I must applaud Football Federation Australia’s decision to allow the head of national performance, Luke Casserly to appear on The World Game on Sunday.
Amid reports that an upcoming opportunity to host a Matildas camp and play against New Zealand in April had been denied by the Federation, the unsavoury reaction to the news put the FFA back in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons… again.
After all, it was only a little over a month ago that we were celebrating the enormous success achieved by the Matildas when they qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games for the first time in 12 years.
To be put back in another unflattering situation after the Matildas made the unprecedented decision to strike last year, along with separate revelations this week surrounding Heather Garriock’s dispute with the FFA, was not ideal.
This was the perfect time to reach out to the Federation and give them the right of reply but I must be clear; here at SBS we have always made it our business to invite a FFA representative to join us on the show to clarify their position on certain matters.
They’ve just almost never taken up the offer.
Casserly’s presence on the show represented a turning of the tide and I was enormously impressed with the way that he dealt with a series of difficult questions.
“Does the FFA care about the conditions these players are in?”
“Why is it only through a fight that we can achieve these standards for the women’s national team?”
These are all things I’ve been wanting to know for sometime and it turns out that yes, they do care.
What’s been missing over the last year however, are their intentions to publicly clarify their position, which would help those of us on the outside develop a more informed opinion.
It also turns out that their decision to forego participating in the friendly against New Zealand had a genuine reason behind it.
According to Casserly, the media had gotten it wrong.
“It was interesting to read that, [it’s] not quite factual.”
“We sat down with the technical and sports science staff around our preparations for Rio and I think the [qualification] tournament and the World Cup in Canada in 2015 were great examples where we focussed our resources and our planning on a really solid virtually full-time lead-up into the tournament.”
“We all felt it was best for the players, the staff, a lot of who are part-time staff to take a bit of time off, freshen up and have a breather and we’ll start again from May and we’ll have a good two and a half to three month solid preparation into Rio. It’s served us well in the last two tournaments and we think that’ll do us well again for Rio.”
Casserly also went onto the suggest that ‘certain corners of the media’ were to blame for drumming up all the ‘negative reporting.’
It’s important to understand that reporting on improving conditions for players and arguing for basic rights like minimum wage, the chance to represent your country even if you have an 11 month old child and being treated like a professional, is not unreasonable or negative.
It’s a part of a reporter’s job and for those bold enough to care, it’s for the good of the game.
The trouble is, the only time a breakthrough of significant proportions has ever historically been achieved is through intense conflict.
20 years ago, male players were fighting the same battles in Australia and across the globe but as my colleague Craig Foster said,
“what I’d like to see in the women’s space is that we don’t make the same mistakes and that we learn lessons.”
While it is fair to say that a competition like the W-League is only young and that progress has been made, the governing body must also acknowledge that their level of thinking must evolve to keep up with it too.
To FFA’s credit, they have invested $4 million into female football programs and have also begun resourcing the Matildas team to the level of the Socceroos but there is still work to be done.
To continue to make the same mistakes and show resistance will only reaffirm what many of us have thought at some point or another which is that the FFA don’t give a damn about women’s football.
Whether they like it or not, that’s the message it sends.
FFA cannot claim the minimum wage introduction to the Matildas set-up as a win because they fought it to begin with and that's precisely what we need less of.
What we want to see is the governing body show initiative and an openness to working with players.
In order to learn from the mistakes of the past, we must forge together collectively for the greater good and in times of hardship understand that this is all part of the process.
Sunday was the starting point for what I hope will see a new approach to the way that we progress the beautiful game in Australia both on and off the field.
I can only hope FFA agree.
Watch the full segment on The World Game
FFA responds to claims they don’t actually care about women’s ...
Football Federation Australia's head of national performance, Luke Casserly, joined Lucy Zelic on SBS The World Game to answer some tough questions about player conditions, pay and support of the women's game.It's long but it's well worth the watch.
Posted by SBS Zela: Women in Sport on Monday, 11 April 2016