The Football Federation of Australia held their first fan Forum in the West last night, as many fans described it ‘the forgotten state’ in Australian Football. In attendance on the panel were Damien de Bohun head of the A League and W League, CEO David Gallop from the FFA, and Tony Sage owner of Perth Glory along with Head Coach Alistair Edwards. Peter Hugg the CEO of Football West was also on the panel which was moderated by the FFA’s Kyle Patterson, their head of corporate affairs and communications.
It was great that this event was finally taking place in Perth. David Gallop who was measured in his comments, as you would expect from a man who has only been in the job for six months, continually stated that the object of the Forum was to hear from the fans and the stakeholders but the responses from many of the panel left many wondering if the powers that be were actually listening.
Also in attendance was Emma Highwood from the FFA who was appointed to the role of Head of Community Football, and when she spoke one wondered why she was not on the panel, as she spoke well, and her comments in the main had merit.
What was interesting was the fact that event was advertised on the FFA press release as finishing at 9.30pm, yet Kyle Patterson closed the forum down at 9pm and there were no questions of a general nature as promoted would be available, and only one was allowed on the Women’s Game.
The reason for this was never really explained. No doubt they would say that the segments on the A League and the National teams went on longer than expected. They cannot say the same about the NPL discussion, which is one of the reasons the delegation are in Perth, as questions on this topic were brought to an abrupt halt when questions of compensation and financial support were raised. If it was an issue with time, that would appear strange as most of the delegation are still in Perth today for meetings.
One thing that became clear was that somewhere in these proposed radical changes to the structure of the game with the introduction of the NPL, information would appear to have been miscommunicated. CEO Peter Hugg stated that following support from the clubs the board voted to push ahead with Western Australia joining the NPL. Yet the newly formed Football Union has a large number of State League clubs signing a document stating that they are far from in agreement with this move. They also have stated that they never voted on such an issue. It is believed that the Board were advised that the clubs were in favour of the move based on that information, and that is why they signed off on the re-structure. Hopefully the Board will investigate as to how such a misunderstanding has arisen and communicate their findings back to the stakeholders and the clubs.
Was there a benefit to the Forum? There is always some benefit from open dialogue but regrettably one felt that the fans and stakeholders were subjected more to FFA rhetoric than the game’s governors listening to the feelings of the fans. The two people to come out of the Forum with the most credit would have to be Perth Glory Coach Alistair Edwards who was articulate and being a true football person spoke a great deal of sense. Tony Sage kept his comments brief and as a result he too came out with a great deal of credit.
The Indian author Arundhati Roy wrote that ‘There is really no such thing as the voiceless. There are only the deliberately silenced or the preferably unheard.’ Unfortunately many left last night’s Forum feeling they understood exactly what she meant.