• The Matildas have had to deal with some cruel blows off the pitch in recent times (Getty Images)
"In the absence of truth, power is the only game in town." Richard John Neuhaus
By
15 Sep 2015 - 8:03 PM  UPDATED 15 Sep 2015 - 8:03 PM

The truth.

It’s something that the entire football community in Australia is craving, right now, but as the powers that be would have it, we have all been robbed of the opportunity to hear it.

The Matildas' unprecedented decision to strike last week will no doubt go down in the country’s history books as one of the ugliest outcomes for the women’s game since the team’s inception in 1974.

Perhaps the most damaging revelation to emerge from all of this, is that the repercussions run far deeper than simply missing the chance to play against the women’s world champion this month.

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The Matildas have called off their two-match series against the United States as negotiations continue to stall over a new collective bargaining agreement.

The two parties concerned have reached an impasse and with no clear direction on how the game will move forward from this, there is most certainly no going back.

Ever.

What began as routine Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations seven months ago between Football Federation Australia (FFA) and Professional Footballers Australia (PFA), has morphed into a nasty spat that has collectively dragged their reputations through the mud.

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The governing body has been depicted as an incompetent, ruthless and unsympathetic monster, while the players’ union has been portrayed as greedy, unrealistic and the perpetrators of ‘economic vandalism’. 

Meanwhile, at the root of it all are the players, who in the case of the Matildas, are relying on this agreement to determine whether or not representing their national team is a financially viable option.

Worse still, for those of us on the outside, trying to make sense of this entire mess has become virtually impossible.

Yes, many of us have tried but the sad reality is, we have all failed. 

Last week, in the space of just three days, four media releases were sent and three press conferences were held to address the situation with both engaging in a he-said this, he-said that battle.

In what can only be described as a scenario better suited to the House of Representatives, it has been a feud rife with conflicting allegations, opposing views and a clear misrepresentation of the allocation of funds.

By choosing to make the argument public fodder, it has invited the media, pundits and fans of the game to come to their own conclusions about what the truth is - a dangerous consequence to say the least.

Whichever side of the fence you sit in this debate is irrelevant because you cannot dispute with a clear conscience, even from an ethical standpoint alone, that our players don’t deserve more than a paltry $21,000.

To argue otherwise is ignorant and quite frankly, immoral.

As it currently stands, the governing body is demanding these women athletes sacrifice their financial stability in order to commit to the national team.

In reality, that expectation is no longer sustainable for the players.

To realise that, you only have to speak to those who have appealed to the PFA for financial assistance and those that have taken out credit cards just to make ends meet.

Joining us on The World Game show last Sunday, Matildas defender Alanna Kennedy made her views on the issue very clear.

“The sacrifices can’t continue to be made because we’re struggling at the moment.

“We invest so much of our time and effort into playing for our country and I guess what we’re asking for, is the support of our federation to back us and it can’t continue without that.”

The ultimate and only real truth in this very complex issue is this - Matildas players are suffering, both personally and financially.

When I attended the PFA press conference held in Hyde Park last Tuesday, 2014 Asian Player of the Year and Matildas midfielder Katrina Gorry broke down in tears during my interview with her.

"I just wish that they could spend a year in our shoes - the commitments that we have and the sacrifices that we have to make. I am considering retiring in the next few years purely because I can’t afford it. I want to move out, I want to do those things," she said.

That was all she could muster before it all became too much for her and I had to conclude our conversation.

What we are now facing, is something that everyone with a vested interest in the game should fear and that is, we will lose a great number of talented and promising female footballers as a result of this.

At the very least, enough damage has been done to deter other young women from pursuing this as a career path.

That’s a heartbreaking thought given what was achieved at the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada and the potential the team has to go even further in the future.

Just how far and wide the depths of this irreparable damage will continue to reach is difficult to assess.

The destructive path it has left in its wake has already caused a divide amongst the playing group and without stability, the future of the game in Australia looks bleak. 

Throughout it all, FFA has maintained its position that the PFA’s demands are simply ‘unaffordable’ and continue to rebuke the union’s role, saying it is holding the Matildas best interests ‘hostage’.

Kennedy was quick to refute FFA CEO David Gallop’s claims that the players were used as ‘pawns’ by the PFA, labelling it ‘demeaning’.

"Yes, the PFA go in and talk for us but it’s on behalf of us," she said.

"We’ve gotten together and we’ve taken the initiative. Not just for us but it’s going to be for some of the players that don’t have much time left in their career.

"This is for the future of women’s football."

When it comes to affordability, no one, not the PFA or the players should have a dog in this fight - this is a discussion best tackled by the federation and held behind closed doors.

The fact is, it is FFA’s responsibility to develop strategies and forge strong commercial partnerships to generate revenue for the game.

The players are fulfilling their end of the bargain and it is unreasonable to depict the PFA as the scapegoat because in doing so, it has called into question the capabilities of Gallop and the FFA board. 

The governing body also has an obligation to protect the integrity of the game and its mismanagement of this debacle has seen it fail to do that.

Conversely, it is the PFA’s sole responsibility to protect and serve the best interests of the players.

If anything, what both parties need to be reminded of is their roles in the pursuit of an agreement, which has decidedly been overshadowed by endless personal attacks and a power struggle.

When Socceroos boss Ange Postecoglou was embarrassingly forced to retract the comments he made out of pure frustration on the subject, I agreed with his appeal for both parties to ‘lay down’ their guns.

With no clear end in sight, now is the time to not just put the guns down but put them away entirely.

With the next round of negotiations set to take place in a week’s time and neither the PFA or FFA showing any intention of backing down from their respective positions - that are miles apart - I propose it’s time to consider inviting an independent arbitrator to solve the impasse.

What everyone now needs is a resolution and the truth.

For as long as this process continues to drag out, football and the players stand to become the ultimate losers.