Football Alive

Sports Australia adds a string to Lowy’s bow that risks it all

There is brinkmanship and there is outright stupidity, yesterday we saw the best of both with Sports Australia wading into the row between the Associations and the FFA, scoring an own goal for Football in Australia at the same time as giving the beleaguered board an ally by way of a threat.

The threat to withdraw a mere $5 million in funding by Government agency Sports Australia if the CRWG gets its way constitutes Governmental interference which is punishable by suspension by FIFA.

This may cost the Socceroos a shot at defending their Asian crown. This move, by a Government which is itself the mouthpiece of corporate Australia, is poor form at best and an outright conspiracy at worst.

Unlike the traditional sports from whom our games administrators are sourced from, Football is the one game that if it were allowed to properly spread its wings would soar higher than any of the other codes could ever hope to. 

The Congress Review Working Group which was initiated by FIFA has come up with policies which are more to do with normalising Football than anything else, not so much to restore the natural order but as to establish one. Sports Australia says that the reforms requested by FIFA go too far, the real problem is that non Football people can’t see far enough.

Football isn’t a game where salary caps work, equity in the table let alone pyramid is a ridiculous proposition and not something to be encouraged through a culture of exclusion. Simply we are told that small clubs cannot be part of the National set up as they are unsustainable, they won’t win anything, they won’t draw the corporate backing, their crowds will be too small etc.

Anyone who supports a small team in any one of the countless leagues around the world knows that for Football people, the bottom of the table is just as exciting as the top. That magic 40 point mark for a team from a small town written off and pilloried the moment they are promoted is as much a part of the game as the untouchable teams at the summit.

Look at Aaron Mooy at Huddersfield last year, a club that had red lines drawn through them before they were printed on any schedule. Same could be said of Brighton and Burnley who both survived with the latter having an amazing season making the European qualifying places.

Football isn’t Rugby League/Union or AFL, it isn’t just about who won the comp, it is about who survived, who had a bad season and dropped to mid-table obscurity or who had a breakout season. Football is a game where every point means something when it is in the context of a pyramid, this has been denied us long enough.

The amazing thing about the round ball game is that when you have a large pool of players some will rise from unfancied teams and be noticed by the larger teams who will then duly buy them. The facts are that if we had a 16 team league which still held the restrictions on imports, then so many of our younger players lighting the NPL would be in those teams. They would be playing in the National competition and the best young players would matriculate up the ladder to better teams.

Instead, we have an endless amount of players in there late 20’s or early 30’s and our marquee players are generally over the hill or unwanted in their homelands. People wonder why the youth isn’t coming through, it comes down to a simple lack of exposure due to a lack of opportunities.

With a truncated season, an abysmally short Youth League season and restrictions at every turn, teams don’t put out sides of eager youth as they did in the old NSL or as they do around the world week in week out. We are stuck with players not good enough to go overseas but good enough to keep the next generation out of the A-League bubble.

The world over, there are leagues of 20 teams where there are in reality only 3-4 contenders and plenty of cannon fodder at the bottom. Those fans don’t buy their season tickets expecting to see a Premiership or to turn out to see a marquee player. They go to see there local lads take on the more fancied teams in the hope that maybe, just maybe this will be the fixture that will be spoken of in a generation in pubs and lounge rooms decked out in the local colours.

That senseless moment when you take the lead in your crappy home ground and the household names in the more fancied opposition look around in disbelief at an incoherent ground where the lady in the tuck shop is yelling at her nephew playing at right back to “Get stuck into the bastards” with the die-hards feverishly looking at the clock on a rusty scoreboard which is sponsored by the local chipper.

The CRWG’s proposals do not go far enough for some but they are a welcome start, the Footballing public wants what the rest of the planet has, not a poor facsimile of the MLS. Football fans, players and administrators are sick of a failed model and are tired of hearing the same old excuses of what Football can’t be, instead wanting to focus on the opportunity for Football to be everything we want it to be and more.

Oh, and yes that means some absolute gubbings in front of a couple thousand people in some suburb no one had ever heard of, until of course, they had that magical season that announced themselves to the country before being replaced by another team with the same aspirations, obstacles and another group of young local lads forever desperate, to “Get stuck into the bastards.”

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