Posts tagged ‘Tony Sage’

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

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

Sticking to The Rules.

It used to be that Football West’s Annual General Meeting was always held the first week in December, but once again it is being held the week before Christmas, at a time when many will struggle to be able to make time to attend.

It will be held at Perth Soccer Club on Wednesday 17th of December. The same venue that has hosted the two FFA Fan forums and previous AGMs. Other clubs can feel rightly miffed that they are not given the opportunity to host such events, but the biggest question is should the game’s governing body be holding such a meeting in at any club? Surely it should be held at an independent venue?

There has been a call for nominations for the Board and hopefully there will be people who will put their hands up for such a role.

As the Football West website does not advise when many of the current board were elected, or co-opted onto the Board, Not the Footy Show asked whether any current members were up for re-election.

We were advised that the popular “Rob MacKay has served two terms and cannot seek re-election, although any previous director can occupy a position as an appointed director.” True, but not for two years after he held his elected position on board according to the constitution.

Henry Atturo’s term expires at the AGM and he is entitled to stand again although confirmation as to whether he intends to has not been given. With the Standing Committee’s having a say in the composition of the board, his aggressive pursuit of the NPL may come back to haunt him.

Football West also advised that Deputy Chairman of Perth Glory Lui Giuliani had “been filling a position on the board on a casual basis. This position expires at the AGM but he is also entitled to stand.”

Not according to the Football West constitution. According to this important document he is not entitled to stand for the board, and should not have been allowed to “fill in” even on a casual basis. Under section 10.4 of the Football West Constitution and the sub-heading Eligibility it states:

A person who:

(a) is an employee of the Company or of FFA; or (b) holds any Official Position,

(each a Disqualifying Position) may not stand for or hold office as a Director.
A Director who accepts a Disqualifying Position must notify the other Directors of that fact immediately and article 10.20(c) applies.

As Perth Glory now have teams playing in the NPL they cannot possibly have a representative on the board, especially not one who holds an official position. Mr Giuliani is the Vice Chairman of Perth Glory and has been since Tony Sage purchased the club. Former Football West Board Member Paul Kelly eventually stepped down when he took over as CEO of the A-League club after questions were raised over a conflict of interest. The same would apply to Mr Giuliani.  If Perth Glory are allowed to bypass this rule in the constitution, then every club in the NPL is entitled to have a director of their club hold such a position as well. One has to ask why if the Board is looking to cover all the required skill sets they would require a third financial expert to join the other two being the Chairman, Mr. Twigger and board member Mr Andrawes.

One reason why the Football West website should reveal when Board members are elected or co-opted is that the constitution clearly states under section 10.7 Rotation of Directors that

  1. (a)  Despite article 10.6, at the annual general meeting relating to the financial year ended 30 September 2006 and at each second subsequent annual general meeting one-half of the Elected Directors must retire from office.
  2. (b)  If the number of Elected Directors is not a whole number which is a multiple of two, the number of Elected Directors is to be rounded down to the next whole number.
  3. (c)  At the annual general meeting relating to the financial year ended 30 September 2006 the Chairman will not be a retiring Director.

(10.6 states that each Directors term is for a four year period. A question to have this reduced to two or three years in line with most organisations was raised at previous AGMs and was rejected).

It is vital that the website reveals this information. As there has been a shift in appointments in recent years and the four year cycle has been interrupted by resignations and people co-opted onto the board. Therefore the constitution maybe need to be changed to reflect this.

The Football West website currently does not even feature the name of Howard Gretton who was co-opted to the Board in September 2013. No press release has been sent out to advise that he has resigned his position, if he in fact has. This would be the logical explanation as to why his name is not listed. Go to that ever reliable source Wikipedia and Mr Bob Kucera is still cited as being a Board Member, when he stepped down in January 2013 as he was running for Parliament in the state election! To add to the confusion if one tries to access previous annual reports to work out for oneself the dates of Board appointments the 2010 edition does not open, and one receives a message stating “Not Found.”

These are all issues that should be a general part of “housekeeping.” Correct information on the website, access to annual reports, and knowing the constitution under which you operate. It now falls on the shoulders of the Standing Committee representatives to ensure that all of these issues are corrected when they attend this year’s AGM. It is also hoped that the late date of the AGM will still see them in full attendance, if not they should ask for a postponement. This is an important meeting especially in relation to appointing new board members. After all the Standing Committees were elected – well some were, and we won’t go into that here – to represent the stakeholders. They have an obligation to attend the AGM and vote for the candidate their member clubs feel is the appropriate candidate; at least that is what the Crawford Report said they would do.

 

November 29, 2014 at 1:13 am Leave a comment

One Giant Step Too Far

There is no doubt that things are coming to head in terms of Perth teams being taken seriously as a part of national competitions, especially football.

Last night it was announced, as we predicted (Time to Show we are Part of the Family) following Adelaide United’s victory over the Central Coast Mariners in the second FFA Cup semi final that the inaugural Cup Final will be played in Adelaide and not Perth. The FFA once more kicking Perth football where it hurts.

It was incredible to read the reaction on social media, close to 400 comments in under two hours of the game finishing and the announcement being made, and virtually all of them lambasting the FFA for their decision.

Head of the Hyundai A-League Damien de Bohun has said that the decision to award the Cup Final to Coopers Stadium was based on stronger home crowds. “The selection of the Westfield FFA Cup final venue was based on the objective of maximising the attendance and the TV audience. It’s a cup final and we want as many Australians engaged as possible” he said.“In relation to crowds, Adelaide United set a new A-League city record of 33,000 in round 2 and filled Coopers Stadium with 16,000 last weekend”

First of all the crowd of 33,000 for the game played at Adelaide Oval against Melbourne Victory, a game that has become a major rivalry in the Hyundai A-League not because it was manufactured, but because of a Grand final thumping in 2007. Another defeat in the Grand Final in 2009 added to the rivalry as did the fact that in both of these season’s the race for the minor premiership had been between these two teams. Throw in the incident between Kevin Muscat and John Kosmina and a bitter rivalry was born. That is why Adelaide were able to fill Adelaide Oval, a game against any other opposition would be unlikely to attract anywhere near the same crowd.

Sadly Perth Glory have not yet established a bitter rival with another A-League side as they had in the old NSL. Trying to manufacture such a thing, as we have witnessed with the laughably embarrassing “Desert Derby,” will never work. Fans and events on the pitch create such rivalries.

Having never held a major game in Western Australia the FFA have no idea of the crowd that could be attracted by having a final in Perth; all they look at is the bottom line in terms of cost.

In a press release from Perth Glory Mr de Bohun continued to dig himself, and the FFA a hole, as he confirmed that the decision was also based on meeting commitments to the Fox Sports broadcast.

He is quoted as saying “The time zone was also a factor is this decision, as were the requirements of our broadcast partner Fox Sports, and the overall desire to make this a great event. We had pencil bookings at all four venues going into the semi-finals, but Adelaide is the right choice on all the objective measures.”

What he has confirmed there is that no matter how long Perth Glory or any other team from the Western side of the country play in this competition, 99 times out of 100 they will not host the final.

To try and appease the furious fans in the West he is quoted as saying “Naturally, fans in Perth are disappointed and we respect their views as passionate supporters. Of course, every fan would want to have the FFA Cup final on home turf, so we understand the reaction. It’s another sign that in its first year the FFA Cup has become an instant classic on the football calendar.” What a load of political spin Mr de Bohun. So far we have seen little or no evidence of you or the FFA ever listening to, or respecting the views of fans from this side of the country, so please keep your platitudes to yourself!

Perth Glory has had countless problems over the years, but in 2014 the team is playing good football, winning games and currently top of the league. Off the pitch they appear to be finally moving in the right direction as well. The club deserved to host this game, the people of Western Australia deserved a major football match, having been starved of any major international game in any form. Once again you have let them and the game as a whole down.

There are some who have said that the Western Australian Government should have offered the FFA money as an incentive to have the game played in Perth. One has to argue that public funds should not be used to support a privately run club. Neither should the club receive any funds from the Government in light of the State Government just last year having to write off almost $250,000 because owner Tony Sage’s club refused to pay a bill for taxpayer-funded public transport for home games at NIB Stadium worth nearly $400,000.

There are many who have said that to avoid such a situation in the future the final should be played over two legs; that has merit and makes sense, and may meet Mr de Bohun’s criteria of “maximising the attendance and the TV audience.” Others have also made a very valid point that if this is a competition that is to be taken seriously the final should be played at the end of the season, like all of the other major Cup tournaments around the world, and also contested on a weekend rather than midweek.

We all know that the FFA Cup was rushed through to meet a promise made to the Asian Football Confederation when Australia was accepted into the fold. Yet despite what Mr de Bohun may think, it is far from being “an instant classic on the football calendar.” The fixturing rather than a genuine draw has not been accepted by fans, the manipulating of the draw to ensure a semi-professional side makes the semi finals, and the FFA forcing some of those semi-professional clubs to play away from their home grounds against A-league opposition, and ultimately cost the clubs money, has not gone down well.

This latest decision leaves a very sour taste in the mouth. Many loyal Perth Glory fans will take time off work and head to Adelaide and they deserve to be applauded. Some will not be able to get time of work or afford it, and they will have to boost that TV audience that Mr de Bohun is so concerned about.

Football is, or was, all about the fans who paid to come through the turnstiles to watch their team. That is obviously not the case in Australia. The fact that Perth are unlikely to ever host the FFA Cup final for the reasons given by Mr de Bohun calls for some form of stand by the people of Western Australia. The best outcome would be for Perth Glory to win the Inaugural cup in Adelaide, and then along with the NPL teams in the state, announce that on the grounds that they can never host a final, they have decided to no longer participate in the competition.

It needs a strong statement to be made. Delayed telecasts of games that have already been completed are one thing, but prejudice on hosting games due to our geographic location and time zone are a step too far.

November 13, 2014 at 5:25 pm 3 comments

One Man’s Choice.

The news that Perth Glory are in discussions with veteran French Defender William Gallas about signing for the club for season 2014/15 must surely be an ominous sign for fans. It would also not be good news for new coach Kenny Lowe.

Lowe’s first signing after being unveiled as full time coach was returning defender 31 year old Dino Djulbic. A player expected to partner 2014 Most Glorious Player award winner Michael Thwaite in the heart of the defense. So why would the club sign Djulbic if they were looking to sign Gallas, and how must he feel on hearing this news?

If there were concerns that the Djulbic and Thwaite partnership could be exposed by pace, re-signing Gallas is not going to allay those fears.

Kenny Lowe stated in a recent article that his defensive stocks are strong and most would agree. With Danny Vukovic in goal and an expected first choice back line of a returning from injury Josh Risdon and Scott Jameson on the flanks, with Djulbic and Thwaite in the middle it looks very solid. As back up you have more than adequate cover in the likes of Brandon O’Neill, Jack Clisby and Matt Davies who all did well when they played this year.

As Lowe stated he needs to strengthen the midfield. He also needs to find midfielders with discipline to link with the likes of Risdon and Jameson and who will drop in when these two push forward.

If Perth Glory is to play in a similar style to this season when Lowe took over as interim coach, he is going to have to instil discipline into the Brazilian Sidnei if the side is not to be exposed on the counterattack.

It was baffling to many fans that the inconsistent Brazilian was given a two-year deal by the club before a coach was appointed. Yes, he has flashes of brilliance and the ability to turn a game, but there is a reason he is playing in the A-League and not in a higher league. He lacks discipline, and based on his performances this season is a very selfish player. He spent far too much time on the ground and shamming for free kicks, this season rest assured referees will not be so lenient. When he lost the ball in the final third he rarely chased back or harried the opposition to win back possession; something every Brisbane Roar player does and why they often force opposition teams into mistakes. Perth Glory needs Sidnei and others to do the same.

If Glory is going to persist with using the flanks to unlock the opposition defence then as Lowe again stated he needs to strengthen his attacking stocks. At present none of the Glory strike force are what you call a “target man”; a player the wide players can pick out with their crosses, who can power a header on goal or set up fellow strikers with a knock down.

If Glory are to climb from the bottom half of the table into the top, Lowe needs to use all of his allocated squad places carefully by signing players he knows, not that he thinks might, will deliver what he is after. He needs to be sure to have that depth in midfield and upfront so if a player is struggling for form he has a player who can step in and do a job. Sadly this season he was hampered by the fact that his too many of his young charges were learning their roles; Jamie Maclaren returning from good performances in Blackburn Rovers Youth teams never looked a natural central striker despite Alistair Edwards being sure that was his best position. Had he been able to establish a partnership with a strike partner it may have been a very different season for the youngster, but sadly injuries prevented that happening.

Kenny Lowe deserves to be given the best chance to bring together a squad that he thinks can perform consistently. He should not have big name players thrust upon him. Club owner Tony Sage originally claimed former coach Alistair Edwards signed Gallas, then contradicted this statement by saying he only gets involved with Marquee signings. He came out before the end of the season saying that Gallas had not given a return on the pitch, which many would agree with; However its very hard as a defender in a struggling team. It therefore seems strange the club is keen to keep him.

From a team perspective if Lowe is to sacrifice one of his squad places to accommodate Gallas, it will be very unfair on the new coach. He does not need another defender. It is a totally unnecessary signing. This news coming the same day as the exciting and impressive-when-he-played Adrian Zahra was released has fans scratching their heads as to what direction the club is heading. Is it really pursuing a youth policy? One thing it does is put added pressure on the coach before a ball is kicked.

That is why the coach should fill every slot in his squad with players he wants. He should make the decisions and he alone. On that he can be judged.

May 9, 2014 at 8:22 pm Leave a comment

Foundations For Expansion?

It is great that the A-League Grand Final on Sunday will see the two best teams in the competition take centre stage, especially as the FFA have secured a global television audience for the game. This is great news for the competition, but is it grounds for expansion of the league?

The key now has to be raise the standard of the competition as a whole and have the other teams reach the standards of Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar. Last season was pretty much a three horse race with the Central Coast Mariners being a class act, but a loss of players and a change of coach has seen them fail to build on that success. Rejuvenating a team and sustaining success are never easy, and are even harder in a competition with no transfer fees and no competition of a standard close to the A-League underpinning it. It will be a long time before the NPL is an adequate second tier competition, and will take a great deal of investment to speed that process up.

This week there was an article in an East Coast newspaper stating that the A-League should expand, and that Sydney should in fact have a third team in the competition. This opinion is no doubt based on the outstanding success of Western Sydney Wanderers, yet no one will reveal how big the investment was in the newest franchise created by the game’s governing body. Let us think what the reaction would have been from football fans across the country had they failed to succeed, it would have been extremely embarrassing for the FFA. Western Sydney Wanderers had to be a success! There is no doubt on the pitch Tony Popovic deserves a great deal of credit and has shown that he is one of the best and most forward thinking coaches in the competition. However the truth is we are not comparing apples with apples, as Western Sydney have operated under different rules and different operating circumstances to the other A-League clubs.

The same article called for expansion of the A-League to 12 teams by the time the next TV deal comes around in 2017. Is that really a sound reason for expansion? To try and squeeze more money out of television. The hard truth is television stations are hurting, advertising dollars are not there, and it will be hard for all sports to get a vastly improved deal on the ones they currently all have now, when it comes time to re-negotiate. If Fox Sports turn their back on football – very unlikely – there is no way anyone will match their investment.  This is unlikely as fans should watch closely as Murdoch-owned television stations across the globe are making very strong bids to own the rights of every national football league. Word is they want to create a 24 hour football channel. However once they have all the leagues locked in, they will have the power and dictate the terms to the leagues; it is also believed that they intend to make games pay-per-view due to the money they will have invested in buying the rights unable to be matched in advertising revenue. So be warned.

Should the A-League expand? Next year will be the tenth year of the competition. The league has so far seen three teams come and go so far, and several others teeter on the brink. Maybe John O’Neill’s one team one city plan in hindsight was not the best. Maybe teams need to be where the football has registered players in substantial numbers, and the club aligned to those people who are involved in the game.

CEO of the FFA David Gallop when revealing the television audience for the Grand Final explained the reason so many countries have purchased the rights was “The presence of marquee players has been the catalyst, but it’s the quality of play and entertainment value that has convinced broadcasters at home and abroad to invest in our rights. We have opened the eyes of the world to the Hyundai A-League and now fans worldwide they can watch all of our stars in action on a weekly basis, including Sunday’s blockbuster in Brisbane.”  (That is not entirely true on many levels as the television rights in several countries are in some cases linked to a central contract; but that is by the by).

There are questions over the quality, yes there are entertaining games but sometimes the quality is poor. Stars of the A-league? Who are the big stars of the A-League? Who are the players everyone in the country would know straight away? Who would they recognise walking down the street? Alessandro del Piero, and Emile Heskey, definitely. Archie Thompson probably as for Thomas Broich and Besart Berisha maybe. How many of the “stars” are homegrown in Australia?The truth is the number of true “stars” in the game are very few. Guy Finkler is a star in Melbourne yet many around the country would walk past him and not even bat an eyelid.

The concern to some who have been around the game a long time is that the A-League under the stewardship of Frank Lowy is heading down a similar path as the National Soccer League, even though the television coverage hides the fact; Lowy has also learned second time around to have key media outlets on his side.

The NSL commenced in 1977 with an ambitious 14 team league. By 1981 clubs were looking at ways to cut costs as few profitable; the same applies to many an A-League club. The clubs voted for a Summer Competition back then, but the game’s administrators at the time, the Australian Soccer Federation rejected the idea. The league was tampered with and two divisions set up, but they reverted back to a one division 14 team league in 1986.

Interestingly as interest started to wane the NSL looked to import players as an easy way to attract media attention; sound familiar?  It has been written that “their value was often questionable.” The glamour was only passing to true fans, as ultimately football is about entertainment and about the team not one player. The FFA have made it clear that they have financially assisted clubs bringing in overseas superstars in the twilight of their careers, but as much as they too may have created media attention how many have been a success on the pitch? The likes of Alessandro del Piero, Robbbie Fowler, Michael Bridges, Emile Heskey, have all been well below the standards that they set when at the top of their game. Some would say that Sydney FC suffered the past two years on the pitch having to carry an immobile del Piero, even though his vision sometimes won them games. Perth Glory owner Tony Sage, a sucker for a big name, admitted to the West Australian newspaper in February that French import William Gallas had not provided an adequate return for investment on the pitch. However he did claim that the international exposure created by the former France international’s signing had given the club value for money.

The NSL saw clubs come in and drop out of the league with a scary regularity. As mentioned the A-League has so far only had three teams drop out, but is it really ready for expansion? With two teams head and shoulders above the rest at the present time can the A-League afford to expand? Until the standard of the clubs at the bottom of the table improves and they become more consistent in their performances expansion could prove very risky.

Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar have set the bar, and deservedly are the flagship teams in the competition. Let us hope that the football they serve up on Sunday in the Grand Final emphasises that point. As for whether it is an advert for the whole A-League competition, never forget one swallow doesn’t make a summer. Does the FA Cup final reflect the standard of every level of English football? These are one-off games and should be judged as such.

May 2, 2014 at 11:38 am 3 comments

Talent and Time, the Key to Success

They say that life is about learning from your mistakes and one looks at Perth Glory and hopes that this will be the case. Some cynics will no doubt ask which mistake?

The mistake in question is that of the senior coach. Let us go back to the A-League season of 2007-08. The previous season, the second of the A-League has seen the club finish as the last Australian team 7th in the 8 team competition, with only the Wellington Phoenix below them. Ron Smith was the coach, a man regarded by most in Australia as the best development coach in the country, having brought through many of the players dubbed ‘the golden generation.’ His task was to rebuild Perth Glory and bring through players who would be the foundation of the club in future years.

Players left over from the previous season included: Leo Bertos, Simon Colosimo, Jamie Coyne, Jamie Harnwell, Jason Petkovic, Naum Sekulovski, David Tarka, David Micevski, Alex Vrteski, Billy Celeski and marquee signing Stan Lazaridis. The last three players had all been signed the season before by Smith, although Lazaridis’s signature had been secured prior to his appointment.

The club had new owners who had bought the licence off of the Football Federation of Australia. Three men were to run the club, something that raised a few eyebrows as it appeared no one man was in charge, John Spence, Brett McKeon and Tony Sage.

New signings brought in were: Anthony Danze who was coaxed back to top flight football having been signed previously by Crystal Palace and who had shone in Australian youth teams. Dino Djulbic a virtual unknown from South Melbourne who had starred at Perth SC. Another unknown talent, Jimmy Downey from the AIS. The experienced Hayden Foxe returning from ten years overseas with clubs such as Ajax, West Ham United, Porstmouth and Leeds United, Nick Rizzo who also had spent time playing in Italy and England. James Robinson who had just won the A-League with Melbourne Victory. The young and raw Nikita Rukyavstya from the AIS and Perth SC. Defender Nikolai Topor-Stanley, an ex AIS player who had been signed by Sydney FC. Mitchell Prentice who was also ex AIS and had played in Scotland and Malaysia. Mate Dragicevic from Croatia, and goalkeeper Tando Velaphi from the AIS, and who had made one appearance for Queensland Roar.

Unfortunately for the club, its fans and coach, Stan Lazaridis was serving a 12 month suspension after testing positive to a drug test for anti-androgen Finasteride, a prescription alopecia medication, which was banned at the time. The marquee player was not allowed to train with the squad until the ban had been served, and ended up only playing two games at the end of the campaign.

Long standing number one goalkeeper Jason Petkovic was recovering from a broken leg that threatened to end his career and in fact would make only three appearances late in the season; which was a credit to him after such an horrific injury.

David Tarka who looked to be back to the form that saw him head overseas to Nottingham Forest looked to have put his injury woes behind him when in the opening game he tore his hamstring off the bone and took no further part in the season.

Hayden Foxe picked up a knee injury at the start of the season and was ruled out for several months. He too only played the last six games of the season.

So the coach had plenty of absentees amongst his senior players. Things however looked very positive for the club when in the pre-season tournament, despite playing only one game at home they progressed to the final beating, Newcastle Jets, Adelaide United, Central Coast Mariners and Melbourne Victory. They led at half time in the final thanks to a rare Leo Bertos goal, but ended up losing 2-1 to Adelaide United at Hindmarsh stadium. The signs were positive.

Mate Dragicevic, started the season up front but struggled and was soon released. Goal scoring was an issue. Yet defensively the team looked solid. The first three games ended in 0-0 draws.

The next two games were lost 2-1 and 1-0 before a 4-1 thumping in Wellington. Two more draws followed against Adelaide United and Sydney before a 2-1 loss to Melbourne Victory and another 3-3 draw this time with Queensland Roar. When the team lost 1-0 to Wellington Phoenix, Ron Smith and the club parted ways.

Smith had not won a game in the opening 11 games, yet he had not lost six of those games. Four of the five that he had lost were by a solitary goal. In the remaining games the club managed to win 4, lose 4 and draw 2.

There is no doubt that Football is a results based game, and if teams are not winning some fans opt to stay at home, but this was supposed to be a work in progress. Sure Smith signed a few players who did not perform as expected, sure he suffered with injuries, but if he was to lay the foundations of the club for the future surely he deserved more time? These were games being lost by just the odd goal. Arsenal fans will remember how under George Graham how they won the Championship on the back of many a 1-0 win. That is how finite the margins can be.

The question is were the players good enough?

Of the young players that Ron Smith signed Billy Celski went on to play for Australia and win the A-League Premiership and Championship. Danze retired a month after Smith left. The unknown-when-he-was-signed Dino Djulbic, also went on to represent Australia, as well as play in Germany, China and the UAE. Jimmy Downey was hampered by injuries, but moved on to play for two further A-League clubs as well as play in the Dutch Eerste Divisie with Sparta Rotterdam. Nikita Rukyavstya has also made the national team, and is one of the few AIS graduates to make it overseas, playing in the Netherlands and Germany. He is currently signed with Mainz, but on loan to FSV Frankfurt. Nikolai Topor-Stanley is on his fourth A-League club, Western Sydney Wanderers and will play in his second Grand Final this weekend, he too went on to represent Australia after leaving Perth Glory. Sadly for Tando Velaphi despite staying in the A-League his appearances have been limited at both Melbourne clubs since leaving Perth.

This shows that Smith knew how to spot talent. That talent may not have shone at Perth Glory, but it blossomed when it left. Who knows what could have happened had that talent been kept in Perth.

When Kenny Lowe was unveiled as the Perth Glory’s new coach club CEO Jason Brewer stated that “he is by far the best youth development coach in Australia, nobody knows the talent that we have in this state better than Kenny Lowe.” Hopefully if the club realises this, and it is not just rhetoric, he will be given adequate time to develop that talent. It is also hoped that the way games are lost will be looked at rather than simply the scoreline. Development takes time and as history has shown, Glory’s impatience, and the owners desire for instant success has cost them in the past. Hopefully the same mistake will not be made again.  Certainly the talent the club spotted by Smith, and which the club then let slip through its fingers would show that patience may well be the key.

 

 

 

 

April 28, 2014 at 10:05 am 3 comments

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