Whether you like it or not Social Media plays a major part in the way we live today.
There is of course cyber-bullying and there are the faceless few who hide behind some handle simply to shower people with abuse, and statistically that abuse is far more vile when targeted towards women.
Yet social media can be used to bring about change, as we saw with the Arab Spring in 2011. A University of Washington study revealed that “During the week before Egyptian president Hosni Mubaraks resignation, for example, the total rate of tweets from Egypt — and around the world — about political change in that country ballooned from 2,300 a day to 230,000 a day. Videos featuring protest and political commentary went viral – the top 23 videos received nearly 5.5 million views. The amount of content produced online by opposition groups, in Facebook and political blogs, increased dramatically.”
It has been interesting to follow some of the comments on social media in Western Australia this past week about the state of football, after the announcement a week ago that Joondalup United, who had been told by the game’s governing body that they would be playing in the National Premier Leagues of WA in 2017, would in fact be back in Division One. Subiaco who were due to be relegated would remain, after questioning the validity of Football West’s assertion that Joondalup met the required NPL criteria.
One thing that is clear via the various social media outlets is that the football community are far from happy with the way this has been handled. What has been equally disconcerting is the silence coming from Football West. Apart from a statement on their website last Saturday, there has been no further public comment.
Firstly it is clear that someone needs to be held accountable, and that the clubs deserve an explanation as to how this situation could possibly arise in the first place, and what is going to be done to ensure that nothing similar ever happens again.
Then it is abundantly clear that radical reforms need to come into the game to make sure that it functions in a far more cohesive manner going forward.
It has been at times scary to read some of the comments made by people on Standing Committees who have clearly not read the rules of competition or the Constitution of Football West. Is it therefore any wonder that the club presidents are saying that they believe they should meet and discuss the way forward?
Just about the only thing that has merit in the NPL in its current form is that their Standing committee, despite having no constitutional power, is made up of club Presidents. This makes total sense, as clubs can share information and enforce change as a united group. One thing that should be looked at seriously, if Football West wish to sit in on these meetings, is who their representative is. It certainly should not be a board member. In fact it would make sense if Football West compiled the minutes of the meetings and through their database distributed them to all clubs. Then every meeting would be on record.
Not surprisingly Subiaco has copped a fair amount of criticism. There have been suggestions that they should do the honourable thing, and having won the moral battle, concede the football one and accept their relegation. It is extremely unlikely that this will happen.
Yet as unpleasant as Subiaco’s questioning of Football West’s announcement that Joondalup United had met all of the required criteria, when they had only been asked to satisfy a portion of it by Football West, the game as a whole may look back on this week as a watershed moment in the game in Western Australia.
It would appear that this situation has been the straw to break the camel’s back and unless change come about many will turn their back on the game. There is already talk of rebel leagues, but usually they are just that, talk.
Subiaco, had the courage to question a dictatorial administration, and when threatened they stood their ground, because they knew that they were right. Whether you like the outcome or not, they should be applauded for that. As mentioned earlier, their committee is there to do what is best for their club, and with Football West not adhering to their own rules they did what was best for their club and challenged them. Other clubs have challenged the Football West establishment, yet when it has come down to the face-off have backed down and run back to the suburbs with their tails between their legs.
Rules are in place for a reason, and it is time more attention was paid to them and that they were adhered to by all. Sadly for Joondalup United, they have said that had they been asked fro most of the other criteria requirements they could have supplied them, but Football West had said they would not be required until the end of the next season.
Joondalup’s petition has in a week garnered, at the time of writing, 7,200 votes of support. Based on a registered player number of 42,000 in Western Australia, that is almost 20% of the footballing public. If that does not have any relevance, or have an impact going forward one has to ask what will?
The key issues are there is a definite case for change. At present the view of the future in football if it continues the way it is going, is grim. A new vision needs to be created, one that every club buys into. It must be change that not only stimulates players, coaches and clubs, but change that stimulates people to want to come and watch football again. Change that makes the standard rise, and so too the attendance, which in turn may pull in sponsors. The game needs to be marketed.
It is crucial that there is a buy-in from all, and if that means leaving an established club behind then sadly so be it. Just as players should never be picked solely on reputation, neither should clubs. Some of the “established clubs” have sadly already been left behind as they have failed to move with the times, and their grounds have fallen into an embarrassing state. The NPL submission process failed to do this, and some may argue that the emphasis on certain elements of the criteria was misguided.
There is no harm in admitting that mistakes were made. There is no harm in withdrawing from the NPL finals for a couple of years, and scrapping the points system on players in order to build the standard back up. Accepting that mistakes have been made is a sign of a willingness to change, and change is what is needed.
Maybe even in addition to the board, whether this one remains or a new one is appointed, the game needs a leadership group to steer it through the next few years. A Group of people who take responsibility for the protocols in the game, put in place structures that will be strong foundations for the future. People who are not necessarily there to ram ideas down the clubs’ throats but who can show why a certain path is the best one, and how the clubs can help make it work. A successful organisation, it has been said, is one where there is personal and professional development. It is an environment where each individual, or in this case club, takes responsibility and shares ownership.
Is there such an environment in the game at the moment? How many clubs can honestly say that they share ownership of the direction the game is headed? If they are reading this and saying they can’t, then there is again proof that change is needed.
Will social media be the vehicle that brings about change, or will it be legal action?
Joondalup’s plight has seen the story picked up over East and in Asia, just as with the Arab Spring uprising where the University of Washington claimed in its study that “the success of demands for political change in Egypt and Tunisia led individuals in other countries to pick up the conversation. It helped create discussion across the region.”
Philip Howard the head of the project and an associate professor in communication at the University of Washington stated that “events show us that the public sense of shared grievance and potential for change can develop rapidly. These dictators for a long time had many political enemies, but they were fragmented. So opponents used social media to identify goals, build solidarity and organize demonstrations.”
One feels the same is true in football here in Western Australia, but will solidarity bring about the change everyone is saying they want? Or if we cut off the head will another simply grow in its place?