arnold thought having played in Japan he would be able to show he was ready to coach overseas, it has not worked out that way. At the Central Coast Mariners Arnold inherited a squad with great deal of depth. He was lucky that Jess Van Stratten succumbed to injury as the promotion of Matt Ryan in goal was a revelation for the team. With Trent Sainsbury and the experienced Patrick Zwaanswijk in central defence they became a very hard team to break down. He will have Danny Vukovic in goal but a central defensive pairing at Perth Glory will need to be found. Funnily enough the man who helped him win the league, Daniel McBreen, he loaned to Perth Glory as he did not want him at the club, only McBreen’s goals leading Perth Glory to a first finals appearance convinced him to keep him. Arnold had a squad that had been consistently in finals under Lawrie McKinna, and what he did was use the experience of working with Guus Hiddink and Pim Verbeek to take them to the Championship. Building a new team is a different challenge.

Mark Rudan won NSL Premierships with Sydney United and played in Grand Finals he also won the A-League in its inaugural season with Sydney FC. He has played overseas in Japan, China, Malaysia, Germany and Switzerland, so would have gained key experience during that time. Having played in the A-League and captained sides he will be familiar with the unique challenges. He has had success in the NPL in New South Wales with his former club Sydney United, but it could be seen as a risk giving the role to an untried coach in terms of the A-League. However unless someone takes a risk how else will the likes of Rudan ever gain such an opportunity?

Miron Bleiberg has a great deal going in his favour. One man who managed to get those not interested in football follow Perth Glory was NSL coach German Bernd Stange. Bleiberg is renowned for Mourinho-esque quotes that are sure to keep the sporting scribes interested. Unlike Stange, Bleiberg is not just about sound bytes. He has experience and can deliver where it matters on the pitch. When he was the inaugural coach of Queensland Roar – who later became Brisbane Roar – he plucked Massimo Murdocca from the state league in Victoria, Sasha Ognenovski from the state League in Queensland, gave Dario Vidosic and Robbie Kruse a break, the last four who all went on to play for the Socceroos. He knows how to spot talent and mould it into a team playing attractive football.

Bleiberg had the Roar playing attractive football but in 2005/06 season he resigned with the club in fourth position on the ladder. He resurfaced at the Clive Palmer owned Gold Coast United, and this would again put him in good stead to work with Perth Glory owner Tony Sage; Two owners with large egos that need a strong man to stand up to them. Again Gold Coast played some good football and Bleiberg showed an eye for spotting talent, he signed Eritrean Golgol Mebrahtu after spotting him training by himself and recognised him from a previous scouting mission; Mebrahtu is now with Melbourne Heart. Bleiberg is a successful businessman in his own right, has coached in the NSL and is one of those rare breed of A-League coaches prepared to go back to the state league and coach, because he loves the game that much. He is currently coach of Oakleigh Cannons who sit top of the Victorian NPL not yet having lost in 2014. He has experience, can spot talent, has the personality to engage the public, the media and the fans, and he knows the A-League. Could he be what Perth Glory require at this point in time.

The last man is Kenny Lowe the current caretaker coach.Thrust into a dressing room full of discontent he faced a difficult task of turning the club around on the pitch. His job was made all the more harder with injuries to key senior players such as Travis Dodd, Shane Smletz, and William Gallas, and then the departure of player of the season Danny Vukovic made it even harder. Lowe tried to be honest with the fans while keeping the dream of making the finals alive, but the truth was the team wasn’t good enough and the squad lacked the required depth. Unfortunately some of his attempts at humour also fell flat, and he failed to engage the fans. Lowe is one of the best development coaches of that there can be no doubt, but his lack of success with the senior team has, possibly unfairly, raised issues over whether he knows how to coach a team to win; after years of saying results didn’t matter he struggled to deliver when they did. His record of three wins, four draws and ten losses in seventeen games, and with only rare moments of football to savour, have led many to feel he is not the man to take the team forward. Yet as they say possession is nine tenths of the law, he is the man in the role and the club have to find someone they know will bring more to the table than the current coach, and on a similar salary.That may prove harder than they thought.

With the club still making a loss and crowds dwindling at the end of the season, despite the club reporting an increase in average crowds; free tickets sadly are not declared as that figure may be a lot different if they were. Membership we have been told is at a record level by the Chairman, but is in fact believed to be just under 4300, still well below the levels of previous years. Merchandise sales are up, so it is not all bad news. The truth is the club once again needs a coach who engages the fans, does not spout cliches and has a passion that matches theirs.

It will be interesting to see who is unveiled in the coming fortnight to take the club forward. The club is never going to please everyone, but one thing that is definite is they have to get it right this time.

Who would you like to see fill the role?

April 13, 2014 at 6:02 pm 2 comments

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