Author Topic: FIFA v. FFA  (Read 374 times)

Septic Bladder

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« on: August 09, 2017, 10:56:48 PM »

Australian Financial Review - http://www.afr.com/business/sport/steven-lowy-ffa-and-aleague-clubs-face-fifa-embarrassment-20170805-gxq6y1

Aug 6 2017
Football Federation Australia CEO David Gallop and chairman Steven Lowy face a fight for survival.

by John Stensholt

Following in the footsteps of cricket and rugby union, soccer becomes the latest instalment in the "how did it get to this" show engulfing Australian sport when world governing body FIFA comes to town this week to arbitrate on a bitter dispute that is splitting the game.

Football Federation Australia, led by chairman Steven Lowy and chief executive David Gallop, is locked in an acrimonious dispute with the private owners of the 10 A-League clubs.

And FIFA, an organisation synonymous around the world with corruption, is only a few months away from potentially blowing up the FFA board and installing a temporary "normalisation committee" to run the sport if the parties can't reach some sort of compromise.

Which would, in all likelihood, mean Lowy leaving the sport and leave big question marks from the corporate sector and broadcasters regarding whether soccer is worth investing in.

Exactly what would Australia's business community think if, for example, Lowy were turfed from the FFA board and FIFA took over? There would be many who would be incredulous at the prospect.

And what about government? The Matildas national women's team is a true global force, but if FIFA takes over the FFA would the federal government still want to fund the mooted women's World Cup bid?

Which is not to excuse Lowy and the FFA's wider performance, which has been mixed at best. It should do a better job selling its TV rights and find sponsors for the Matildas and Socceroos, to name only a few matters where there is room for improvement.

But perceptions are a powerful factor in the business world and there are many who will watch on nervously this week, with two days of meetings between a FIFA and Asian Football Confederation committee and local administrators in Sydney on Wednesday and Thursday.

At the centre of the stoush is the usual factors ? money and power and who gets the most of either or both ? and both sides have yielded very little over months of discussions, disagreements, falling outs and public posturing.

The FIFA delegation will rule on whether compromise can be reached on the sharing of power in FFA's Congress ? the annual meeting that elects the FFA board. If it doesn't happen by November, FIFA will take over.

The clubs see control of, or a greater say in, the congress as a way of gaining control of the FFA board and a necessary way of then controlling the A-League and are prepared to take it is far as even getting Lowy and his board removed if they continue to stand in their way.

FFA wants to maintain at least some control and fears grassroots programs and national teams would suffer if the clubs got an independent league.

The clubs, led by powerbrokers such as Melbourne City vice-chairman Simon Pearce (a director of English giant Manchester City) and Adelaide United chairman Greg Griffin, want a bigger slice of the money that flows to the elite level and control of the A-League.

They are clearly spoiling for a fight, with Pearce telling a well-attended Melbourne City business lunch last week that the clubs "welcome enthusiastically" the FIFA visit.

They argue they could make a much better fist of selling sponsorships, broadcast deals and finding more revenue streams than FFA does.

They want a similar model to that which operates in the wildly commercially successful English Premier League, which is run by its clubs as a separate entity to the Football Association. The FFA would receive a lucrative annual payment from the league in return for allowing to operate independently.

The clubs have some commercial acumen behind them. Melbourne City is part of the Abu Dhabi- and China-owned City Football Group, which also owns Manchester City and clubs in New York, Japan and Uruguay.

CFG's global commercial boss Tom Glick told The Australian Financial Review that CFG is "challenging and changing the world's biggest sport. We have a group of clubs that give us the ability to deliver global reach with maximum flexibility and also drill down to be locally relevant. So we give brands the chance to be global and local and also identify with a group that is modernising and changing the sector we are in."

The A-League clubs argue more of that could happen in Australia if the league is freed from the FFA's grasp, and other big global clubs could buy or form A-League teams and global brands would also invest.

On Saturday morning Lowy released a 2000-word communique in which he said "Australian football should never be carved up to serve sectional interests" while noting half the A-league clubs were already foreign owned "with little or no connection to Australian community football or our national teams".

It is inflammatory language, which has also been the case from the clubs. But a FIFA takeover, however temporary, would be a disaster for soccer's reputation in Australia.

It is time for both sides to lift their heads from the in-fighting and realise what wider damage is and could be done to the sport.

A compromise needs to be found, probably with an independent A-League but FFA having some say or stake in the running of the league. Otherwise there is a risk of soccer sliding back into irrelevance with the business community.



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