Football's 'heart and soul' deserting the game amid governance gridlock

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Australian football's on-going governance crisis is driving away those described as "the heart and soul" of the game.

That's the warning from Rabieh Krayem, chairman of the Association of Australian Football Clubs representing the aspirations of 172 NPL teams across the country.

Krayem claims many among the thousands of volunteers at grassroots level have had enough of the civil war between Football Federation Australia and football's myriad stakeholders and are withdrawing their services.

According to Krayem, droves of the unpaid army who underpin the infrastructure at the foot of football's pyramid are fed up with the in-fighting over the composition of the game's Congress, with many already deserting the sport while others are about to.

"You talk about the different parties, the players, the clubs the fans but you should never forget one of the biggest impacts (of this crisis) is the effect it's having on the volunteers," he said.

"If we don't fix football we won't have any of these volunteers we rely on so much left in the game.

"They are the heart and soul of the game and keep it ticking and we're in danger of losing them.

"The amount who are dissatisfied and disengaged is growing and that's become even more apparent over the last few days in discussions I've been having.

"We're talking about people who give up around 100,000 working hours over the course of a season to do things like coach, manage, tend grounds, do barbecues, ticketing and work on boards. The list goes on.

"A lot of this has gone unnoticed but if we keep losing volunteers we won't have people to run the game at grassroots level.

"These people are the lifeblood of the NPL clubs and right down the tiers and age groups.

"People are sick of what's been going on (at the top of the pyramid) and all they want is it to be resolved. They thought an end was in sight.

"If you start losing volunteers then where do you go?"

The AAFC is pioneering the concept of a second division, with promotion-relegation to the A-League its ultimate objective.

It has been part of the consultative process put in place by FIFA last August with a view to democratising the governance of the game in Australia.

But with four dissident federations threatening to join forces with FFA to block reform measures mandated by FIFA's Congress Review Working Group, turmoil continues to plague those entrusted with running the game.

"People need to accept the umpire's decision over the recommendations (from CRWG), which was the prevailing view when it was first set up," Krayem said.

"Hopefully sanity will prevail and we will end up with a resolution to take the game forward (at an extraordinary general meeting of the FFA board on September 7), otherwise we’ll start another A-League season as we did last year. And that's not something anybody wants."

Krayem, the former chairman of defunct A-League club North Queensland Fury, is himself a volunteer in his role with the AAFC.

"The NPL clubs survive off the back of volunteers and it's something that needs to be acknowledged in all this," he added. "They've become the forgotten people.

"Everywhere I go they're saying the game's in a mess and why should they bother staying involved.

"We need to sort things out. The volunteers are almost beyond caring who's right or wrong, they just want a resolution.

"You would like to think the football fraternity can sort things out (without the need for FIFA to remove the FFA board and impose a normalisation committee)."

"Everybody thought the CRWG would get the job done (over expanding the Congress)," he continued.

"There was a lot of good will from all parties. We at the AAFC were also heavily consulted.

"Everybody had a chance to put their case and sometimes you don't get everything you want. But you have to abide by the process.

"Between now and September 7 there needs to be a resolution for the betterment of the game."