Grand final should kick-start the change we need

The 12th A-League grand final brings far more than an opportunity for Graham Arnold or Kevin Muscat and their respective clubs to create new records, it brings a chance to reflect on our broader game in a moment of intense but extremely positive flux.

Sydney FC

(Photo by Nigel Owen/Action Plus via Getty Images) Source: Action Plus/Getty Images

The game is now coming to terms with many aspects left unchecked since the restructure early this century.

The autocratic governance process has run its course. The FIFA edicts came at a good time. The alterations will release much frustration and provide a much needed, broader range of inputs.

It was only a matter of time until the professional game got organised, created a representative body and challenged the status quo. Having the clubs think as one is a major factor in future success, and far too absent to date.

This step is not only natural, but hugely positive if it results in a better outcome for the professional (and therefore broader) game.

It is not to be feared, but leveraged, to use the willingness of the professional clubs to invest, to drive forward, in an appropriate structure with the necessary constraints and balances to ensure the most reasoned and objective decision making.

We all understand, of course, that the professional game is the key to our future, but that a new structure cannot compromise the remainder of the game.

It is a sensitive balance that will take very good minds, our best, to engineer and negotiate.

And the passion at National Premier League level was always going to need assurances about the future, lest it burst at the seams and do the only thing it can in the circumstances, agitate for change.

Without genuine collaboration here, this passion will become more militant and whilst we all understand that this comes from the right place, what is most important is that we end in the right place as well.

Our women’s game, so proudly the flagbearer for all women’s sport, faces major challenges as momentum wanes.

It escaped no one that last week football was again, unsurprisingly, named as the most played sport in this country, at a time when the professional game has stagnated and needs new energy.

The present moment was inevitable and is obviously critical to the long term wellbeing of football.

So, where to from here?

We need total stock as a game, consider ways forward, and collaborate rather than argue only for the largest portion each to the detriment of the whole.

To come together as a game and consider where we were, how far we have come, what could have been done better, where we are falling short and aim to accommodate all aspects of the game going forward.

A national conference would be an excellent initiative right now, post A-League season, to bring everyone together from grass roots to professional, female to male, schools to futsal.

Everyone contributing towards taking the game where we desire it to be. Not for recrimination but for catharsis, in some ways, but primarily growth and improvement.

Holding such a conference is not a sign of weakness, but of strength. It takes a secure culture to genuinely canvas views, and above all we need a renewed feeling of unity in the game that can only come from the progress we are all so passionate about.

And this progress can only be created together, no longer imposed.

With so many sectors seeking redress or rebalance, what we should avoid is concessions, a process of push and push back, of giving each only the least possible. With this, the cycle only continues and will burst again in a few years’ time.

Rather, everyone needs to understand how they fit into the vision and for all to act in the game’s best interests. Not easy in football, but achievable.

Turning to the grand final, Sydney FC are the perfect illustration of the game, in some respects. Breaking records, fabulously successful, yet not reaping the rewards they should in a system that has outlived its usefulness.

It is, actually, a tremendous moment to pivot as a game, confront the issues that have been long festering beneath the lustre of tremendous growth and change, to massively raise our current ambition level and shoot for the stars again.

New energy. New ambition. New togetherness for the game we love.

None of the stakeholders, nor the game, are going to achieve what they desire without it.

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4 min read
Published 3 May 2017 at 3:27pm
By Craig Foster