The creation of the Football Federation of Australia in 2005 filled Australian fans with hope. After many botched World Cup Qualifying campaigns, a national League which comprised of two full time teams and the rest part timers, and fractured organisations running the game at all levels below it seemed as if the FFA as it has become known was the answer to everyone’s prayers.
The FFA came into being following the Crawford Report which had been instigated as a result of the Australian Government’s threat to withdraw funding to the sport. The Australian Government were unable to step in and take over the running of the game as any political interference would have constituted a breach of FIFA Statutes. The findings of the report were critically analysed by the board of Soccer Australia who believed that they were unable to implement the recommendations. So a new body was created with Frank Lowy at the head.
A raft of recommendations which made great sense were included in the Crawford Report, including pulling all management of the game under one umbrella, yet still supposedly giving the stakeholders the power of influence on decisions via standing committees. Many of the recommendations made on the running of the game below the elite level have been ignored or not enforced. Some have been implement in some states but not in others, and many have been allowed to fail as they ave been deemed a hindrance to those running the game. So the dawn that promised so much on that level has not brought the sunny day that everyone had hoped for.
What is of more concern is what is happening at the highest level in the games administration, despite failing to monitor the game at State level, they appear to have once again brought the game into disrepute. New CEO David Gallop must wonder what he has walked into.
The national team are on the brink of possibly failing to qualify for the World Cup next year, should they fail the cash injection that making the World Cup Finals brings will cause massive ramifications to the game as a whole. The reason that Australia finds itself in this predicament is that those running the game failed to develop talent adequately over the past ten years, gone is the rich vein of talent that at one point seemed never ending. Talent is still there, but the cutting of costs to state institutes of sport and the lowering of the entry age to the Australian Institute of Sport have had a devastating effect.
The Hyundai A-League has just completed a very successful season with crowd and television viewing figures on the rise. Yet still several clubs are teetering on a financial precipice. What is more the league is started to follow a trend in modern football that of a gulf between the teams at the top and those at the bottom of the league ladder. In a 20 team league that is bad enough but it is twice as bad in a 10 team one.
Now there is the matter of fiscal irresponsibility. It has come out that close to half a million dollars that the FFA gave to Trinidad and Tobago as a donation for the games development has allegedly been stolen by their president Mr Jack Warner. This should come as no surprise as Mr Warner’s reputation is questionable to say the least. In 2010 it was revealed that the FFA had given pearl necklaces to the wives of top FIFA officials, including Mr Warner’s. In addition the FFA had spent tens of thousands of dollars flying a junior Caribbean football team to a match in order to obtain Mr Warner’s vote for Australia to host the World Cup. In addition to this it was made public that more than $1 million was paid to consultant, Peter Hargitay, who said he could deliver Mr Warner’s vote as well as those of other members of the FIFA executive who would determine the host nations for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup Finals.
If this is not bad enough two books are due out that are likely to lift the lid on what happened during that World Cup bidding process and also who is responsible for the poor fiscal management and decision making at the top of the game. Former head of corporate affairs at the FFA Bonita Mersiades who lost her job for asking too many questions Bonita Mersiades is set to release a book called ‘The Bid.” Also Andrew Jennings the author of “Foul! The Secret World of FIFA Bribes, Vote Rigging and Ticket Scandals,” is supposedly due to release a book on the same subject.
There are a lot of positives in the modern game in Australia but before moving forward the game needs to face its demons. Accept the mistakes that have been made, that the Dutch system may not be the best one for Australian footballers to develop, that our players may develop later than in Europe because they do not play as much. We also need to accept that the administrators have made mistakes, but those mistakes need to be made public and transparency and communication must be the new modus operandi. To make this happen as it said in the Crawford report, the Stakeholders must find a voice. If they fail to speak the pain the game is about to endure will continue.