Former A-League boss Archie Fraser has launched a blistering attack on his former paymasters at Football Federation Australia (FFA) for ignoring the welfare of the national competition in favour of indulging its obsession with landing the 2022 World Cup.
Labelling the ruling body as reactive and bloated, Fraser, who quit his post as CEO of the national competition in frustration back in April, claims the A-League has become a basket case flagrantly ignored by FFA which he accuses of failing to promote the domestic game and unwilling to stick up for football's interests.
Fraser, who masterminded the regeneration and rebirth of North Queensland Fury on a consultative basis after quitting College Street, also denounced the short-term aid offered to the cash-strapped Newcastle Jets as unsatisfactory and insisted when he was at the helm he was stymied from making decisions by former boss, FFA CEO Ben Buckley.
Fraser told The World Game, at a time when the A-League has found itself in the headlines for all the wrong reasons with the diving debate and the Jets near crash landing, that the A-League is not a high enough priority.
“The only focus right now at the FFA is the World Cup bid and the A-League has been left to become a basket case, he said.
“The A-League is suffering. Hopefully it will still be there in December when FIFA decides whether we do or don't get the World Cup.
“The structure of the league is wrong. It needs more autonomy and to be separated from the FFA and allowed to look after its own affairs.
“There is no promotion of the game and no cohesive strategy. When I was head of the A-League I couldn't make any decisions, and no decisions were ever made until the last minute. Everything went through Ben Buckley.
"The organisation is purely reactive and never stands up for the game. We never take on the other codes and a lot of people within the FFA seem to be happy with that.
“The dire financial straits at Newcastle have been brewing for nine months. The FFA knew all about it. Nobody sat down and talked to them and offered to help until the very last minute. It’s really a disgrace.”
Fraser believes that a spate of departures from the top echelons of FFA tells its own story.
“Questions need to be asked over why (chief commercial officer) John O'Sullivan, (operations manager) Matt Phelan left, and why were (head of corporate and public affairs) Bonita Mersiades and (chief financial officer) Ian Lewis given the heave-ho," he said.
Fraser, who came to football after three years as CEO of St Kilda in the AFL, believes little has changed since his, and the other departures, at FFA, which has a staff of 106.
“The same situation has continued under my successor Lyall Gorman. He won’t be able to do anything, even if he wanted to. The A-League doesn’t need somebody to passively run a long with things the way they are," he continued.
“It needs some grunt in a competitive market at a critical time for the game. Right now the league is paralysed. The FFA has taken its eye off the ball and that's why I quit.
“The other codes must be looking at us and thinking how good is this? They will be saying, ‘Thank God they haven’t been able to get it right yet. Because when they do we will be in a bit of trouble’.
“My question is why are the directors not doing anything about it? Why is the FFA board sitting back and allowing this to happen?
"Only one director has spoken with me since I resigned. There was no debrief. I sent an email to one director detailing why I went and I was told he had never received it.
“You would think somebody on the board would want to know why I resigned after just over a year.”
Fraser is also convinced that the Sydney Rovers franchise, due to enter the competition in 2011-2012, is unlikely to see the light of day as the hunt for potential investors continues to come up empty.
“I don't think you will see them next season because the backing just isn't there at the moment,” he added. “There were other more deserving causes for an A-League licence.”
Fraser is also stunned at the FFA's handling of the recent high-profile incidents which saw Perth's Glory’s Michael Baird and Central Coast's Patricio Perez found guilty by the match review committee of diving and subsequently banned for two games, without the right of appeal.
“There is no way I would have allowed that to happen,” he said. “Unless there is clear footage which proves the players are guilty of simulation then you can't find them guilty and in the Perez case that was not the case.
“They also have to be able to challenge the ruling. The FFA should just change the rule overnight.”
He is also critical of the this season's fixture scheduling, using the example of the Melbourne Heart playing Fury at home last Saturday when the Western Bulldogs played Collingwood in the AFL.
“They only got 4,000 odd and the game should never have been played. The draw is nothing like the one that was under consideration back in April.”