There is a reason that Football has become the most played and most popular sport in the world, and that is because of its simplicity.
Sadly ever since Irving Scholar at Tottenham Hotspur found a loophole in the English FA’s rules and regulations, and managed to float the club on the stock market in the 1980’s, a move that changed the face of football, people have become involved in football for all the wrong reasons.
Now we have people wanting to make a name for themselves in the game, to leave a lasting impression. Or they want to milk as much out of it as they possibly can. Some are there still for very genuine reasons and care about the future, but to others it is just a stepping stone, and there is little passion or worry about the future ramifications of their decisions.
Before the NPL was launched in Western Australia two thirds of the clubs playing in the old state league raised concerns about the ramifications of the proposed new competition and the costs that would come with being a part of the league. Some wisely even sought legal advice.
The advice from Lawyers who looked at the proposed participation document advised clubs not to sign up for the competition. One of the main reasons being point number one in the draft of the common rules which read,”1. Football West may alter, add to, clarify or delete any of these rules at its discretion. Any changes to these rules will be communicated to clubs.”
In the actual Competition Rules for the NPL-WA Point 1 in Article 1 under the heading “General” it states: 1. “Football West may alter, add to, clarify or delete any of these rules at its discretion. Any changes to these rules will be communicated to clubs.”
Even in the published NPL WA Compliance rules Football West in conjunction with the FFA, who oversee this competition nationally, still gave themselves a loophole to change the rules at their own desire.
Article 11 under the heading “Football West Powers & Discretion” reads as follows:
1. Notwithstanding any other Article in this By-Law, Football West may, in its absolute and unfettered discretion, and only in exceptional circumstances and for the sole benefit of the NPL- WA Competition as a whole:
a) vary any time frame specified in this By-Law for compliance with any Article; and/or
b) impose any one or more conditions on a Club that is otherwise in breach of this By-Law
as a condition to that Club remaining in the NPL-WA Competition; and/or
c) require a Club to meet with Football West to discuss breaches or potential breaches of
The question is would anyone sign up with a bank and give them permission to change the terms of their mortgage at the bank’s discretion? So why would eleven football clubs do a similar thing?
Despite this clause the powers that be also introduced a salary cap, which has never been policed because Football West do not have the man power to police it, or simply did not want to, as then they would have had to under their own rules issued a breach notice. The first such notice is simply a warning, a second breach notice results in a $500 fine and a third results in “An immediate financial penalty of not more than $5,000 or expulsion from the NPL- WA Competition, as determined by Football West.”
We have also seen a player points system introduced at the FFA’s behest, which has resulted in what is supposed to be the best competition in the state become a development league and the standard of football drop.
Clubs have had to ensure that they have accredited coaches at all levels. This is a wise move, but it has not been thought through and has seen the game lose experienced coaches with unparalleled knowledge, simply because they are either unwilling to pay the required fee, or cannot afford it. This should have been an area that was subsidised and the various state bodies should have worked closer with clubs and unqualified coaches to bring them up to the required standard. Some clubs managed to find a way around it by appointing as team manager a coach with the required qualifications and then a head coach who did not have their badges could continue. It is all about a title, rather than who does the work.
Other areas of this new league that we were told was going to be the dream factory of Australia’s next generation were put under the microscope and rules put in place, yet how many were policed or even carried out?
Under the heading in Article 6 of the Compliance rules under the heading “Governance” it states in section 3:
“The Club must host at least one public forum in each calendar year in which the Club is admitted to the NPL-WA Competition, inviting parents of players, players, members, and sponsors.
Football West strongly encourages each NPL club to hold a minimum of two public forums. A club may conduct a public forum at the same time as its Annual General Meeting.”
How many NPL clubs have held a public forum in the past three years?
Then of course there was the very contentious issue of the club’s grounds.
Football West made a rod for its own back when it accepted Subiaco United into the NPL when its ground clearly failed to meet the very clear requirements set out in the Compliance rules. In fact the club was never going to be able to meet those requirements because the ground on which it plays is a public open space, so a permanent fence was never going to happen. Yet the club was accepted.
There was no promotion or relegation in the first two years of the NPL and Mandurah were denied the opportunity to come up in 2015. In 2016 Joondalup United won the first division. As Keith Wood the Chief Operating Officer stated in an email to this writer prior to the final game “Joondalup United has until the end of the season (that is, about 5pm tomorrow depending on when the final whistle is blown) to demonstrate to us that it has an NPL compliant venue as the club’s current home venue is not compliant. If the club is unable to provide evidence (which will essentially be a written agreement to use a compliant venue), then the club will be ineligible for promotion to the NPL.”
The word was that Joondalup United had managed to secure a ground sharing agreement with Sorrento. (Promotion Rules Must be Clear Cut in 2017).
Then whispers started that this wasn’t the case and that Joondalup were exploring other options; possibly realising the financial implications of ground-sharing. An email was published on social media showing that the club was trying to negotiate a ground swap via the City of Joondalup that would see them take over the Sunday League side Whitfords ground.
As Mr Wood stated in his email if Joondalup United did not meet that deadline Mandurah City who were second in Division One would have to play off against bottom placed Subiaco United under NPL regulations in terms of player points; a rule that does not apply in Division One.
With Division One’s season finishing two weeks ago and the NPL season six weeks ago the chances of a play off are now extremely unlikely, and would be unfair to Subiaco.
To add to the confusion it appears that Subiaco have now lodged a legal appeal against their relegation.
Honestly, if that is the case Who can blame them? If Mandurah were smart they too would lodge an appeal of their own.
The saddest thing in all is that the game at the highest level in the state is no longer about who has the best players, who plays the best football and who finishes top of the League table. No longer is it as simple as that. Administrators have made it about so much more than just the game.
Yet if Joondalup United find that they are denied the chance to play in the NPL – although one wonders why anyone would want to with rules that can be changed at will – they too could lodge a challenge. Not just based on having a ground similar to Subiaco’s, but because Football West’s Constitution states under section 1 “The objects of the company” under subsection “(i) to provide and maintain grounds, playing fields, materials, equipment and other facilities for Football in the State.” So should not the responsibility of making Joondalup United’s ground be compliant fall with the game’s governing body? A legal argument can be made based on their constitution that it does.
The crazy thing is Football West and the people at the FFA who came up with the rules of the NPL thought when they put in a clause that allowed them to move the goalposts that it would work in their favour. The truth is it has worked against them, because it has meant there are no hard and fast rules that apply to all, and are administered across the board and clubs punished if they break the rules.
In the word’s of Oliver Hardy from Laurel and Hardy, ‘That’s another Fines mess you’ve gotten us into.”
It will definitely be interesting to see how the mess is cleared up. It will also be interesting to see if the State League clubs and the NPL clubs put their differences aside and sit down with their Standing Committees and ensure that the rules are re-written in a way that leaves no doubt as to what the rules are, and that they request Football West to ensure that they enforce the rules for the good of the game as a whole.
If this is “New Football,” maybe we were better off with the old version where everything was so much simpler.