Knowing Your Rights Can Pay Dividends

When “New Football” was created, the new structure, the new people, the new clubs and the new state bodies, it was agreed that the game in Australia needed stability in those early years. For that stability there had to be a pay-off.

At Board level within the Football Federation of Australia the new Chairman, Frank Lowy, was allowed to be autocratic in his reign, as it was felt that this would benefit the game in the long term. It did early in his time as Chairman, but twelve years on questions started to be asked as to whether this was the best approach for the game. It also made many question whether a Chairman should be allowed to serve three four year terms; we have seen in Politics, as with the FFA, that this frequently leads to problems in the last term.

At State level Board members were given four year terms also in order to establish stability, but once that stability was evident this was not altered to reflect the terms that are more acceptable and commonplace with company boards, seeing elected members sit for two to three year terms.

Since being established the FFA has been belligerent on many issues. Some argue that it had to take this approach in order to ‘get things done.’ However such an approach has ruffled a lot of feathers.

It would appear that some of these approaches are now being looked at by FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation as they are not in line with their approach.

The decision by the FFA that A-League clubs need only make a one off payment to State League or NPL clubs of $7,000 for a player is one that is currently being monitored. This goes against the “Solidarity Mechanism” in FIFA’s rules and regulations where it is very clear on a club’s entitlements should a player who has played at a club since the age of 12 sign a professional contract.

FIFA’s regulations state “Training compensation shall be paid to a player’s training club(s): (1) when a player signs his first contract as a professional, and (2) each time a professional is transferred until the end of the season of his 23rd birthday. The obligation to pay training compensation arises whether the transfer takes place during or at the end of the player’s contract.“ If a player is re-signed by a club no further monies are due, only if they change clubs. Some NPL clubs are questioning whether the $7000 is an adequate payment.

This is not happening in Australia. In addition to this, if an A-League player is transferred overseas the FFA are keeping a percentage of that transfer fee as a handling fee. FIFA and the AFC have confirmed that it is not allowed under their regulations.

According to FIFA, the Association of the country concerned “is entitled to receive the training compensation which in principle would be due to one of its affiliated clubs, if it can provide evidence that the club in question – with which the professional was registered and trained – has in the meantime ceased to participate in organised football and/ or no longer exists due to, in particular, bankruptcy, liquidation, dissolution or loss of affiliation. This compensation shall be reserved for youth football development programmes in the association(s) in question.”

The system in place to obtain the monies owed is extremely long-winded and many clubs do not understand their rights. If they do, some have stated that it takes so long to obtain the monies owed, as they have to go through the state body who then forwards the claim to the FFA who, chase may be the wrong word, contact the clubs concerned to obtain the money, then it goes back the same route to the club. With many clubs finding more demands being placed on their time, they simply do not have the manpower to keep on the administrator’s backs to obtain what is rightfully theirs.

Another area in which the FFA has adopted an isolationist approach has been when it comes to coaching qualifications. We have seen qualified coaches from other FIFA member countries come to Australia, and when they have looked to continue coaching have been advised that their qualifications are not acceptable in Australia and that they must re-sit their qualifications here. One coach walked away from the game, another we know of left the country.

The good news is some people know the rules and stand up and fight. One coach who had sat his coaching badges overseas, and who was being told he would have to re-sit the course tried to negotiate with the game’s governing body here in Australia, but when they continued to push for the person in question to sign up for their next course he contacted the AFC.

Under the AFC Regulations Governing the Recognition of Experience and Current Competence, it states:

“1. The objective of these Regulations is to:
a) govern the recognition of coaching competence process for Coaches and Instructors whom have gained knowledge, practical experience and/or coaching qualifications awarded outside of the AFC jurisdiction which may be deemed to be equivalent to an AFC Certification;”

In Article 2 SCOPE OF REGULATIONS it states that:
“1. Any individual may apply for Recognition if they believe that their current football knowledge, practical experience, and/or current qualifications obtained from another Confederation or Football Association are equal to or exceed the minimum requirements of a specific AFC Certification.”

Now ARTICLE 7. GENERAL RESPONSIBILITIES says that
“1. Each Member Association shall process all applications for Recognition at first instance.”

Then they must be forwarded to the AFC for approval.

Following on from that is ARTICLE 8. MEMBER ASSOCIATION DECISION and this explains that
“1. Each Member Association shall appoint an internal decision-making panel to assess applications for Recognition. That decision-making panel shall include the Technical Director of the Member Association.
2. The internal decision-making panel of the Member Association shall utilize these Regulations and any Guidelines issued by the AFC in making decisions on applications for Recognition.”

So one has to ask why would the FFA not recognise a Qualification from another Member Confederation in FIFA when their own Confederation encourages such behaviour? Now some coaches have bitten the bullet and simply signed up to the FFA course and re-sat their qualification, but the AFC regulations show that they need not have. Are they entitled to re-imbursement? Is this more proof that the FFA is using coaching courses purely as a revenue stream?

This case proves that it pays to take the time to read the FIFA or AFC regulations. It could save you not only time, but also a great deal of money, depending on which course you are being asked to attend.

This situation also proves that you can stand up to the FFA, and if you have the regulations on your side, you can win. The letter sent from the AFC was not to the Head of Coaching, or the Technical Director, but to the CEO of the FFA, which shows just how seriously this issue is being taken by the Asian Football Confederation.

The establishment of a stand alone A-League competition, which is wanted by the AFC as well as A-League club owners, and the creation of a true second division competition to the A-League may well be stealing all the headlines, but there are a number of other issues under the surface that the AFC is wanting resolved by the FFA.

Mr Lowy may have been given a dictatorial mandate to carry the game into the new era, but football in Australia has to realise that as a member of FIFA and the AFC there are rules and regulations by which the game must abide.

There is a reason why FIFA refers to all of its member nations as ‘family.’ All are governed by the same rules and regulations, and all are expected to respect the qualifications of their fellow member nations.

One feels that some latitude was given to the Football Federation of Australia to establish a new regime when they joined the Asian Football Confederation in 2006, but now ten years on it appears that they, and FIFA, are tightening the screws, and making sure that the Game in Australia complies with the rules of the game as a whole internationally. Hopefully those housed in the offices at 1 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst in Sydney have seen this day coming, and are ready to slip seamlessly into compliance. If they are not, there could be some bumpy times ahead for the FFA.

Knowing Your Rights Can Pay Dividends

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