The Crawford report gave football fans across the country hope. It promised that the game would finally fulfil its potential in Australia.
Eight years on and the hope is slowly fading. The Crawford report now consigned to an almost utopian dream for football lovers.
Structures for the game were to be put in place that would give it strong foundations on which to build in the future. There is nothing wrong with the structures suggested, but there is a problem with the people within the structures and the policing of the actual running of the game.
The governing body of the game the FFA, have chosen in the main to look outside of football for their experts, John O’Neill came from Rugby Union, as did Matt Carroll, when they left, Ben Buckley came in from AFL as did Archie Fraser and the Head of High Performance John Boultbee came from rowing. The only time they have looked for real football people is when it comes to technical issues, where we have seen Dutch experts recruited such as Rob Baan, Han Berger, Jan Versleijen, and the lone Australian Alistair Edwards.
You do not have to be a ‘football person’ to fill most of these roles, however if everyone around you is not a ‘football person’ then you are going to hit problems at some stage. It will be hard to know who to listen to, who is giving you good advice or simply trying to further their own career. It is not by accident that football is known as ‘the people’s game,’ and if you forget that at any time you are walking a very dangerous path. Just like in business, the CEO does not necessarily have to know the business he is in inside out, as long as his support management team are on top of the industry.
The FFA is the benchmark for Football in Australia, but sadly some have used it as a stepping stone to further their careers in their preferred sports or fields, others have simply taken work there because they could not cut the mustard in other sports.
Being the benchmark, they are an example on which other sectors of the game model themselves. Sadly we see the same problem with many of the A League clubs, owners and administrators who have no idea what it means to be a passionate football fan, what a player feels like, the way the football industry works, etcetera. Is it therefore any surprise that the A League is floundering? It is great that these Abramovich wannabes have the money to throw away on clubs that are destined to lose millions, but is the FFA not checking that they have the structures to be more sustainable than they are? Are they not ensuring that good business practices are being followed? What happened when this season one club’s players were not paid for a fortnight?
Delve deeper into the state organisations and again we see disarray. The State bodies are not run on uniform structures or constitutions, yet that was one of the recommendations of the Crawford Report. Who is checking this? Who is making sure that the standing committees are operating properly and that these representatives of the game are communicating back to their constituents?
Again at State level around the country we see Football being used as a stepping stone to careers in their preferred sports, many of those employed lacking any passion for the game that gives them a living.
The basic decision making at this level frequently defies logic and results in the fans, players, coaches and parents becoming disenchanted.
It will however continue until the governing body realises that there is more to the Australian game of Football than the Socceroos. Should Australia fail to qualify for the World Cup in 2014, the game will be dealt a severe body blow, and those who love the game will witness another draft of staff jump ship. Hopefully then they will be replaced by people with the correct skills to carry the game forward to where it should be and should have been for years, if it were not for the gross mismanagement at all levels.
It is time to start employing the right people for the right jobs. People who take pride in what they do and have no hidden agendas. Unless that happens the A League could become the NSL, and fans will end up with No Soccer League.