There is no doubt that come the end of this A-League season those running the game will release a huge sigh of relief that it is all over.
It has not been a good season for the A-League by any stretch of the imagination. In football terms the season has been a poor one, with no team good enough to stamp their authority on an average league and claim the title.
Western Sydney Wanderers the newly crowned Champions of Asia have had a nightmare start to their first season under private ownership. Central Coast Mariners have wanted to move games away from their home town to try and swell their gate. Newcastle Jets have been abysmal at times, their owner has again upset many with his comments and the way he runs his club. There was talk of a breakaway league with club owners meeting off shore to discuss such an idea. Then there was talk of a mixed league incorporating Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, a move that received a nod of approval from FIFA but a shake of the head from the FFA. Then there was the shambles they made of the punishment handed out to Perth Glory for their breach of the salary cap. This was not something the FFA uncovered, but was handed to them on a plate by a whistleblower, even then they did not want to investigate; probably as it would expose their lack of control and monitoring of such regulations. It has not been a good 10th anniversary, by any stretch of the imagination.
There should be no resting on their laurels come the final whistle in the Grand Final. From the issues raised there is plenty to be done.
One matter that needs prompt attention is the protection of A-League coaches. It is one thing for a club owner to sack a coach, but in football there are regulations that are supposed to be adhered to in terms of paying out the term of the contract still to run. Sadly several club owners are simply ignoring this and not paying what is due to the departing coach.
With only ten senior positions in the A-League is it any wonder that many of these coaches are forced to head to the courts to try and get what they feel is rightfully theirs? All know that opportunities to land another job are few and far between. Few can afford to drop down to the NPL, as the money on offer there is no where near to what they would have received at the lowest paying A-League club. So where do they go, what can they do?
Some are ex players with very few skills outside of football, all they have are their coaching badges. To coach for a state body may suit some but it is a completely different style of coaching.
One of the big problems coaches face is that many of the owners do not understand the game, and therefore do not know what kind of coach they are employing; they have just gone with a name that has been recommended. Some coaches are hands on, they like to be on the park waving their arms about dictating how they want the team to play and explaining tactics and skills. Others like to take a role not dissimilar to Sir Alex Ferguson, where they stand on the side watching, letting their assistant coach take training. They only step in when they see something they feel needs comment on. These style of coaches are far more about breeding a team atmosphere, bringing in players to mould the club ethos and getting rid of players when they can give the club the best financial return or when they are nearing the end of their career.
The sad thing is many club owners do not appreciate this kind of coach, and assume he is not doing his job.
This applies too in the state league/NPL where such a coach may actually be more benefit to guide a younger up and coming coach. However job security at this level is even worse than the A-League. Now coaches have to get their B-Licenec to coach at this level, in most cases at their own expense, but they have zero job security. If they get fired few get what is owed and they don’t kick up a stink as they know they will never get another chance. Is it any wonder many wives find it hard to love the game?
There are many good coaches in Australia, but far too many are being lost to the game, because the game does not do the right thing. The A-League has spat out some potentially very good coaches who are lost to the game in Australia. The level below that is seeing even more lost due to the enforced requirement to be qualified and the prohibitive cost, measured against job security.
If the A-League is to improve, and the “pathway” to the A-League is to be via the much-hyped NPL, the game cannot afford to lose some of the best coaches for the reasons stated. The FFA need to look at this issue on all levels and try to find a way of safeguarding these people’s income and what is rightfully owed when they lose their jobs. If they don’t, expect a coaches Union to be set up in the very near future, and that could create an even bigger headache for the FFA, State bodies and the A League club owners.