Australian football 'in the gutter', says former FFA heavyweight Reilly

Football governance in Australia is "in the gutter" as the impasse lingers over FIFA-led reforms aimed at empowering the nation's disparate stakeholders.

Gallop and Lowy

FFA CEO David Gallop (L) and Chairman Steven Lowy Source: AAP

That's the view of former FFA powerbroker and board member Jack Reilly, with FIFA poised to disband the FFA board and impose an interim committee in November, unless Whitman Square can find an acceptable power sharing deal with the state federations, the A-League clubs and the PFA.

Such a pact looked to have been brokered last week during FIFA's crisis intervention mission to Australia when the clubs, state federations and PFA reached a consensus on a new expanded congress.

But that was before FFA chairman Steven Lowy, fearing the implications of a dilution of his power base, not once but twice convinced the majority of the nine federation presidents to backtrack on their accord with the clubs and the PFA.

One state federation chief told The World Game last week that a deal agreeable to all parties was still likely to be reached before FIFA steps in to install a 'normalising committee'.

However, ex-Socceroos goalkeeper Reilly, who spent seven years on the FFA board before being dispatched by former chairman Frank Lowy three years ago, insists the disproportionate voting power by the states is a root cause of the stalemate stymieing reform.

"It goes back to the mid-90s, politics was killing the game then because of what happens with the state federations and it is doing the same now," said Reilly.

"I don't think they [the states] should have the numbers, it's a simple as that.

"Right now, the game is in the gutter, and for no good reason.

"A reform agreement had been agreed to twice and then ripped apart. Somebody has to explain how that can happen.

"In my time on the board I identified all the problems that needed solving and committed that to writing.

"I never received one reply or acknowledgement, either from the outgoing board or the incoming board.

"The game cannot prosper until such time as we have an FFA and a wholly independent A-League, and that's it.

"You need professional management delivering and being held accountable."

Reilly believes the states' block of nine votes to the clubs' one in electing FFA boards is disproportionate.

The deal incinerated by Lowy's intervention would have seen the states retain those nine seats on the congress, with the clubs bequeathed five and the PFA one.

"In my view the states should be represented in a different manner ... through a professional management structure in each state," said Reilly.

"Don't forget that 30 years ago Frank Lowy left the game in Australia because he believed that the political influence of the states was far too great.

"He then came back and used that influence for his own benefit. And nothing has changed whatsoever since."

Asked whether a FIFA takeover was now inevitable, Reilly replied cryptically: "Never under-estimate the power of the [Lowy] family.

"In the broader picture, whatever has to happen for the good of the game must happen, whatever that may be."

Reilly bemoans the states' lack of foresight and vision over the years, inferring they have been cowed by the mystique and muscle of the Lowy family, particularity in rubber stamping the dynastic succession of Frank Lowy with his son Steven.

"The current board was a fait accompli ... none of the states put forward anybody," he observed.

"For 13 years they have had the total voting power [to elect the FFA board] and what have they done?

"They haven't been seen to be a different voice in any way, shape or form."

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4 min read
Published 15 August 2017 at 5:57pm
By Dave Lewis