It has been a bad 24 hours for football in Western Australia.
First of all we had the Perth Glory walk out on a pre-season game against Sydney Olympic in Sydney. It appears the reason was because an under 16 game was being played on the pitch as a curtain-raiser, and the Glory were unable to warm up on the pitch. Which the club has since tried to justify through club CEO Jason Brewer who told the World Game “neither us nor Sydney Olympic were aware such a game was to be played. We expected a pitch on which our players could warm up. It was all about a lack of communication and having the correct environment in which to prepare the players. We have obligations in terms of player safety and welfare. We did not want to put anybody at risk in that respect.” Brewer said. “Mitch Nichols and Youssouf Hersi have had hamstring injuries and were both due to start and a lack of a proper warm up could have had major implications.”
Yet Sydney Olympic coach claims that they were prepared to move the Under 16 game, only to be told, he claims, that the players ‘were not in the best state of mind to play the game.”
Once again Perth Glory by not having a media manager travelling with the team have caused themselves untold harm. Instead they opt to simply put out a statement on their Facebook page of all places, saying they will not be discussing the issue further. The club’s buzz word at the moment is professionalism, but the whole handling of this incident flies in the face of the word, even if the withdrawal was justified. Let us not forget the club pulled out of a friendly against NPL side Perth just a fortnight ago on the eve of the match, with various excuses being used, from insurance to lighting, when word is they did not have eleven fit players.
Then the very next morning it is announced that Western Australia’s two NPL sides, Stirling Lions and Bayswater City, who have the dubious honour of competing in the inaugural FFA Cup cannot play at Macedonia Park as had previously been announced, because the floodlights are not of a suitable standard for A-League clubs to play under.
The FFA Cup is a good idea, but this is yet more proof that the competition has been thrown together without due process and thought. As we have reported previously the FFA Cup was rushed through to meet an Asian Football Confederation deadline, because the FFA had failed to deliver the competition as originally promised when accepted into the Confederation by 2013.
We now have a competition which is slowly becoming more ridiculous with each announcement. First of all the draw is not a straight first out of the hat draw, it is rigged to ensure that one non-A-League club makes the semi final. So where is the real merit fro the club who makes it to that stage? Then all of the A-League sides not drawn to play each other, have to play away. Now the FFA get to dictate the pitches on which the games are to be played.
It would have made it interesting had the clubs had to play their NPL counterparts on their home grounds. As Perth Glory showed with their withdrawal against Sydney Olympic, conditions are not always ideal at these grounds and it would have been a great leveller. Now however that benefit has been snatched away from a number of NPL clubs. Which is not good for the game. Certainly playing games at the Perth Athletics Stadium is not good for the game. It is a horrible venue to watch football at even if its facilities are first class.
The main reason the games are having to be moved is all to do with the standard of floodlights. Which throws up the question why have the FFA opted to play FFA cup games on a Tuesday and Wednesday if this is to be such an important competition? Firstly most other state league clubs train on a tuesday so that may limit crowd attendances. Also if the competition was so important, would it not be better to play the game on a Saturday afternoon and then move an NPL match to midweek as these clubs are not so precious about the standard of lighting?
There was an issue raised at a meeting of all the potential NPL clubs over a year ago, where clubs were warned that if they did not receive financial benefits from being in the FFA cup, being in the competition could in fact cost the club money. That reality is now beginning to hit home. Not playing at their home venue will lose them bar takings as well as gate takings. The clubs will still have to supply staff at the grounds and there will no doubt be bonuses expected if they progress. Word is that the two clubs in Western Australia are being given some compensation for having to play at the Athletics stadium, let us hope both clubs have held out for a reasonable amount.
Not The Footy Show was told by a key figure at one club that after being advised that they could not play at their home ground they wanted to play away, and have the A-League club cover their costs, and have their players have the experience of playing in front of a bigger crowd at a bigger stadium, rather than be left with the costs.
The question is how can the FFA impose these restrictions? No NPL club has signed any terms and conditions to be a part of the NPL in Western Australia. Hence the reason the grounds are not up to the standards the FFA want. Neither have they signed any contract to be a part of the FFA Cup. Where did it state in the rules of competition on the FFA Cup website that grounds needed lights of a certain standard? Therefore surely clubs could have dug their heels in and said, play at our ground or we are entitled to a bye into the next round if our opponents do not want to play.
Over the years the Socceroos have played on some very poor standards of pitch. In Fiji they had to avoid frogs to play as the pitch was covered in them.
The FFA Cup is turning into a farce before it has even had a ball kicked. Yes there were bound to be teething problems, and it was always going to take a few years to strike a chord with the footballing public, but the way it is being controlled, manipulated and sanitised is just ridiculous.
Having supported a club that has been defeated by non-league opposition in the FA Cup and having visited non-league grounds where the capacity and facilities are not of a high standard, that is to understand what the romance of the FA Cup is about. This Farcical Football Australia Cup could not be further removed from that whole experience, and that is sad.
Equally sad is the fact that no club in Western Australia is deemed to have facilities adequate to host a FFA Cup game. Does that mean no more friendlies v Perth Glory based on the same criteria? What is does show is how far the clubs have fallen into decline. What is does show is that the game’s governing body has not been working with them bring them up to the standards now expected. What is does show is a failure to attract sponsorship to give clubs prize money worth winning. The Westfield FFA Cup could well have offered that windfall, but with no money once again filtering down to the NPL clubs one wonders who the situation will change.
It has certainly been a depressing 24 hours for football in Western Australia.