Football Federation Australia have announced they will stand down up to 70 per cent of their 230 staff today, as the COVID-19 pandemic buffets football administration with the same force it has hit A-League clubs.
With no national teams action or A-League activity on the immediate horizon in the face of the game’s global lockdown, FFA chief executive James Johnson has been left with some brutal decisions to make to ensure the already fiscally-constrained governing body rides out the storm.
It’s understood a number of the 160-odd staff and contractors affected, across all stratas of the organisation, will be placed on a four-month stand down.
Others may have to be let go altogether, providing Johnson with an opportunity to rebuild a streamlined team for the future.
Having already shown his adaptability and aptitude in crisis management during a turbulent first two months at the helm, Johnson has been left with little choice but to batten down the hatches.
“This has been an extremely difficult decision to make, but necessary to stabilise the organisation so that it can continue to service the game, albeit in a vastly different landscape,” Johnson said.
“Industries all over the world have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and football in Australia is no different.
“We are in a situation where grassroots football and the Hyundai A-League are currently suspended, we’ve had the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the deferral of the international football calendar, so virtually all football activity has now ceased for the foreseeable future because of COVID-19.
“These developments impact many forms of revenue for FFA, including national registration fees, broadcast fees, sponsorship, ticket sales and government funding, so we have needed to adjust our operations to ensure that we can remain operational, forcing us to take the unfortunate decision to stand down approximately 70% of our workforce.
“We have an incredible team here at FFA, and I am immensely proud of the work everyone does for football in this country. We have explored ways to retain as many staff as possible, including reducing essential roles to part-time, and asking staff to take annual leave and long service leave. Unfortunately, a number of staff members will have a period of leave without pay.”
“We will continue to operate with a small team, with a focus on continual engagement with fans through digital platforms, supporting our member federations, clubs and the almost two million football participants in this country.
“I also believe that football has a very important role to play as a good and responsible citizen during these difficult times so we are looking at how we can contribute to our collective efforts to slow down the spread of COVID-19.
“We view this as a temporary stoppage of football. We will be continually reviewing the situation and the impact of COVID-19 on grassroots football and the remainder of the Hyundai A-League season. We need a strong national governing body in place and a team ready and able to get back to work as soon as possible, as football will play an essential role in the recovery of our nation post COVID-19.”
Before the coronavirus struck, Johnson had already inherited a hot potato from predecessor David Gallop with major sponsor Hyundai indicating it would end its $6 million per annum, 15-year long relationship with the game.
And that was off the back of losing the significant input of corporate partners NAB, Caltex and supermarket chain Aldi in quick succession before Johnson arrived at FFA.
With broadcast rights holder Fox Sports also considering pulling the plug on its $57.6 million annual backing of the game, Johnson couldn’t have had a more fiery baptism.
There is, however, interest from several un-named potential sponsors looking to fill the Hyundai void, especially revolving around funding the national team setup across all ages and genders.