FIFA decision looms on FFA's bid to delay reform

Football reformists are hoping FFA’s bid to delay democratisation of its congress will be quashed at a crucial FIFA meeting later this month, as the campaign to shake Whitlam Square’s governance structures gathers momentum.

Football Federation Australia

FFA Chairman Steven Lowy (left) and FFA CEO David Gallop (right) Source: Getty Images

FIFA’s Members Associations Committee will gather at a meeting in Zurich on 26 April.

It’s possible FFA could be given as little as 30 days to fall into line with FIFA’s other 211 associations and broaden their constituency - or potentially be stripped of all authority and replaced by a FIFA-run committee on an interim basis.

Having failed to meet the March 31 deadline set by FIFA and the AFC over the formation of a new, more inclusive congress, FFA has sought an extension until its annual general meeting (AGM) in November.

FIFA remains reluctant to enforce change by overt measures, but it retains the right to do so – as was the case last year when it replaced the Argentine FA with an interim body.

However, while it's likely they will rubber-stamp the FFA's request for an extension, those pushing for reform are hopeful FIFA will intervene.

“There will be a decision by that committee on FFA’s application to delay change until November,” said Tom Kalas, interim chairman of the Association of Australian Football Clubs (AAFC), who are the united body representing the 104 National Premier League (NPL) clubs seeking a voice on the congress.

“I’d be a little surprised if they allow FFA to delay the introduction of a more inclusive congress any further than they already have. But we’ll have to wait and see.”

FIFA have urged the FFA to consider talks with NPL clubs, whose ultimate aim is a promotion/ relegation model.

The other agents calling for change within Australia are the 10 A-League clubs, who currently hold only one of the 10 votes to elect the FFA board, and the state bodies, who currently hold nine votes.

The A-League clubs are chasing six votes on a refashioned 17-strong congress, with the players' union, Professional Footballers Association (PFA) vying for two.

The FFA’s preferred 13-person congress model – which allots three votes to the clubs and one to the PFA – has already been quashed by FIFA. Hence FFA’s appeal to the world governing body for an extension.

“No matter what happens, these delays in restructuring the way the game is governed are costing a lot of time and money,” added Kalas. “The game's stakeholders need to get around the table.

“But the FFA, for whenever reason, seem to want to delay change, as they attempt to negotiate their way into a better position, which is disappointing.”

FIFA retains the right to step in at any stage and snatch the levers of power from FFA chairman Steven Lowy and CEO David Gallop – just as it did in Argentina.

While such a fate is highly unlikely to be visited upon Australia, that risk remains while FFA procrastinates.

Reformers, including Football Federation Victoria and Football NSW, believe if FFA is intent on maintaining the status quo, at the expense of the cubs, there will be ongoing ructions and instability, even if Head Office gets its way with the eventual acquiescence of FIFA.

“We need all the tiers of football to be fully integrated,” added Kalas, referring to the promotion/relegation dream of his organisation. “Everybody is clear the current system isn't working, even the FFA themselves.”

Kalas, meanwhile, reiterated that he will step down from his role at the AAFC in late June to make way for board elections.

“I've said from the beginning that I won't be nominating for a role moving forward as I want to encourage the establishment of a truly national organisation with no state dominating this important football stakeholder,” he added.

“We had to start this association from somewhere and I hope to encourage strong candidates from interstate to put their hand up and join a board of equals to lead this organisation.

“We have many highly motivated and experienced football administrators in our NPL tier throughout Australia and I'm very excited by the mood of reform that our code is going through.”

FIFA representatives have been holding informal talks with the AAFC since its inception in March and have been tacitly encouraging FFA to also enter into dialogue with the new body.

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4 min read
Published 10 April 2017 at 10:21am
By Dave Lewis