After court action and the intervention of the Football Federation of Australia, it appears that the much vaunted National Premier Leagues will go ahead in Victoria. Credit to the FFA for stepping in and mediating and negotiating compromise with both Football Victoria and the dissenting clubs to make this happen. The question is does this indicate that they should have a more hands on approach in the future?
Proof that maybe they should have is in the fact that the NPL process was flawed from the outset, by the FFA allowing each member federation to come up with their own state-specific model; it is important here to note that all state bodies are in fact only associate members of the Football Federation of Australia and not full members with voting rights. The state-specific models then needed the approval of FFA and the participating clubs. CEO of the FFA, David Gallop said in August, “each state and territory member federation has the opportunity to shape the NPL criteria to fit their own circumstances.” Did they really? Either way one cannot help thinking that this was a mistake. The FFA should have sat down initially with the clubs and in a true consultative process come up with a model that suited all.
Having followed the battle in Victoria and Western Australia, two states where there appeared to be the biggest desire for change from the game’s state based administrators, it was interesting to see similar accusations levelled at those charged with reform and governing the game. In both states the process has been likened to “communist Russia” and “Nazi Germany.” These are very strong accusations indeed. In both states there have been accusations that the NPL is ‘a grab for power’ by the body charged simply with administering the game on behalf of the clubs. Words such as ‘dictatorship’ ‘megalomania,’ ‘autocratic’ and ‘controlling’ have all been bandied about. Words that should be concerning the powers that be in the Football Federation of Australia, but appear to have fallen on deaf ears.
Another alarming issue are the statements from clubs in both states that they are afraid to air their views for ‘fear of retribution.’ Not The Footy Show raised this issue with the Head of Corporate Affairs and Communications in front of the CEO of the FFA, but he refused to accept that this was happening, and claimed that those days in football were in the past. Yet for clubs to actually state that this is the case it shows how out of touch the FFA are with the game as a whole, as they concentrate on the top end of the game and keeping the AFC happy. Having witnessed first hand a club being threatened these accusations are very real, and the clubs should unite and help each other to stand up to these threats, but are afraid to. Many taking the view it is better to protect their club and stay quiet. These feeling prove that the FFA desperately needs to start paying more attention to the game below the top level.
Many have talked about the additional costs to clubs to be a part of the NPL, and we have down so on this site, but how many clubs have analysed the loss of earning potential?
It has also been interesting to note that in both Victoria and Western Australia the feeling is that the NPL process was more about ‘information giving’ rather than ‘consultation’”. Is this that surprising when the CEO of the FFA is claimed to have told the Board of Football West to ‘stare down’ anyone opposed to the NPL? However the reason they were given this instruction is clear when one looks at why the NPL has been created.
There are a great number of good ideas within the NPL model, but the game at this level cannot afford to fund them. The FFA should have gone out and found the money before they started down this path. The trouble is they had a deadline that had passed with the AFC to bring in a second tier competition to the A-League, and the national team or A-League teams faced sanctions if this was not implemented, and quickly. So once again the grass roots clubs suffer for the elite side of the game.
The rise in player registrations fees is nothing short of disgraceful and one cannot believe that the FFA, who are supposed to be promoting the game as a whole and making it grow, can accept state bodies increasing fees to a level where the game is going to be come an elitist one played only by those who can afford it.
It is also going to be coached only by those who can afford it, or many who think that this is a chance to make some money. Many of the best development coaches are being lost to the game. Why is it that coaches who had the old qualifications are being made to start all over again at the lowest level? Is that not revenue raising? Why is it former National League coaches and highly decorated State League coaches are refusing to start again and pay the fees required? Has anyone asked the damage we are doing to the game having this knowledge turn its back on the game?
Would it not have been better to have assessed these individuals before simply claiming that they must start all over? With actions such as these is it any wonder words like dictator are used?
One thing that the implementation of the NPL has highlighted is that the State body system is not working. One has to ask is there in fact a need for the state bodies? If the FFA wish to take over the running of the top semi-professional leagues maybe the should take over the administration of the game as whole. A restructure would be required, so that all those states outside of New South Wales still have a voice, but we may see the game more united as a whole. It would undoubtedly save a great deal of money too. With the game run under one set of rules and one body nationally such issues as have been experienced with the NPL are less likely to arise, which means less bad publicity, and ultimately a more attractive proposition for sponsors.
Sadly this is unlikely to happen unless the FFA switches its focus from trying to grow the game from the top down to building it from the bottom up. Then again a failure to qualify for the World Cup in 2018 may be the catalyst for change, but that is still four years away. Change needs to happen a long time before then.