Opinion

FFA have few friends left but can we trust the A-League clubs?

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The A-League's 10 professional clubs are seeking a larger representation at the pointy end of the game's administration but have been conspicuously absent from the debate surrounding the make-up of Football Federation Australia's congress.

The long-running dispute between the professional side of the club game and the governing body, led by chairman Steven Lowy, that forced FIFA to intervene will come to a head on October 2 when an FFA extraordinary general meeting will determine if the Congress Review Working Group's recommendations will be passed.

If they are accepted it would be the end of the FFA board as we know it and reforms would be on their way. If three of the four rebel states throw their support behind FFA, FIFA will either install a normalisation committee to supervise the transition of power or take the drastic step of suspending Australia.

Either way, with the A-League starting in a month and the AFC Asian Cup coming up in January, the game would be immersed in absolute chaos.

At stake, therefore, is the future of the game that has a history of false dawns and seems to be unable to take that decisive step towards fulfilling its huge potential.

Fans at large are worried that the outcome of this bitter confrontation could have serious repercussions on the game at club and national level.

FFA's reputation at home and abroad must be at an all-time low but stakeholders are worried that they do not really know what to expect from a new congress dominated by the A-League.

Some fans might wonder if, despite FFA's draconian management and their clear ineptitude in finding football solutions to football problems, the game would be better or worse off under a new regime which would include an independent A-League.

I offered Australian Professional Football Clubs Association spokesman Greg Griffin, the one-time chairman of Adelaide United, an opportunity to discuss several issues that are gnawing at many fans' confidence.

Griffin declined to comment on the situation, saying only he had nothing to add to the association's stated position, which essentially is a preference for an independent A-League and a larger representation for its clubs and players in the governance process. 

Which is a shame, really, because the game's stakeholders would have loved to hear from the professional clubs themselves about issues that will have a huge bearing on the immediate future of our game.

The most pertinent questions fans would like answered are the following:

Grassroots

What happens to the game at grassroots if the incumbent FFA board is booted out?

The FFA have maintained all along that giving too much power to the professional clubs would affect the progress of grassroots football. Many people fear that an independent league would do what's best for itself and further distance itself from the game at the lower levels.

Club owners

Would the owners of the 10 clubs do all they can to recoup their losses at the expense of national football?

It is fair to say that the owners who have dug deep into their pockets and have complained since day one that they are not being given a fair share of the kitty will be foolish not to take an opportunity to redress the imbalance when in a position of influence.

Making deals at congress level in order to cut costs associated with the running of Australia's national teams could be one way to 'balance the books'.

Television

Would an independent A-League ditch the Fox deal?

There are strong rumours that if the A-League gets its way and wins a larger representation at congress level, one of the first things it would do is cancel its agreement with its broadcasting partner that expires in 2023. Fox have been the lifeblood of the game since day one and have done a fantastic job in promoting the league.

The broadcaster pays $57m a year for the privilege. But the clubs believe their product is worth much more and want a larger part of the cake.

Money

If Fox are given the flick where will the money come from?

It is unclear how much of the Fox money have FFA passed on to the clubs but whatever it is the clubs are unhappy. But if the Fox deal is scuppered it remans to be seen who will come up with the cash to keep the league going.

League independence

Would the club owners create an independent and self-funded 'super league'?

If club owners come up with the financial shortfall from Fox's no-deal they would be entitled to run an independent league any way they want, possibly even entertaining the prospect of playing some matches in Asia.

Fans would not like this because there is nothing worse than not being able to follow your team in home games.

An independent league would appear to be the way forward for Australia but the question remains: Can the A-League clubs be trusted to do the right thing by the game they are part of?

These are all questions that need to be answered before the vital meeting in October.

The clubs' refusal to elaborate on their intentions could be counter-productive and could add fuel to the suspicion raised in some parts that, despite all their failings and appalling record, FFA might just have a point in steadfastly refusing to buckle under considerable pressure.

What's that saying again? Better the devil you know ...