FFA Fan Forum Perth

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Football Federation Australia (FFA) rolled into Perth last night for the city’s very first fan forum and it was well received with in excess of 100 people present representing the media, fan groups and local clubs amongst others.

The five man panel comprised of David Gallop (FFA Chief Executive), Damian De Bohun (Head of the Hyundai A-League), Peter Hugg (Football West), Tony Sage (Perth Glory owner) and Alistair Edwards (Perth Glory coach), while Kyle Patterson (Head of Corporate Affairs and Communications at FFA) chaired.

Split into four sections – A-League, Socceroos/internationals, National Premier League (NPL) and the women’s game – the forum got underway at 7pm and lasted two hours. We were also promised time at the end for general questions not relating to the four topics but this never materialised.

First up was discussion on the A-League and questions centred heavily around Perth Glory’s fixtures with two main bugbears – afternoon kick offs in the summer and midweek games which start at 4.30pm WST. De Bohun admitted that the fixtures for the upcoming season, which will be released tomorrow, still won’t be perfect from a Perth perspective while Gallop’s flippant “there’s nothing we can do about it” reply to the query over games kicking off while people are still at work did not go down well. While finals games may be hard to restructure due to television requirements, there is simply no excuse for having Glory games at 4.30pm when it is the association that decides when regular season fixtures take place.

The issue of refereeing also came up in relation to the dodgy decisions that Glory have been on the receiving end of for the past two seasons. While the FFA representatives admitted that mistakes can be made, they stopped short of criticising individuals. There are plans to liaise better with the media when it comes to explaining decisions, while the recruitment of ex-players to become referees is also being looked into more.

In terms of expansion, Gallop wants stability for the current ten teams before any further licences are handed out, while Tony Sage revealed that there is a guaranteed loss of at least $2.6 million per year for an owner who is funding A-League, W-League and Youth League teams. On the subject of tickets, Sage also quoted figures which a club must pay before it starts to generate revenue from their sale – $7.70 per ticket goes to Ticketmaster, $2.50 to public transport, and $8 to the stadium hire.

Next up was the national team and understandably those in audience were keen to find out when Perth will be given another international with it being almost a decade since the last one. Gallop said that he would like the opening game of the new Perth stadium to be a Socceroos international, however the current expected date for its completion is some time in 2018 so not exactly a short term solution.

Gallop addressed the issue of Perth missing out on the Asian Cup despite being in close proximity to the continent. A lack of State Government support for funding is the root cause, with Sage backing this up by revealing that he asked for support to bring Liverpool to Perth but was knocked back, a contrast to the Victorian Government who put up $2 million.

On the subject of international opposition, Gallop said that the FFA are in negotiations with top ten ranked teams in the hope of lining up some glamour friendlies and more will details will be available after the June internationals.

A question from the floor questioned the merit of the “Socceroos” name but the suggestion to change it to the “Footballroos” was met with very little support.

Gallop spoke about a new active fan initiative being launched shortly with the aim of having ‘chapters’ in each state which will lead to a sea of passionate green and gold support at internationals. An initial meeting took place with about 20 people last week.

The most controversial topic of the night was always going to be the National Premier League (NPL) such is the opposition in the state to the idea. Existing State League clubs are worried about their standing with the possibility of some existing top flight clubs not being accepted into the new system, thus jeopardising their future.

Football West’s Peter Hugg believes that it is a great opportunity for WA to be part of a national concept and it is important for the country’s second tier competitions to progress. David Gallop spoke about making football the largest and most successful sport in Australia, and the NPL is key to that.

Alistair Edwards talked very well on the avenues for players to explore if they are not part of the NTC/Glory Youth set up and said that ideally each NPL club will have qualified coaches to nurture youngsters at that level. That of course was met with the question of funding and who will pay for these coaches, with club representatives annoyed that they are expected to foot the bill.

There was some excellent insight given from the floor into how things operate in Germany, a country that has successfully improved its youth set up over the past decade, however this was met with a lazy and unnecessary “This is Australia” retort from Kyle Patterson.

With Western Australia due to kick off its NPL in 2014, it’s clear that a lot of work is still needed for that deadline to be met.

To round off, there was a short segment on women’s football and the W-League with strong calls to improve publicity for the game, with Emma Highwood of the FFA speaking passionately. The message to corporates, the Government and other potential stakeholders is not getting through so needs to be pushed harder while the ABC got a lot of credit for their promotion on tv.

Tony Sage proposed the idea of more double headers with W-League games taking place at nib Stadium before A-League fixtures and this was met with applause from the floor as well as strong support from the fan group representatives present.

Overall it was good to finally see the FFA come out west, though the night was by no means perfect. Some of the responses to questions were unnecessarily snappy while Kyle Patterson’s attempts at dry humour from the lectern came across as ignorant more than anything else.

There will of course always be teething problems with something like this and hopefully the powers that be see value in coming back again.

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Neil Sherwin
Neil has covered the Perth Glory and the Hyundai A-League for five years and is one of Western Australia's most knowledgeable football journalists.

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