Bring on independent A-League, says ex-FFA titan Reilly

Former FFA director Jack Reilly has called for an independently run A-League and for the State federations to be stripped of their power, in a far reaching critique of what ails the Australian game.

Jack Reilly with Mark Schwarzer

Jack Reilly with Mark Schwarzer Source: Getty Images

The ex-Socceroos goalkeeper - a member of the legendary 1974 side which qualified for the FIFA World Cup in Germany - Reilly was on the FFA board for seven years and spent four on a key FIFA committee.

But he now insists the world governing body should not be dictating how Australia reforms its governance of the game as the FFA scrambles to broaden its Congress on the instructions of FIFA and the AFC.

Instead, Reilly, who was dismissed from the FFA board via email by then chairman Frank Lowy three years ago, says years of “self-interest” should be replaced by an “open and frank” discussion over the imposition of a “medium to long-term plan that people will be held accountable for”.

“An independent A-League, in which the cubs have a large say in the management, needs to be up and running as soon as possible,” says Reilly, a successful businessman in his own right.

“The A-League has lost $267 million, the owners have been bleeding and a lot of very good people have come and gone ... ripped apart by a game they love.

"We need to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Reilly’s comments come against a backdrop of a meeting of FIFA’s Members Associations Committee on 26 April to decide whether the FFA will be allowed an extension until its AGM in November to further democratize its Congress, having missed a March 31 deadline.

But a dismissive Reilly, who was responsible for helping setting up the A-League's most successful club model in Melbourne Victory while also being the conduit which brought about the City Football Group’s ownership of Melbourne City, said: "FIFA should spend more time putting their own house in order.

“They have just recorded $416m loss and a whole lot of their ex-executives are under investigation.

“They are not the governing body the game requires … everything they preach about is against what they do themselves.

“Right now everything is on hold here regarding issues like expansion in the A-League because of this so-called governance issue.

“FIFA can’t do anything right now to put our game right. We need to have that debate here. Everybody has to be involved to put in place solutions that show some foresight, which has been lacking to this point.”

“There are a lot of people here ready to stand and deliver … so let’s not be dictated to by FIFA, who know very little about what is required here.”

Now in his mid-70s, Reilly said Australia must be “brave enough” to tear down its own structures to galvanise the game’s governance.

“We need one governing body and don’t need state federations any longer,” he added. “In all my time involved in football they have been the weakness but they are the ones with all the power (nine votes on the FFA congress).

“They are the only ones who can put forward directors to the board of FFA, yet in the past 12 years but they haven’t done that and instead have just done what they’ve been told.

“You need one body, professional management in each state and a totally independent A-League “When you have tight knit management it’s amazing what can be done … what we have in Australian football right now is everybody arguing about what should be done.”

Reilly insists that the missing ingredients during FFA’s 13-year stewardship have been accountability and corporate governance.

“The tighter the corporate governance, the better the game will be, which is why FIFA is in so much strife. Because its corporate governance is rubbish.

“I think the current FFA board, competency-wise, is as good as there has ever been. There needs to be a systematic plan put in place and people made accountable for it. Right now everybody is running away from accountability.”

“It’s farcical that the league has been existence for 12 years and we are only having the debate in expansion.”

He believes in the introduction of a promotion and relegation model, but not in the short-term.

Reilly has no desire to step back into the game, preferring to have the freedom to be an interested observer untethered in his views.

He still has recriminations over his exit from the board, declaring: “I don’t know till this day why I was discarded.

“Frank Lowy chose not to extend. I had two years that I could still have done … there have never been any discussion with the board over it.

“I received an email from Frank saying he had to put a succession plan in place. There was never any discussion with me at all. I was very angry about that. But, as was always the case with Frank, it was his way or no way.

“It’s ironic that back in 1982, Frank said the clubs were being crucified by the ruling body (the ASF) and the power of the state federations when he was owner of Sydney City, and he subsequently left the game because of it.

“When he became chairman of the FFA, he used the same set up as his strength … that’s what is so crazy.”

And his final thought on a future he believes can be bright: “Self-interest has killed the game for a long while … it’s time for that to end.”

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5 min read
Published 17 April 2017 at 6:53pm
By Dave Lewis
Source: SBS