Trust is a word that is fast becoming outdated. Trust that people will do the right thing in football has become very much a thing of the past. Clubs no longer ask a club if they may talk to a player at a rival club about a move to their club, and some clubs do not even ask when it comes to trying to steal a coach.
What is even more sad is the lack of trust that appears to abound when it comes to those running the game.
When the draw of the 6th round of the FFA Cup was made in Western Australia, a round that doubled up as the quarter finals of the State Cup competition, there were accusations levelled at Football West that despite the draw being filmed, that the draw was not as it seemed.
The draw saw the four remaining NPL teams in the competition all drawn against sides from lower divisions. Two coming from Division One and two from Division Two. The fifth round had seen two of these sides knock out NPL sides. In Round four three more NPL sides were defeated by teams outside of the NPL.
There are many who feel that these victories were embarrassing to the State body, as they were showing up the teams in the top flight. They were causing people to question whether the NPL sides really were the cream of Western Australian football.
How can the draw be ‘fixed?’ As has been revealed by those involved in major international draws the balls that are taken out of the glass bowl or bag are either heated or put in a freezer before the draw to make them hot or cold. This way the person drawing the balls out can feel which ball is hot or cold and if they have been briefed ensure that they are drawn first to have a home tie, or make sure that they do not draw two “hot balls” consecutively to avoid two top teams playing each other in the next round.
Such accusations have been levelled at the English FA when it comes to the FA Cup, as in the past seven years three of the semi finals have seen Northern teams drawn against each other, while in the other draw two Southern sides have played for a place in the final. In 2014 there was only one Southern side in the semi finals, Arsenal. In 2010 there were three southern sides and one from the Midlands. While in 2011 Manchester City met Manchester United and Bolton Wanderers played Stoke City, which ensured that the FA Cup final would have some romance, with a lesser team assured of playing a big club. Were the accusations founded? Looking at the draws over the years it is unlikely, but conspiracy theorists will always argue otherwise.
It will be interesting to see how the draw in Western Australia pans out, and also whether there will be representatives of each club present. Will the two NPL sides be drawn against each other? This would be risky for the reputation of WA teams in the eyes of the conspiracy theorists here, as it would mean that a Non-NPL side would be representing Western Australia in the FFA Cup, when the A-League clubs come in and the draw becomes national. Then again if such a draw was made the Western Knights would be playing Dianella White Eagles, teams with a rich rivalry from the days before the ethnic origins of the clubs were scrapped. It would be a mouthwatering tie, but it maybe again a tie that the powers that be will want to avoid as it could bring with it trouble, as people who have not been seen at games for years decide to use the game for the political purposes. Hopefully that would not happen.
We keep hearing about the romance of the FFA Cup, it has been for a long time simply rhetoric, but now in Western Australia it has the chance to actually be a reality.
Hopefully Football West will be able to shut up those who have their doubts about the draw by having representatives of all clubs present, and allow these representatives if they so wish to feel the balls and make sure that none are hot or cold. Also, unlike in previous rounds the balls should be placed in a vessel that is not transparent so the person drawing the balls is unable to see the numbers before taking them out.
Whatever the outcome the semi finals promise to be a great event. The non-NPL sides have won their places in the 7th round of the FFA Cup on merit, and credit to those two sides who were knocked out as they made their opponents work hard for their victories, even though the scores may not reflect that.
One thing is for sure the State Cup and FFA Cup in Western Australia has shown that the teams outside the NPL are more than good enough to compete with their NPL counterparts. The talent gap has definitely narrowed in some cases. Seven NPL sides, half of the number in the league, having been knocked out by teams from lower divisions backs up this statement.
Please Note: The draw was carried out after this piece was posted, representatives of the clubs were in attendance and it is understood that they requested to feel the balls and make sure that they were neither hot or cold. All were satisfied that the draw was legitimate even if they were not happy with the outcome.