After the shortest of romances the FFA Cup is headed for divorce after just one year. Which is a shame, but not totally unexpected.
First of the competition was rushed through to start in 2014 to make good on a promise made to the Asian Football Confederation when Australia joined Asia and left Oceania. The promise was that Australia would have a knockout Cup competition by 2013. That never eventuated, neither did a second tier competition to the A-League and with Asian Champions League spots in jeopardy, the National Premier Leagues competition – which is far from a National competition – and the FFA Cup were cobbled together. In fact the FFA submitted a document to the AFC stating the NPL would commence in 2014 before every state had actually signed up to it; in fact in Western Australia no club has signed up to be a part of the NPL still.
The FFA Cup was a great idea, the chance for State League/NPL clubs to pit their wits against the full times professionals. The hope like in every competition being that you draw one of the big teams your club has a chance to make some money.
Oh no, no, no, no. How wrong could everyone be. This competition has nothing to do with helping the semi-professional clubs make a little extra revenue, as is becoming abundantly clear.
The draw was “fixed” to ensure that at least one semi finalist comes from outside of the A-League, rather than leaving that possibility to ‘the romance of the cup.’ This was anti-climactic to start with, six A-League clubs drawn against each other and three eliminated immediately. Other fixtures proved convenient, and were again deliberate cost saving measures on what was always going to be a costly competition to run. That was unless a major sponsor came on board. Westfield did as a naming rights sponsor, the company owned by the Chairman of the FFA, Frank Lowy. No prize money figures have been announced and so far no club has received any windfall from playing in the competition.
In fact three clubs have been forced to move away from their home grounds to play A-League opposition. No compensation has been given to those clubs, and as many were warned their FFA Cup experience has ended up losing them money.
The reason given for them having to move was another example of a very uneven competition, and one tilted heavily against the non A-League sides. A-League teams require a certain standard of lighting, or Lux, to play against state league opponents. As the latest draw has shown this means that what was good enough for the Melbourne Knights is not good enough for the Central Coast Mariners!
After hosting their opening FFA Cup game against Melbourne Knights at their home ground Goodwin Park, Olympic FC been told that their ground is not of a suitable standard to host the Central Coast Mariners, so they have been forced to move the game to the Queensland Sports and Athletic Centre.
This shows what a complete and utter shambles the competition is. Firstly no club participating was told of the lighting requirements and therefore had no time in which to upgrade their lights. Do non-league teams in the UK have such lighting issues? no. Now one team has been eliminated playing under such lighting while another doesn’t have to, does that give the Knights grounds to lodge a complaint? As the rules are different depending on which team is playing.
Some clubs faced with having to hire an alternative ground have asked to play away, and hand the gate to the A-League side in return for airfares and accommodation and a set number of tickets. Something that is common in the English FA Cup if a non League side draws a club from the higher divisions. They know they stand to make more money playing away than at home and forfeit that benefit to make some money. The same rule should apply here. If the A-league side is happy to accommodate the NPL side, and give them money from the gate that they can in turn spend on new lights, or better still junior development everyone wins. However the FFA slammed down its iron fist and would not even consider such an argument.
Not surprisingly the biggest argument from the NPL clubs is if you want to move us to a ground where the lighting is better at least compensate us. Maybe they should have simply forfeited the game to ensure the message hit home? Once again their cries fall on deaf ears, as this competition has nothing to do with romance, it is purely to satisfy a requirement.
With Fox Sports only televising one game per round streaming was an ideal way for fans to stay in touch with the FFA Cup around the country. Melbourne Victory and Brisbane Roar paid for such a service so that their fans could watch their games in Western Australia. That too will cease from now on.
On Monday, all FFA Cup participants were advised by a memo from the FFA that “there will be no further opportunities for clubs and/or Member Federations to organise an online stream of any Westfield FFA Cup matches.”
In addition to this they advised “member federations” – all state bodies are in fact only Associate Members of the FFA – that they cannot house highlights or footage on their websites as it is “in breach of the broadcast and online contractual agreement.” What the hell happened to the FFA’s role of promoting the game? Some of the games streamed had viewing levels around 20,000. For teams playing who normally attract 200 through the gate this is great news. This is what the game needs. If people watch games like this on line then you have a the chance to entice them through the gates down the track. It shows there is interest there. If you kill that avenue the job of attracting fans becomes even harder.
How many clubs read the rules and regulations before they entered the FFA Cup this year? Probably very few, as most were excited to be a part of such a competition, and with no money filtering down to them on any level they thought this was a chance to make some money. Sadly had they read the FFA Cup and competition regulations they would have seen Article 22.2 states that “FFA has the power to require any FFA Cup Match to be played at an alternative venue or date if FFA considers it appropriate and necessary (in FFA’s sole and absolute discretion). No money or other compensation shall be payable relating to any change of venue.” Had they read that how many would have bothered to take part? How many will in the future? The money to participate can be put to far better use.
There are rumours that next season participating clubs will be asked to pay a ‘participation fee’ to help cover the undoubted high costs of running such a competition. If that is true how many can afford to be a part of such a fiasco?
The sad thing is the FFA Cup is a great concept. It is just tha it has been rushed and not thought through. It has been a marriage of convenience. There has been no love for the game and wanting to nurture club football below the A-League, it exposes those running the competition and proves the great Oscar Wilde to be so very right when he said “where there is no love there is no understanding.” The FFA Cup has proved the powers that be have no understanding of the game at grass roots and until they do this competition will fail, and so will they.