At the end of the last NPL season in Western Australia the NPL Standing Committee met. At the meeting it was decided that a letter would be written to Football West raising a number of issues that the clubs were in agreement on and wanted action. Unfortunately a decision was made to re-convene and for the letter to be written at a further meeting, a decision that was questioned by a few in attendance, as they knew that the next meeting would not see all clubs represented. Which is, we hear, exactly what happened.
As we wrote in the article “Standing up for the Game” the Standing Committees are there to influence and determine the direction the game is headed in at all levels. Football West are essentially there to administer those wishes.
Now, the word is that the NPL Standing Committee were not the only representative body that were upset with the direction things were headed, yet as the dawn of a new season approaches what has changed? What has happened in the close season to change things for the coming season? Have the issues that were so pressing at the end of the last season been addressed or simply forgotten?
Possibly, as Football West has posted “Proposed Major Changes to Competition Rules in 2016” the information is followed by the following statement. “The period allowed for feedback ended on 31 January 2015 and that feedback received is being reviewed and where appropriate incorporated into the draft rules. It is planned that the rules will be presented to the Board for ratification in late February.” We are sure they mean January 2016, but interestingly with Football West not having held an Annual General Meeting in 2015 any decision made by the board after December 2015 is currently unconstitutional and so can be challenged by any club.
The question many are asking is, is it time that the Standing Committees actually made a stand? The response will be how can we? Or, our clubs could be affected by our actions. The same responses that have been used regularly.
Once again clubs could learn by the actions taken by other clubs around the world.
In Europe in one of the smaller UEFA nations the clubs were far from happy with the direction that the Federation was taking the game. Knowing how dependent the Federation was on their registration fees to enter the competition and the player registration fees they made a united decision.
They opened a bank account into which they all paid the relevant fees by the required deadline. So all money was there and paid by every club. What they did not do was hand over the money to the Federation until their demands were met. They even agreed not to play the opening games of the season if agreement was not reached by that time.
When no games were played on the opening day of the season the Federation was forced to listen. The clubs negotiated a deal that they were happy with and then handed over all of the money that had been held in the new account.
For the last two years Player registrations at all levels of the game has seen Football West receive $2.3million, Club registrations have seen another $300,000 paid into the organisation, a similar amount has been paid by referees. Imagine if that money was withheld until the clubs and players, which is what the game is all about, were listened to and had some of their demands met.How big an impact would that have on the day to day running of the game?
This is obviously a drastic step and it would need all of the clubs to stand as one and none to break ranks when approached by Football West to do so. It would need a great deal of thought and discussion. If however, as some clubs fear, the drain on them financially is becoming so great that after being a part of the football landscape for so long their very futures are threatened, then maybe such an approach is needed. Certainly many clubs are looking to survive each season, let alone adopt a four or five year plan.
What choices do the clubs and players have to be heard? Will 2016 be simply another tough season financially for all, and the same issues still rancour?
If there is to be negotiation the first place to start is in removing the various comments in the Competition Annexes which start with “Football West Reserves the right to…” If the clubs are, as was intended, to have control or a say in the running of the game via the Zone Reps and Standing Committees then any decisions to do with the structure of the competitions should have to be accepted by the Standing Committee concerned, before it becomes a rule or regulation. Until this happens one fears that each season rules will continue to change once the season has started and clubs will continue to be frustrated.
There is no easy answer, but there needs to be negotiation before the start of the coming season. The administrators need to sit down with the Standing Committees who represent the clubs and agree on certain issues. It may mean the clubs may have to be flexible on some points in order to gain in other areas, but the same is true of the game’s administration. For the good of the game the clubs need to be entering this season happy with the structure and clear on the way ahead. Maybe a mediator from outside the sport is needed to help the process. The truth is everyone needs to be happy and clear on the direction they are headed before the first game kicks off.