Time to Reform is an Opportunity For Change

News overnight that the Football Federation Australia has bowed to demands for reform from FIFA and the AFC, which should result in A-League clubs have a bigger say in the way forward and the running of the game in Australia has been welcomed by most outside of the game’s head office.

It was reported last night on the FourFourTwo website that the FFA “has agreed in principle to expand the current structure, although it did not confirm where those increases will come from and how many members the future board will comprise of.”

The move shows that new FFA Chairman Steven Lowy does not have quite the iron-fisted grip on things that he his father had when he was Chair. Maybe this visit was timed for that reason. Steven Lowy on 17 November 2015 was elected as a director of the Football Federation Australia and then was appointed its Chairman replacing his father, Frank. This move had many raising eyebrows around the world, that Australia of all countries would accept such nepotism; It has become almost accepted in third world nations, but not in first world nations.

Lowy was reported as saying that he understood the need for changes to systems that have been in place since 2003. Changes that are required to allow the game to move into it next phase of growth.

“We can and we should consider changes that give all stakeholders the best chance to achieve their potential,” he was quoted as saying. “I’m confident we can move forward with sensible reforms that strengthen the relationship between all stakeholders.”

However if the Board and Mr Lowy are serious about making changes that will help the growth of the game across the country then the constitutional changes must not simply be focussed at the elite level and the A-League.

With no money filtering down from the top to grassroots and the semi professional and amateur clubs, they too need to be given a greater say as to how the game is administered in each state.

The Standing Committee, or Advisory Boards set up, which came into being in 2004 following the Crawford report, has been questionable in having its voice heard. In most instances these representatives have failed to grasp the responsibility they have in relation to carrying the game forward and making decisions for the long term good of the game. They do have the power to implement change. It has even been questioned whether each Standing Committee member has applied to become a ‘member’ of their state body which then and only then gives them the power to vote; as in the various state constitutions it states that this must happen. If, which it has around the country, failed to happen, then the various Board’s are culpable in not ensuring that the game is being run constitutionally.

Each State’s constitution needs to be re-visited, as none have been updated in the past eight years; Football West’s in ten years. In each state there should be the mechanism to call an extraordinary general meeting if need be. Also the term of Board members should be reviewed. In Football West the terms are four years. Most business boards have a term of two to three years, and even the past Chair Kevin Campbell admitted that this would be a wise move, however he failed to make such a recommendation for change.

In each state there are supposed to be Standing Committees or Advisory Groups for so many facets of the game but in many cases these Groups and Committees do not exist, and are not run professionally in terms of keeping minutes of meetings. This is a crucial point in the game’s governance, as it is these Advisory Boards and Standing Committees who have the power to elect the board, and reject or accept board proposals, especially any relating to large expenditure. There needs to be a record for every club, player or coach to have access to should they wish. It would also be a great record for historical purposes.

If Steven Lowy and his board are serious about implementing “changes that give all stakeholders the best chance to achieve their potential,” then “the sensible reforms that strengthen the relationship between all stakeholders,” need to happen throughout the game across the country, and not just in relation to the A-League.

Will this happen? It could, but only if the various Standing Committees and Advisory Boards in each state communicate and put forward such changes, and request that all State and Territory constitutions are brought in line to be the same; Something that FIFA requested during Australia’s World Cup bid, a process that started but once the bid was lost, was abandoned.

The State Federations are the lifeblood of the A-league and W-League. They are also the areas from which Australia’s young internationals come, they deserve to have more say than they currently have, and their voices need to be heard.

Currently the Chairman from each State body has a vote when electing the FFA Board. As these Chairmen are elected by the Standing Committees and Advisory Boards, surely these same Committees and Boards should be advising the Chairperson on behalf of the clubs they represent who to vote for when a FFA Board election comes up. How many have even been advised who the candidates are?

Sadly, the FFA, and the owners of the A-League clubs who put pressure on the AFC and FIFA to come and push for these reforms are only concerned with their own interests, and so it is likely to be the same story for the foreseeable future. However never has there been a better time for the clubs, coaches and players around the country to push for reform and have their voices heard.

Time to Reform is an Opportunity For Change

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