Pressure mounts on FFA but club owners must take responsibility too

The discussions taking place between Football Federation Australia and club owners about the A-League’s future direction might just be the spark the competition needs to overcome its current stagnation.

Football Federation Australia

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

Just as important however, will be the club owners investing more heavily in their organisations.

It’s what was recommended from the very beginning and finally it seems the clubs are on their way to taking control of the A-League, or at the very least a restructuring of the financial model.

While that model has rightly been the source of much discontent among club owners, there is also reason for FFA to be concerned about relinquishing total control to the clubs.

Just take a look at the stories of mismanagement over the competition’s 12-year history, from players not being paid super, to clubs only meeting the salary cap floor, clubs going under, to players and staff not being paid it all.

The FFA have every right in asking: if you can’t manage your clubs, how on Earth can you manage the league?

The club owners can rightly claim they have not been giving enough of the revenue to do so, as well as a lack of incentives.

With a new model on the horizon there absolutely has to be greater investment from owners into clubs desperately lacking resources. There can be no excuses.

It’s not only on the field where there’s been a malaise in the A-League. Off the field much more needs to be done to reach elite sport standards.

Club owners should be investing in facilities, training grounds, coaching staff and sports science. Some are doing it well, others are falling well behind.

The holy grail for each club should also be playing in their own stadium, or at least one that’s fit for purpose.

There are two important reasons why this needs to be happen for the A-League to reach its potential.

  1. The vast stadiums some clubs are playing in diminishes the atmosphere created by fans and hurts the television spectacle.
  2. Owning the stadium (or getting a good deal) creates another opportunity for revenue through food and drink sales, while also allowing the club to take more control of its matchday marketing. Food trucks! Let’s have food trucks!
From the outset the PFA’s Australian Premier League model called for the clubs to play in boutique stadia and that still stands (pun intended) today. They also need to be fitted for the climate. Adelaide must have sun protection, Wellington, wind resistance.

Yes this is expensive, yes this will need government help, but if the A-League is serious about success and breaking through this current malaise, this is what needs to happen - just look at the MLS.

As well as investing in infrastructure, clubs need greater investment in the front office.

Many have criticised the competition’s media and marketing of recent times, but what should be understood is that this is an area greatly under-resourced at some clubs.

It’s no use investing in players and coaches when the fan experience leaves much to be desired because there simply isn’t enough people to pull it off properly.

Only by clubs investing in the A-League product as a whole will there be an opportunity to create a greater buzz around the competition and in turn more revenue.

Well done to the owners for continuing to fight for what their clubs deserve, but the onus is also on them to invest, improve and grow the league.

If not, what are they in this for?

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4 min read
Published 17 February 2017 at 4:05pm
By Vitor Sobral