Clear for Take Off

In today’s world one wonders why anyone would take on the role of working in sports administration as you are almost guaranteed to be on a hiding to nothing. From the outside looking in it often looks like you have to leave common-sense at the door when you accept such a role.

One thing that does appear to stifle many sports is the multi-layered tiers of governance. The problem with one person at the top making a rule and passing it down to the various levels below is that they frequently have no idea of the implications that decision will have on those who have to try and administer it. Often they also have no experience at the day to day level and are in fact completely out of touch with the game and the work already being done by volunteers and tireless clubmen and women to keep teams going. Volunteers are becoming harder to find each year, as the world puts more demand on people’s time, and volunteering is fast becoming a thing of the past.

Football West it would appear is currently suffering from such a situation. The wise men at FIFA brought in a rule – yes FIFA – that all players no matter what level of football they play must, if they have been registered in one country obtain international clearance to play in another country.

Such a rule is without doubt to the detriment of the game as a whole. Football is played the world over and to prevent someone who is travelling from playing the game they love at amateur level until such a clearance comes through is simply petty-minded and extremely short-sighted. It is however totally understandable when it comes to semi-professional and professional players.

FIFA would like this rule to be applied globally, but as football is played in more countries of the globe than any other sport, and in many of those countries, especially in South America and Africa where registration is limited, and is still done manually, it is a rule that will not be able to be enforced globally for a very long time.

It is a rule that is supposed to be applied throughout the world for all senior players, pros, semi-pros, amateur and women, but surely the powers that be can see that you need to have all of your ducks in a row before you try and implement such a rule.

You need to ensure that every country has a dedicated area that deals with these clearances in a timely fashion before you implement it; as you do not want to prevent any player from playing football. For example with players coming to Western Australia predominantly being  from Europe the FFA should have someone working through the evening in contact with their European counterparts in order to clear as many of these players as quickly as possible. The person in the role should not be working a 9-5 Sydney time roster, as it is going to be extremely ineffectual in terms of the time difference with Western Australia and also Europe. Having checked with the German FA they have said they clear players within two hours of the request, providing all of the paperwork is in order. No doubt many other Football Associations will be as efficient, but a larger number will not be geared up for this and will take days and weeks. Hence such a rule should have possibly been rolled out slowly, possibly by continent first, or when most major countries were in a position to administer it.

Football West staff have copped a great deal of abuse for the fact that the rule was not highlighted to the clubs outside the semi-professional State League, and as a result many clubs have been caught out. Depending on the number one would feel that a ‘Grace period’ should be enforced as far too many teams are going to be forfeiting games for playing unregistered players, and it will make a mockery of the Leagues.

Football West however cannot be blamed for having to enforce the rule, as they were instructed to by the governing body of Australia, the FFA. One has to ask whether the FFA asked more questions as to the true implications of implementing such a rule, as it would appear it was not well thought through and they did not have the structures in place to make sure it was a quick and easy process.

It is very sad that players who simply want to play the game for fun have to actually obtain an International clearance, and one cannot help but feel it is a very backward step for the game, especially in countries like Australia where we are trying to grow the numbers playing and raise the standard. Such a rule will also push players and teams away from playing under the structure of a body such as Football West. It simply becomes too hard. So what may have appeared a good idea in Switzerland could well in fact have a fracturing affect on the game in a country such as Australia. As we said, who would be a sports administrator?

Clear for Take Off
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