Football is a game for the people, it is all about Fair Play are catchphrases bandied about the world game on a regular basis and picked up by those running the game at lower levels, yet sadly the games administrators in Switzerland have rarely lived up to these ideals in recent times and it would appear their example is beginning to filter down to lower levels of the game. As another cliché states, Perception is everything.
The National Premier League has revealed this to be the very much the case in Western Australia, where simple basic protocols and perceived conflicts of interest have been blatantly ignored.
For a while now there have been certain people who have been concerned with board members of Football West becoming too involved in the day to day running of the game and forgetting that their role as board members is to ensure that the direction they advocate is best for the game is being followed by the CEO, and that the operation is financially responsible and being run properly. It is not their role to be at the coalface and become involved in everyday issues, being so closely involved they lose their independence and objectivity.
It has never been the role of a board member in any organization to try and influence people or stakeholders, their role is to be there purely as a sounding board, to listen and report back on any concerns members may have.
The NPL submission process saw two board members put forward to offer advice to clubs; both of these board members are in a small way associated with clubs in Western Australia, one even being a life member. This alone made their involvement in the process a perceived conflict of interest, but the rest of the board deemed that it was not.
Now it is understood that these same two people are also be involved in the decision process as to who will be accepted into the NPL. This again raises the question as to how this cannot be a conflict of interest as once they have spoken to one club in the submission process they cannot be involved in the selection process which may involve that club. Now the integrity of each of these individuals is not in question here, as both no doubt have the best interests of the game at heart, but what is questionable are the protocols under which they are operating. Both have willingly agreed we believe to step back from the table when the two clubs with whom they have had an involvement are pitching for their inclusion in the NPL, which is right and honorable. But should they not also excuse themselves when any club they had a conversation with on the NPL is pitching for inclusion as well? Having had contact with a club and as unlikely as it may be, they could be perceived by some as influencing the decision made on that particular club.
Likewise the CEO who spoke with many clubs and actually drew up the much-questioned and lacking in detail application form, should not be involved in anyway with the selection process. Yet he has been.
Not the Footy Show has been advised that concerns were raised with Board members on these issues, yet they deemed there was no conflict of interest. The process will be reviewed by lawyer and Board member Anna Liscia and also former board member and lawyer Joe Claudio, again two respected and honourable individuals, but there will still be some who will claim the process should be voided with the original selection panel having spoken to clubs in the nomination process. Now that objections have been raised prior to the presentations it will not be a case of after the fact, and sour grapes coming from a club who maybe fails to be accepted.
The path to the NPL has not been a smooth one, and now the Board have opened themselves up to further questioning and maybe appeals when the process announces those clubs who were successful; Even though the document stated that the decision made by Football West will be final and not open to appeal. If a club decided to take legal action it could be a cost the game could do without.
The sad thing is this whole situation could so easily have been avoided. Why did the board not give an independent panel of respected football people the criteria on which admission to the NPL would be based and have them interview the clubs and make their recommendations to the Board for final approval?
We have esteemed former Socceroos such as Gary Marrocchi, Shaun Murphy, Stan Lazaridis and Robbie Zabica, to name a few, not currently involved with clubs in the state, whose opinions are respected; Players who came through the state ranks and understand what is important to achieve success. Input from them would have been welcomed and it would have been great to see that knowledge and insight being used constructively.
Hopefully there will be no post decision protests however the process not the individuals concerned may well still cause some questions to be raised