In today’s world we frequently comment that people fail to take accountability for their actions, instead they look to pass the buck, blame others for an outcome or a wrong decision made.
In sport there is no hiding from those mistakes, an ill-timed tackle leading to a penalty that costs a team the game, a goalkeeping mistake that leads to a goal, a rash shot that sees a wicket fall and the momentum of the game shifts. As a player there is nowhere to hide. You simply have to put your hand up, accept a mistake was made, and try to learn from the experience ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
While players are playing, in the background there are volunteers running around ensuring that everything is perfect for the game to go ahead. Volunteers come in all forms, from people who wash the kit, to people who paint the lines or supply the drinks for half time. There are also other volunteers who give up their time to represent their club or a group of clubs at meetings away from the game. At club level they are often committee members, at an association Board Members. Then in between the two, we have in football Standing Committee members and Zone Reps.
Some may argue that there are simply too many tiers for the system to work effectively, and they may have a point.
There are various reasons that people become involved in such roles. Some genuinely care about the sport as a whole, or their club or the competition and want to give back to the game. Some are politically motivated and want to climb the ladder, some see it is a gateway to a job in the sport. Some like the power and the perks. Others are there for pure vanity, for themselves. As the saying goes it takes all sorts to make the world go around.
A year ago one of the Board Members of Football West sent this writer a vitriolic email as they were upset at the implication made that the corruption in FIFA had seeped down through the game and was now evident in the game locally. In response the chance to meet and discuss the issues at hand was offered. No response was received. The email was resent. Again no reply was ever received.
The events of recent weeks confirm that feeling that the powers that be in Football seem to always want to tip the scales to suit their own agendas rather than what is necessarily best for the game.
We saw in November 2015 outgoing Chairman of the FFA Frank Lowy shoehorn his son Steven Lowy into the position he vacated. A move that had it happened in any third world country we would have been up in arms, and there would have been screams of nepotism. Yet somehow in Australia it was OK.
In Western Australia we witnessed last night an Extra-Ordinary General Meeting called to approve changes to the Football West constitution to allow the due to be outgoing Chairman, Liam Twigger be allowed to stand for another four year term as a board member, as long as he is appointed Chairman by his fellow Board members. (Changing the Constitution Rather Than Changing the Guard)
There is nothing personal against Mr Twigger but more to do with the way things were done. The issues that left a bad taste in the mouth here was the fact that at the time nominations for the Board closed, this change to the Constitution had not been made, so Mr Twigger was therefore ineligible to stand and so should have been disqualified. Why was an exception made in this one case? No answers have been given. Will others be afforded the same treatment in the future?
Then in what was described as “laughable” by a lawyer, the FFA’s legal department approved a change to the Constitution in which Mr Twigger is actually named and the exceptional circumstances outlined. This is bizarre in itself. It also means that in the next four years the Constitution will need to be changed again to remove the mention.
The whole scenario proves that there is one rule for some, and another for the rest. There have only been two changes to the Constitution since it was created in 2004 and even though requests have been made in the past they have always been knocked back. Now when it suits a Board member a change is tabled and approved.
As disappointing as this maybe, there are many in football who are devastated that those who are supposed to represent the clubs approved the amendment, and thereby opened the path to an unprecedented third term on the Board for Mr Twigger. What is equally disappointing is that neither prior to this meeting has there been a public statement building a case as to why Mr Twigger should be afforded such, and neither has there been any information available post the meeting to explain to the masses the grounds on which those with the votes felt this was good for the game in the long term.
What is even more concerning the morning after is hearing one Zone Rep admit that he had to get the contact details for the clubs in his Zone in order to email them and hear how they wanted him to vote. Of the 42 email addresses given for 31 clubs in that Zone ‘about six’ bounced back. Why did the Zone Rep not have these details already? Why did the Zone rep not contact each club individually on such an important issue? That is what being a “representative” is all about, collating the information of all, not just those who respond to an email, and then based on that information voting as to their wishes.
Another Zone Rep incredibly has written “I believe it is the clubs responsibility to contact their rep if invited not the other way round.” Is this true representation? To justify their position they say that “Most zone reps were either asked to fill a vacancy or elected unopposed.” This is a key role in the structure of the game and Football West should not be asking people to fill a Zone Representative position. If there were no candidates put forward then they must go out and ask the clubs again to nominate someone. By appointing what are essentially ‘their own people’ Football West have created a situation whereby they can ensure that votes go the way they want, and not the way the clubs want. This is especially true if these ‘representatives’ take it upon themselves to vote how they want, which they will do if they feel they are unaccountable to the clubs, and have an attitude whereby the clubs must contact them.
This is not how the system was supposed to work.The Zone Representative role was to be the link between the clubs and the game’s administrators. They pass information back to the clubs and similarly are supposed to carry the wishes to the clubs, along with the Standing Committees to the administrators, who then act upon those wishes.
Understandably questions are being asked today how many of the Zone Reps actually consulted all of the clubs in their respective areas on how they wanted their representative to vote. There are two that Not the Footy Show is aware of, and interestingly they both voted against the changes.The Zone rep that sent the 42 emails had nine responses and apparently voted according to the majority wishes. What about the remaining 22 Clubs? Did they get the email? Was the email contact given by Football West still at the club? Have they been represented? If the majority of the clubs in a Zone can confirm that they were not approached, and that the representative, who was appointed rather than elected, did not vote according to their wishes, where does that leave them? Can they claim that the vote was illegal? Sadly that is most unlikely. They should have objected earlier if not happy with the person appointed. Apparently, they could make a case if they were not contacted and they can prove that the representative voted independently. Although legal advice said they would be better off convening a meeting and sacking the representative.
To muddy the waters even more in this whole affair Mr Twigger apparently personally called every voting member asking for their support. This is disconcerting as it agains shows a circumnavigating of the system. If he wanted to be re-lected and have the Constitution changed he should have been contacting all of the clubs that theses voters were representing and asking them to tell that Representative to support him. Then again he may well have been aware that very few Zone Reps contact all of the clubs in their areas, and the clubs do not know who the Zone Rep is. Which sadly does not reflect well on the organisation if that was indeed the case. After all Football West are supposed to administer the game and the Board are there to ensure that all of the processes work properly.
As always with Football there are other grey areas. One being the news that votes were cast by the NPL Standing Committee.
The NPL Standing Committee is not listed in section 3.7 (a) of the Football West Constitution, so is not a “Member,” so legally cannot vote. As they are not listed in the constitution as a Member they are according to the lawyers we consulted not officially members of Football West.
It is understood that Football West endorsed the NPL Standing Committee in 2015, which under the Constitution they are allowed to do as you will see below:
(b) In addition to the Standing Committees referred to in article 3.7(a), the Directors may, with the consent of FFA, establish any other Standing Committee they think fit.
(c) A Standing Committee is established by a By-law made by the Directors. The By-law must be in a form approved by FFA.
(d) In respect of each Standing Committee the By-law must provide for its functions, membership and operation and the election of, vacation office by, and removal of, members of the Standing Committee.
However it is all very well to endorse them as a Standing Committee, but that does not made them a “member” of Football West. If not listed in the Constitution as a Member, and the Constitution is a binding legal document, they cannot vote at an AGM or a General Meeting.
It would also be interesting if some of the NPL clubs could confirm that have a document referred to in section (d) as Not The Footy Show has been led to believe that no such document exists. So how could the FFA approve them? All questions for another day.
To add to the argument that the NPL Standing Committee are unconstitutional this very question was raised with the former CEO and members of the Board at a meeting held in June 2013 before the NPL commenced. The response as to whether the NPL would have voting rights was “The Football West constitution would have to be changed for that to happen and the FFA have to approve all changes. The current Standing Committee cannot simply be moved across, as this is a new League not mentioned in the constitution.”
So that should confirm that if they voted the Meeting it was unconstitutional.
It has also transpired that two Life Members of Football West, who also happened to be Chairs of Standing Committees voted. Obviously the committees they represent have voted them into these positions, but it is usually unadvisable to do so. Even if they are upstanding citizens accusations could be levelled that their allegiance lies with the organisation rather than those they represent.
The Constitution states under section “9.6 Rights of Life Members A Life Member:”
(a) is not to be counted in a quorum under article 5.1;
(b) has the right to remain a Life Member until they die or resign their Life Membership;
(c) subject to any separate agreement with the Company to the contrary, has no obligation, and may not be required, to pay any subscription or other amount;
(d) is entitled to receive notice of general meetings;
(e) is entitled to attend and speak at general meetings; and
(f) is not entitled to vote at any general meeting.
For those wondering what section 5.1 says, it reads as follows:
5.1 Number for a quorum
Subject to article 5.4, 60% by number of those persons who are Members and who are entitled to vote are a quorum at a general meeting.
Now we believe that a claim has been made that the two Life Members were attending the two meetings yesterday as the Chairs of their respective Standing Committees, and hence they were allowed to vote; even though one was the chair of the NPL Standing Committee whose vote we have already stated was ineligible. As stated previously by legal experts the Constitution is very poorly constructed, but the experts we spoke to believe that section 9.6 (f) definitely still applies and that they should not have been allowed to vote.
The advice we received was that there is no clause that says that they can vote if elected to a position as a Zone Representative or on a Standing Committee, so therefore the line “is not entitled to vote at any general meeting” must apply at all times, irrespective of whether clubs chose to elect them as Chair of a Standing committee. In fact it was stated that if the Standing Committees were across the constitution, only fools would elect a Life Member to represent them as they are voiding their vote.
So the AGM was to bring down the curtain on 2016. It was held three months after it was legally supposed to be held under the Corporations Act; the second time in two years this has happened. It was hoped by many that it would draw a line under a turbulent year in local football, and be the dawn of new beginnings. Instead it seems to have simply created more headaches and shown just how poorly administered the game is in Western Australia and that it cannot abide by its own rules.
So who is to be held accountable? If this was a third world Country or even FIFA what would your reaction be?
Should the AGM and General Meeting be held again in light of ineligible voting, of course it should. Will it happen? Most unlikely unless the clubs who failed to communicate with their Zone Reps find voice and speak as one, it will simply be brushed aside and forgotten, until next time.
As stated at the beginning of this rather long piece, players are held accountable for their mistakes, so too are clubs if they are late with registrations or put the wrong number on the team sheet. Surely then someone in administration has to be held accountable for this mess? The question is who?