Players' union urges FFA to show vision, leadership

The players' union has called on the new Football Federation Australia regime to show vision and leadership as the game reels from the most difficult period in the A-League's 10-year history.

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David Gallop and Steven Lowy Source: Getty Images

Professional Footballers Australia chief executive Adam Vivian said A-League players were concerned about their livelihood as active supporter groups vowed to boycott the weekend round of matches, throwing the competition into disarray.

The league is in crisis mode after an ugly dispute arose from a 'name and shame file' of 198 banned fans sparked widespread anger from the football family at the FFA.

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Thousands of stakeholders claim FFA were wrong in banning some of the fans and not giving any of them a right of appeal and the governing body should have defended the game amid a vicious attack from sections of the media.

FFA have conceded that it should have responded much quicker to the media attacks and promised they would address the appeals process immediately but this conciliatory stance has not appeased active supporters who said they will go ahead with their planned boycotts.

"What the game is crying out for is vision and leadership," Vivian said.

"We're in a situation now where people want to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

"They want to know whether there is a solution ahead.



"There is an opportunity here for football to recover from this because the game is on the cusp of greatness.

"But unless we recognise what that vision is we'll just keep going round in circles."

Vivian spoke at length about the dispute that has put the fans at loggerheads with the FFA.

Are the A-League players concerned that if the dispute is not resolved their livelihood might be jeopardised?

"There is certainly a fear of the unknown. One of the game's biggest stakeholders - the fans who come and watch them week in week out - are considering boycotts so there is definitely a concern.

"The key metrics that drive the revenues affiliated with the game such as membership, broadcast numbers and gate receipts, are in jeopardy.

"The reality is that there is an emotional relationship with the fans but there is also a financial reality as well.

"Having said that, players have long dedicated themselves to a competition forged upon fans and an engagement with them and would not have it any other way. That's why they stand by the fans in terms of having a strong voice in the decision-making process within the game. They're not cutting their nose off to spite their face."

As a football fan, what's your gut feeling: is the A-League in trouble?

"Interesting question. I think the dispute is not irreconcilable but it should have been dealt with much sooner and in a less twisted manner and knocked on the head.

"I think what the fans sought initially was a voice and that was not an unreasonable request.

"We also saw the clubs being vocal in they support of their fans.

"Has this caused damage to the league: yes. Is it irreconcilable: absolutely not. The situation is salvageable but it needs to be managed very, very well. Apart from the legal and financial realities there is also an emotional element involved because our fans are passionate about their clubs and their sport."

Is there a risk that this unequivocal support for the fans might actually glorify the thugs who deservedly are on the infamous banned list?

"No one is condoning anti-social behaviour. Everybody has been clear on this. What the players are saying in their support for the fans is that they are hearing what they have to say, meaning that they deserve the right to appeal if they feel they have been wrongly banned.

"Players want a safe environment for the fans."

Ange Postecoglou was urged to retract his neutral stance during the recent CBA dispute. Do you expect the FFA to not take too kindly to the players' support for the fans?

"The federation are not always going to be happy with the position players take and that has occurred on a number of occasions and we're not foreign to that.

"However the players have a very measured message and they are not going out there to prosecute it (the FFA). They want a fair process and if the federation take exception to that it would be very disappointing because the players have the support of their clubs, coaches and association. And at no stage are they speaking out against the federation.

"With regards to Postecoglou's comments, we were disappointed he retracted his comments but I have nothing but the utmost respect for one of the game's most important stakeholders."

Will the PFA express its concern over the players' livelihood with the FFA?

"We have not gone down that path yet but a number of our senior member have expression their views via the media or their clubs.

"However this is a fantastic opportunity for the new FFA under the leadership of Steven Lowy to listen to all stakeholders and embrace the players.

"We should all come together, resolve our differences and move forward.

"There is no reason that under the new regime this will not occur.

"Lowy and David Gallop have taken steps in the right direction but this is not about press conferences or public forums but about action to get all the stakeholders pulling in the same direction again."


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5 min read
Published 3 December 2015 at 4:28pm
By Philip Micallef
Source: SBS