It's been a defining week for Football Federation Australia chairman Steven Lowy, and adhering to a hectic couple of days of discussion, brinksmanship and finally failure, the outcome isn't flattering. The destiny of soccer in this nation now rests in the hands of Fifa and a prospective normalization committee following a delegation from Zurich oversaw an exhausting round of talks with stakeholders but didn't witness a settlement to the longstanding governance crisis. On two occasions stakeholders were convinced agreements were reached but interventions scuppered both in the FFA chairman who convinced land and state league agents to side. The ability for an elected manager to strongarm congress members in this manner strikes in the heart of why an overhaul of this human body is essential. The 10 FFA members are the custodians of the game. They're charged with overseeing the FFA board's election, and in turn its chairman. In accordance with FFA's constitution that the members would be the "supreme electoral body of FFA and the supreme legislative body of FFA".
The inference from insiders is one of stick, not carrot, although it's unclear Lowy managed to convince the members that means to side. FFA maintained its chairman's position, telling Fairfax Media, "It's entirely suitable for the FFA board to talk about its opinion with the members and any other interested party about what balance in the congress it considers is appropriate to ensure the interests of entire game are encouraged. It's not right to imply that the FFA board shouldn't be actively engaged in any debate about the company where they have been particularly tasked with acting in the best interests of it." Such was the hindrance on one occasion it seems to have forced the delegation to sideline the FFA chairman in an attempt to foster dialogue of Fifa. Clubs are furious in the two and a half hour side-meeting after a compromise deal was brokered which Lowy ran with lands and state.
Lowy claimed in his missive last week that: "We're involved for no other reason than to serve our nation and see soccer continue to grow, flourish and build on the big gains of the past 13 years and also to honor the heritage of those who served the game for decades before that." Why has this fiasco been allowed to drag out for months to finish in brinkmanship and produce a Fifa intervention all-but inevitable despite stakeholders if that is true?
Change based on principles of good governance, and is mandated, inevitable. With no irony, of thrashing out what change may seem like, the process illustrated why changes are required.
On both occasions persuasion from Lowy appears to have pulled the rug from beneath the offer. The official reaction to talks provides little indication of the chaos that took place or is scheduled to follow. "A wide assortment of choices has been robustly discussed within the previous 48 hours," Lowy said. "Everybody, including the FFA Board, A-League club owners, member federations and the PFA have shown willingness to move from their initial positions and this was noticed by the Fifa/AFC delegation. FFA is optimistic that an agreement can be reached to allow the necessary procedural changes to achieve an enlarged congress at the end of November." The pitfalls of a denuded congress could be viewed elsewhere with A-League nightclubs recommitting to chasing FFA in court to force the disclosure of financial information which may ordinarily be presumed readily available. What's there to hide that they're ready to go to protect? Where has the oversight allow a situation that is poisonous to fester in light of Australia's place in the Garcia report that is awkward. Put simply I feel that unless I along with any other interested member review the related figures there may be no formal close of the topic." That is an ugly unbecoming mess and below the present leadership there seems little probability of a favorable resolution. The Fifa normalisation committee was feared. It should be seen as merciful relief's origin?
There's a suggestion from within the discussions that Lowy now believes he can convince Zurich to lobby for a preferred outcome in the time prior to a normalisation committee is executed. But as mentioned before, this is a government lacking the funds if it did, to prosecute one and seemingly with no agenda. All this in an environment crying out for leadership and ambition.
The current congress consists of the nine state and land federations and one A-League representative (9-1). A model was suggested by FFA with nightclubs gaining Professional Footballers Australia one and two votes. Fifa dismissed this as not going far enough. A-League club owners and PFA put forward a 9-6-2 version that was rejected by FFA as it pushed a possible A-League/PFA bloc towards a size that would require just a minority of state and land federations to align with it to acquire enough voting rights to force through their schedule. Definitely the state federation, NSW, is out of alignment with the FFA board position.