FFA’s thoughtful profligacy may cost Football

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With the news this week that the AFL has decided to launch an FA Cup style competition in 2011 drawing together non-professional sides from the WAFL, SANFL and VFL competitions came yet another lost opportunity to make gains and another advent football should have brought to the rival handball sports.

The AFL acted as they have done consistently under Andrew Demetriou. Firstly they worked on the concept behind closed doors at AFL House by developing it, work-shopping it and creating a product ready for implementation.

The second stage is announcement in the media, with plenty of finalised detail for discussion and a definite timeline for implementation; allowing the media to build towards the date and refer to it regularly which builds attention.

A simple two-stage process which is borne from efficiency and a borrowed idea.

Contrast this with the approach taken by the FFA in regard to the distinctly football idea of the FFA Cup, or Johnny Warren Cup, or the Australia Cup, or whatever you feel like calling it because the problem is simple; the FFA simply don’t know. For simplicity, references will be the FFA Cup.

The FFA began talking about an the FFA Cup as early as season two in response to the AFC directive that extra AFC Champions League places would be provided to domestic competitions with a two tier promotion and relegation structure and a domestic knockout cup incorporating teams both professional and semi-professional.

Whilst the John O’Neill led FFA were keen not to lose the advantage in Asia to the established Japanese and South Korean leagues they were right to suggest a system of promotion relegation was at least a decade off for Australian football.

The FFA Cup however was mooted as an idea for the next few seasons but put on the backburner with the Hyundai A-League not yet two years post-commencement.

However as the create and consolidate years came and passed under Ben Buckley and the league became flat, as the sole-focus became the bid for the hosting rights to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Frank Lowy again floated the idea of an FFA Cup.

But again, it was no more than an idea which, like the Sydney Rovers, do not simply attract capital and interest by virtue of their existence. Ideas need to be formulated, articulated and executed with the final product not only in mind, but a clear pathway in place for its implementation.

The fear is that the Australian sports market will not take football seriously if the continued failure of advents and hampered progression is not arrested.

For every failed idea exists a decade long purge in which fans, investors and the curious will shun the idea as folly. This is precisely why the NRL, and indeed the AFL with the Gold Coast Suns, had so much invested in the Gold Coast Titans after the failed attempts of the Sea Gulls and Charger clubs.

The danger for the FFA is if they get the Hyundai A-League and the FFA Cup wrong, not only in terms of development and expansion, but in terms of narrative, the continued success of the football itself as a proposition may be called into question by rival sports in the market.

Any organisation requires strategic renewal and whilst the time may have been fertile for change at the Chief Executive level, FFA Chairman Frank Lowy decided to continue with Ben Buckley.

This decision has been made and there is no reason to question it now. What now needs to be considered is the time when Mr Lowy is forced to retire due to age and, if the A-League is still flat, the double change with Buckley will be an even bigger decision to make.

Strategic decisions need to be made, not fast, but in a considered and sequenced fashion that builds football on the superstructure that has already shown signs of paying dividends.

Forza football.

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