Yesterday I listened to the CEO of Football West, Peter Hugg being interviewed on another radio station in relation to the much talked about NPL.
The team from Let’s Talk Football asked some very pertinent questions, one being if this is to be a uniform approach as the word ‘National’ would imply, why is the criteria for inclusion different around the country? Mr Hugg advised that the framework is similar, but that to have it exactly the same would be impossible. He had a point when he said that clubs in Perth could not hope to match the likes of Sydney Olympic or Marconi, ex National League sides; the revenue from poker machines assisting them greatly. As valid as this argument is, isn’t this the point of the NPL, to raise the standards nationally? If Olympic and Marconi are the benchmark clubs then maybe clubs around the country should be looking to emulate them.
One question the lack of uniformity raises is whether the NPL will indeed satisfy the powers that be at the Asian Football Confederation, which if it doesn’t could mean that the massive upheaval around the country will be for nought. For those who do not follow football the AFC wanted the FFA to deliver a second tier competition as promised when they entered the Confederation, the National Premier Leagues is supposed to fill that void.
On Monday two similar clubs to Marconi and Olympic, pillars of strength in the game in Victoria bravely came out and announced that they would not be submitting to the NPL. The Melbourne Knights the club that produced Mak Viduka and Joe Simunic said in a statement that ‘Members had issue with the proposed level of control of National Premier League clubs, citing concerns for the lack of self determination available to clubs under the new guidelines. Particularly with regards to ownership of the club’s intellectual property.’ This is a very valid concern.
Any sponsorship deal brokered by the FFA for the NPLs as a whole is dependent on all the clubs playing football. Without them playing football there is nothing to be sponsored, therefore it would be nice to hear from the FFA how much of that sponsorship money will be filtered back to the clubs. One argument has been thrown up that the money will be used to employ staff to run the NPL. Why would more staff be needed as surely all those applying to join the NPL are already existing clubs and the administration in each state currently copes with the work load?
The sponsorship issue in fact raises another question as some local councils have restrictions on what can be promoted at grounds rented from them. Whether this question has been raised we don’t know.
Green Gully another hugely successful side in Melbourne in their statement quoted general Manager Raymond Mamo as saying “You’ve got to look at the finance side of things. We don’t feel at the moment that it’s viable and obviously a major concern is that we don’t believe it is for the best interest of the juniors.” It is only fair to say that the fees to join in Melbourne are higher than in Western Australia.
Mr Mamo went on to say, “we have spoken to FFV and we don’t feel as though that they’ve had any answers for any questions that any of the clubs have put together, and they’re stilling progressing to roll this out, which is just beyond us, really.”
The curent proposal in Western Australia is light on substance. Mr Hugg was correct when he said last night on ‘Let’s Talk Football’ “no one can argue about youth development, coach education, good governance, financial sustainability, member protection, conducting audits, having medical staff,” all of these things make perfect sense when trying to improve the game, but all come at a cost. The question is who is going help finance these, how are clubs going to find the extra money? With no Financial plan readily available, as any businessman will tell you, no one would invest in a project such as this, and these clubs are small businesses and need that information before making an informed decision.
Mr Hugg who is employed by the game’s governing body in the West also came out with a bizarre statement on the show ‘if they want a breakaway league I’ll help them set that up.’ This statement may not please his board, but shows he has missed the point when it comes to the concerns of the clubs. The clubs do not want a rebel league, they would rather keep the status quo than jump into a new league that is lacking on information and hard financial facts. With a deadline fast approaching one wonders how many clubs’ officials will be prepared to put their club’s future on the line without stronger foundations in the new NPL. There are still more questions to be asked and answers to be found, whether this can be done in that time frame required time will tell.