Where will the A-League power plays lead?

For an entire working week the FFA were locked in talks with their stakeholders over constitutional change.

Football Federation Australia

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

Both FFA chairman Steven Lowy and CEO David Gallop were bunkered down in critical dialogue with the state federations, the A-League chairmen, the players’ union and other interested parties in a series of meetings over last week.

You may well be saying, what in blazes is going on? What caused these talks and was anything achieved?

It was all triggered by FIFA who were unhappy with the FFA’s governing structure, in particular the number of members entitled to vote during elections for the chairman and directors.

Article 10.1 of the FIFA Statutes says in part: "It is recommended that all Members of FIFA involve all relevant stakeholders in football in their own structure."

FIFA wants the FFA to broaden their congress to include additional stakeholders by representation from groups such as women’s football, Futsal, Beach Football, referees, players and so on. And FIFA wants this done by the end of March.

Hence the talks. Perfectly justified and nothing untoward in that.

But the talks between the FFA and the A-League club chairmen took an unrelated turn and focused on a power struggle for future control of the league.

The clubs, who claimed to have collectively lost $300 million since the league’s inception want more money and more control of their own commercial destiny. It is this desire, let us note, which led to the formation of the autonomous English Premier League in 1992.

The questions are: is it justified, do the clubs rightly deserve it and how would such a change impact on the overall welfare of the game? Can the game as a whole afford to cede more money to the clubs? And if so, how much?

In December the FFA announced the signing of a new broadcast deal for the A-League with Fox Sports worth $346 million over six years, or $57.67 million per year, with the free-to-air deal still yet to be done. Rights to the Socceroos and other national teams are not part of the deal.

Given that the $346 million was generated entirely by the A-League, the clubs want a bigger slice of this money. According to some reports they want all of it.

The problem for the FFA is that it needs some of this money to run the game and in particular its eight national teams only one of which (the Socceroos) generates decent revenues. It also needs funds to develop and grow the game, not an inexpensive business.

That is the impasse.

If you take the Premier League model, the league is affiliated with the Football Association (in fact it is officially called the FA Premier League) but is totally autonomous otherwise. The Premier League has its own governance, its own administration and its own people in charge of generating broadcast and sponsorship revenues. It distributes its revenues among its member clubs as it sees fit.

The FA, for its own revenue raising, relies for the most part on the exploitation of the England men's senior team and other national teams.

While one can understand the reasons why the A-League chairmen would want to go down the Premier League road, it may be a bit too much too soon.

The FFA should be allowed to get on with growing the game and to have the funds to pay for it.

Where will all this lead? My guess is that the FFA will cut the clubs some slack and a compromise arrangement will be found.

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Published 20 February 2017 at 1:13pm
By Les Murray