• AAFC chairman Rabieh Krayem (Getty Images )Source: Getty Images
Fears that grassroots football will suffer a funding squeeze and a loss of political clout under the FIFA-backed Congress model to be voted on next month have been dismissed as “a fallacy”.
Dave Lewis

12 Sep 2018 - 9:58 AM  UPDATED 12 Sep 2018 - 9:58 AM

Four state federations threatening to vote down reform and risk Australia being suspended from world football have cited, among their grievances, concerns over the future of grassroots programs under the mooted governance model.

But grassroots football chief Rabieh Krayem, chairman of the Association of Australian Football Clubs (AAFC) which represents the nation’s 126 NPL teams, insists the game at the bottom of the pyramid will flourish rather than flounder should the recommendations of Congress Review Working Group be enacted.

“We believe the change of Congress structure will certainly have an impact on grassroots football ... a positive one,” he said.

“The heart and of soul of football in this country is the grassroots and nobody has articulated clearly how a change in the Congress structure will adversely affect the game at community level.

“The member federations will still maintain over 50 per cent of the vote of the Congress and while some states are fearful that professional game (the A-League) will have too much power it will only have 28 per cent of the vote.
“The reality is that the states have presided over grassroots football for a long time whilst player registration fees have continued to rise and they have done very little to nothing about it.”

The latest hike came after the FIFA World Cup when the National Registration Fee levied by FFA rose by 32 per cent to $33 for adults and by 11 per cent to $14 for youngsters.

FFA says the money is dispersed across national teams programs, the A-League and is filtered back to the grassroots.

“I didn’t hear the states complaining about the introduction of this latest tax,” added Krayem.

“It’s simply a fallacy and fear mongering to suggest that the grassroots will be penalized under the new model. There just isn’t any substance to those claims.

“If the new Congress model was bad for community football I can assure you the AAFC wouldn’t be supporting it.

“Nor would the big player participation rate states of NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. The current structure is simply a tax on players.”

The states propagating the view that community football would be clobbered - Capital Football, Tasmania, Northern Territory and Northern NSW - have the voting power to scupper reform in the current 10 member Congress in which the states have nine votes.

If any three stick to their guns the will of the pro-reform states, which represent 82 per cent of registered players, will be thwarted at an extraordinary general meeting of the FFA board on October 2.

“The biggest issue around the country is the cost of playing the game (which can run into four figures for kids in elite programs),” added Krayem.

“Unless there is reform, which includes the introduction of a second division and the ability to generate more income, then it’s difficult to find new revenues.

“The professional game in this country can’t survive without a strong grassroots backbone.

“But the way things are structured is that no revenues trickle down, everything trickles up in terms of rising registration fees (which the states also charge independently of the FFA).

“The states have had the majority vote on the Congress and all they’ve done is raise the price of playing the game.

“It’s a bit rich for some of them to now say that (Congress change) will have a huge impact on grassroots football, when they’ve presided over these spiraling costs.

“One of the reasons the clubs have formed this alliance (the AAFC) is that they’ve had enough.

“The revised Congress allows clubs to have a grafter say and in-put and that’s what we’re looking for.”