Sometimes it is better to admit that you made a mistake, and then find the simplest solution to extricate yourself from the situation that has been created by that mistake. There is an old adage in business that says the companies that admit and fix their mistakes the quickest are the ones that thrive.
The last game of the Western Australian State League First Division competition was played on the 17th of September 2016. Leading into that last round of fixtures, and with no official public statement coming from the game’s governing body, Football West, there was a great deal of speculation as to who would be relegated and who would be promoted depending on the results on that final day. (Promotion Rules Must Be Clear in 2017)
Joondalup United won their final game and that meant that they were Champions of the division, and due to an agreement on ground=sharing believed to have been signed that day, were the team announced to be replacing Subiaco United in the National Premier Leagues of WA.
A spokesperson for Joondaulp United told Not the Footy Show that an agreement with Sorrento was reached prior to the deadline issued by Football West on the last day of the season and that they are preparing for their first season in the top flight in 2017.
In late September a leaked email led to the belief that Joondalup United were trying to oust Whitford City, an amateur club, from their ground and were trying to broker a deal via the City of Joondalup Council. Yet the club has stated that this was not for the first team, but for their junior sides.
Understandably the relegation faced Subiaco United and second placed team in Division One, Mandurah City, who were due to play off if Joondalup failed to meet the required criteria by a set deadline have both approached Football West to ask for clarification on the ground issue. Let us not forget that Mandurah City were denied promotion in 2016 simply because they refused to promote under 13 year olds to play in the under 14 competition and have them beaten every week playing as an Under 14 team.
With ground specifications being such a key requirement for clubs playing in the NPL it would be expected that there would have been a compliance form created for every NPL club, with a list of the requirements that could be ticked off, and which a club representative and Football West sign. This would signify that both parties agree with the assessment, and know the work that needs to be done moving forward. It would appear that there is no such document.
Most would agree that it is not unreasonable for Subiaco and Mandurah to request a copy of documentation that confirms agreement was reached prior to the final game kicking off and not after. Mandurah has advised that they have not received a response to their request, which has according to a club representative been sent to the Chairman and the Chief Operating Officer & Head of Competitions at Football West.
The word is that the Subiaco has emails which conflict with other information that they have received from the game’s governing body.
Supposedly a meeting was held this Friday evening to try and come to a conclusion as the threat of legal action is now floating in the air. Legal action, that it has been suggested to Not the Footy Show, that Football West have been advised to avoid at all costs.
The obvious and easiest solution to the predicament would be to increase the number of teams in the NPL from 12 to 14. The problem that the game’s administrators have here is that the existing NPL clubs have apparently rejected such a suggestion.
This comes as no surprise, as there has been not central-funding feeding money into the NPL clubs to help them with the cost of up-skilling their coaches’ qualifications, as well as maintenance to their club grounds to meet the requirements stipulated by Football West.
Two new sides would mean four more fixtures, which would mean four more games the club has to pay its players, and with rumours that three clubs failed to pay their players in the final weeks of the 2016 season, the extra cost would be something the existing clubs would definitely want to avoid.
The more worrying fact is that still three seasons on little to no marketing of the NPL is being done. The West Australian, as a sponsor of the finals series, ran some adverts as part of their sponsorship agreement, but beyond that there has been little or no marketing of the state’s top football competition. When the State League became the National Premier League of WA the newly branded competition needed to be marketed. All that was done was a website was created by the FFA for each state competition and a Facebook page. Is it therefore any wonder that crowds are at some grounds the worst they have ever been?
With Mandurah City twice having crowds in excess of 1000 in the 2016 season one wonders why they would want to play in the NPL. Maybe they believe that they could double those numbers playing in the top competition.
What is disconcerting to all is that no decision has been made on next season, and according to the clubs there has been very little communication. Subiaco United want to know if they are preparing for another NPL season or life in Division one, and the possibility of losing a large number of their juniors. Again a knock-on effect that Football West were warned of when the NPL is promoted to parents that if their child is to progress he must play for a NPL junior side. Mandurah City on the other hand have done their budgeting for next season expecting to play in Division one. They also start their trials process next week. IF they are to be promoted suddenly the way they approach these trials changes, and also they will have to find a great deal more money to run an NPL club. As mentioned Joondalup United are already planning for their first NPL season so if they are suddenly rejected a place in the NPL it could be devastating to the club as a whole.
Once again this situation should not have arisen. If hard and fast rules were put in place in the off season, and every club were made to sign off on these rules before a ball is kicked at the start of the next season, it could be avoided in the future. If every club ground was given an assessment at the start of each season and advised on what work needed to be done in the next six months, again everyone would know where they stood.That is how competitions are supposed to be run, every team knowing the rules and every team complying with the rules. It comes down to basic management and putting in place procedures.
Sadly once again this situation turns the spotlight on the Standing Committees and Zone Reps as they are the bodies with the power to make Football West, who are there simply to administer the game, comply with their demands. Their failure to make their position clear or heard has also contributed to this situation, and the clubs should be sitting down with their representatives to ensure that it never happens again.
So where will this all end? Will Joondalup who on the pitch won the right to play in the NPL in 2017 actually play? Will Subiaco receive a stay of execution? Will Football West try to ensure a 14 team League happens to avoid a legal challenge? Will the clubs stand firm and reject this? Who ultimately will be held accountable for this debacle and do they deserve to remain involved in the game?
An announcement is expected at the start of the coming week. One thing is guaranteed a lot of people are going to be unhappy.