FIFA slammed for delaying crisis mission to Australia

FIFA has come under fire for prolonging the inertia gripping Australian football, after sources in Zurich revealed the delegation charged with resolving the game's governance crisis will not travel to Sydney until February at the earliest.

The world governing body signaled its intention to oversee last-ditch talks over reforms for the composition of FFA's Congress after its Member Associations committee met before Christmas.

The expectation was that a task force would jet to Australia in January to set up its Congress Review Working Group to resolve the bitter impasse between FFA and its rebellious stakeholders over the structural reforms demanded by FIFA.

Speaking on behalf of the Australian Professional Football Clubs Association, Adelaide United chairman Greg Griffin revealed the clubs were penning a letter to FIFA seeking an update on their arrival dates in Australia.

"FIFA have made no contact with us since the decision (to come to Australia was announced), and even then it was not directly communicated to us," he explained.

"We are in the process of writing to FIFA seeking clarification."

The delay is a cause for concern, according to former Soccer Australia and Football NSW CEO Stefan Kamasz, who fears a cosy behind the scenes relationship between FIFA officials and the all powerful Lowy family may be muddying the waters.

In December former FFA chairman Frank Lowy flew to Switzerland to lobby high ranking FIFA officials over threats of imposing a normalization committee to run the game in Australia.

His son Steven, who was effectively bestowed the chairmanship by his father two years ago, has also personally lobbied FIFA president Gianni Infantino in recent months, with a view to staving off the sacking of the FFA board.

"I just hope there are no discussions going on on the side between FFA and FIFA to further delay things," said Kamasz, who was also part of the member of the implementation panel that made recommendations for the formation of the A-League.

"That possibility really does concern me. I hope it's not the case but nothing would surprise me with FIFA.

"This (the game's plight) needs to be sorted out fairly quickly.

"If FIFA are not coming down before February it's troubling because FIFA are not exactly the bastion of good governance themselves. They have had plenty of their own issues in the past.

"I am yet to be convinced they have turned a corner to become the organization they should be."

During his recent eight month stint as Football NSW CEO - which concluded last June - Kamasz sampled first hand what he described as the "inflexibility" of Steven Lowy in embracing the prospect of greater representation in the game's governance.

"I am disappointed in the apparent inflexibility of Steve and his board in all this," he said.

"I attended a meeting with Steven Lowy and some of his board members when they came out to see us.

"They made it quite clear he wasn't going to be flexible at that stage with their reform model.

"What surprised me was FFA did not appear to have a vision of where they eventually saw the voting rights of the various members of the Congress going.

"There was no long-term plan. They said it was the first stop on a journey while we wanted to know what the destination was.

"They had no answer to that, which I found astounding."

NSW and Victoria are the two state federations who have joined forces with the A-League clubs and the PFA to oppose Lowy's version of reform.

"It's difficult to support FFA when they don't have a long term plan that takes into consideration of all the special interest groups," said Kamasz.

The former administrator supports the clubs in their quest for autonomy from FFA in running the A-League, with certain provisos.

"If FFA had followed what was written in the Crawford Report much more than they did, then they would not be facing many of the issues they are today," he said.

"In my view the league should be managing its on day-to-day affairs under the auspices of FFA."

With A-League crowds and TV viewing figures tumbling and the vagaries of the VAR all burning issues as stagnation envelops the competition, Kamasz is also perturbed by what he describes as "the fun police" destroying the match-day experience for many fans.

In the light of recent examples of kids being told off for leaning against a fence, the Barmy Army and Brentford fans having flags and banners taken down by over-zealous security at A-League games, Kamasz said: "These sorts of things are ridiculous. Commonsense has to prevail.

"There has to be a balance and the pendulum has swung too far the way of the fun police."

He would also like to see expansion back on the agenda, rather than FFA focusing its energies purely on perpetuating its own grip on absolute power.

"The Lowys need to understand that they don't own the sport," he said. "Frank Lowy has done tremendous good for football but he and Steven need to loosen the reins.

"Make no mistake, Frank may not be chairman any more but he is still exerting plenty of influence from the sidelines.

"The reality is that Australia has been ripe for expansion for a while and not enough effort has been put in by FFA.

"If we don't expand soon, stagnation will continue and people will be turned off.

"There needs to be a road map of where we want to be in 10 to 20 years time."

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Published 2 January 2018 at 3:25pm
By Dave Lewis