Studs Up: Mistrust of ‘football people’ must end

I HAVE long held the view that football needs to stop copying rival Australian sports and focus on its own interests.

But there is one area it should heed advice from the others. AFL, NRL and Cricket Australia stakeholders and fans would be up in arms if they copped a deluge of board and executive appointments of people without skin in their respective games.

For all the progress in the FFA/A-League era, the last 15 years have been underpinned by a mistrust of “football people”.

For football to reach its full potential, suspicion must be removed and the bar must be raised in time for the November 19 AGM.

I’m not eliminating non-football folk by any stretch, nor devaluing the outstanding business credentials some candidates bring to the table, but the FFA board can no longer be stacked with “outsiders” and it must be counterbalanced because football’s many local and international layers are difficult enough for those in the know to navigate.

DAVID DAVUTOVIC WILL ANSWER YOUR QUESTIONS ON WEDNESDAY. PLEASE LEAVE THEM IN THE COMMENTS SECTION BELOW.

Forget the distractions around VAR (which is in part a symptom of the lack of football nous at FFA HQ) – this AGM is the most important day for Australian football in this decade, as the first democratic election since the early 2000s.

Australian football’s fate is decided by the nine state and territory federation presidents (Victoria, NSW, Northern NSW, SA, WA, Northern Territory, ACT, Queensland and Tasmania), plus the A-League clubs whose vote has been expanded, plus new additions the players’ union (Professional Footballers Australia) and the women’s council.

The FFA Congress debate was hijacked by the suggestion that A-League clubs wanted to take over the game.

But with the correction made, it is now incumbent on the A-League clubs and particularly the state federations to consider the game’s broader interests including their own.

The behaviour of some of the state federations throughout the Congress Review process was abysmal, governed by self-interest and retaining power.

The expanded FFA Congress has a massive responsibility to football, and greater accountability is a must heading into November 19.

The days of secret ballots and clandestine campaigning should be over, and all candidates – especially those running for chair – should publicly outline their vision for football. I believe that should extend to the two current FFA board members (Kelly Bayer Rosmarin and Crispin Murray) who have indicated their intent to stay on.

The 12 board nominees were announced (four positions are up for grabs assuming Rosmarin and Murray stay on) by FFA last Saturday and here’s a brief profile:

CHAIR NOMINEES

• JOSEPH CARROZZI

Managing partner, Sydney at PwC Australia and deputy chairman at GWS Giants.

CRAIG FOSTER

SBS analyst, former Socceroo, ex players’ union (PFA) chairman and CEO executive, ambassador for education and Indigenous football, AFC/FFA A Licensed coach.

• JUDITH GRIGGS

The lawyer and former CEO of Australian Grand Prix Corporation chaired the recent Congress Review Working Group and authored the extensive submission to FIFA.

CHRIS NIKOU

The current FFA board member and Melbourne-based lawyer, who represented the FFA on the Congress Review Working Group, is nominating for another term.

BOARD NOMINEES

• MORRY BAILES:

Lawyer who briefly served on South Australian federation board.

• STEPHEN CONROY

Former Labor minister whose portfolio included communications and ex Volleyball Victoria president.

• DANNY MOULIS

The former NSL player and lawyer is renominating having served on the FFA board for the past three years.

• REMO NOGAROTTO

Former Soccer Australia chairman who’s been involved with Marconi, Northern Spirit and Newcastle Jets. Managing director at Crosby Textor, a global strategy firm with strong government contacts.

• LINDA NORQUAY

Chief financial officer of Lachlan Murdoch’s private investment company Illyria and passionate Sydney FC fan. (NOTE: Murdoch is also co-chair of News Corp, publisher of this blog)

• HEATHER REID

Former Capital Football boss who’s been one of the most active campaigners in the women’s football space.

• MARK RENDELL

Career administrator, having served as CEO at Bowls Australia and most recently Gymnastics Australia. Also served as Victorian football federation chief executive.

• MARK SHIELD

Former international referee and A-League referees’ chief who’s forged a successful business career in the technology space as managing director at Bigmate.

STAYING ON?

• KELLY BAYER ROSMARIN

Finished up as Commonwealth Bank’s group executive, Institutional Banking and Markets last July, after almost five years in the role. Served on the board since 2015.

• CRISPIN MURRAY

Strong business acumen, the Kendal Group equities guru joined the FFA board in 2015 and was closely aligned to Steven Lowy.

The Young Socceroos are the ideal illustration of Australian football’s status quo: The lack of first-team games (two players have played more than 10 senior club games), the shoestring preparation, the lack of publicity.

The A-League is the game’s engine-room – and expansion must occur strategically but aggressively in coming years. But other parts of the game are critical and must work hand in glove with the A-League, not in competition with it.

Everyone will understandably push their own interests, but there is a need for people with a helicopter view of the game who can balance everybody’s interests and push the game forward to avoid factionalism that’s hurt the game too often. And a vision.

Here are the issues that require urgent attention:

– Astronomical and rising cost of junior registrations ($2000-3000 per player, per year)

– Second division

– Promotion-relegation timeline

– Lack of Asian engagement, strategy and poor relationship with Asian Football Confederation

– Lack of senior opportunities for young Australian players

– Lack of investment in Australia’s youth national teams

– Disconnect between professional and amateur game (state league seniors and grassroots)

– State league clubs’ lack of compensation for producing players

– NPL teething problems and medium-to-long term strategies that vary from state to state

– Lack of football accountability at head office (FFA technical director Eric Abrams recently quit after a four-year spell. What is his legacy? What did he achieve? Who did he answer to?)

– Lack of strategy and accountability around Socceroos and national teams (what was Bert van Marwijk’s brief? What was his legacy? Who did he answer to?)

– High costs of coach education

– AIS closure and lack of future plans for elite player development

– No home of football or museum

– A “Whole of Football Plan” which has barely been executed

– Lack of acknowledgment for football’s past (NSL and former Socceroos)

– The NCIP, which has alienated a host of historic, state league clubs

– Relative lack of government funding

– Lack of stadium infrastructure investment

– Lack of investment in women’s football

– Ad hoc scouting of the hundreds of Aussies playing abroad, including the dozens of teenagers leaving due to the lack of A-League opportunities for a shot at becoming pro

I’m sure I’ve missed a few, but there’s enough issues to tackle for the foreseeable future.

DAVID DAVUTOVIC WILL ANSWER YOUR QUESTIONS ON WEDNESDAY. PLEASE LEAVE THEM IN THE COMMENTS SECTION BELOW.

Originally published as Studs Up: Mistrust of ‘football people’ must end

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