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FFA Chairman Steven Lowy is heading to Melbourne today for one last charm offensive that could decide his fate on Wednesday at the FFA Extraordinary General Meeting.

The reason? It's a final effort at garnering the support of the Board of the Victorian Football Federation for the changes that the FFA Board is proposing to the FFA Constitution.

What are the changes?

Those changes would see the membership of the FFA Congress expand to include the nine state federations with one vote each, the nine A-League clubs with 0.44 of a vote each, a representative of the PFA, and a woman representing all women in football in what appears to be a new definition of ‘gender equity’. In other words, in the parlance that has been bandied about, 9:4:1:1.

Currently, the FFA Congress involves nine state federations and one vote between the A-League clubs, otherwise known as 9:1.

The FFA proposal for 9:4:1:1 is not acceptable to the A-League clubs or the PFA because, while they would have three more votes in total and all clubs would be able to attend a meeting of the FFA Congress, it essentially maintains the status quo in terms of the balance of power involved in electing Board members. A “prescribed majority” of 60% of the eligible vote is required to elect a Board member which translates to:

  • 6 votes in the current model
  • 9 votes in the 9:4:1:1 model, and
  • 9.6 votes in the 9:5:1:1 model for which the A-League clubs and the PFA have been advocating.

There are some other changes the FFA is seeking also such as allowing ‘Appointed Directors’ to be reappointed after a two-year absence. There must be someone in mind for a change like this – and the hot tip is that it’s paving the way for a former elected director, Philip Wolanski, to be appointed after his enforced retirement in 2015. Wolanski has been noticeable in his ‘PW’ monogrammed Socceroos tracksuit inside the dressing room and dining room at Socceroos camps and games recently, so this seems plausible.

The fact that the changes also include rushing-through nominations for this year’s Board within 48 hours of the Wednesday meeting also tends to support this view.

Why is the FFV's vote so crucial this week?

The Victorian Football Federation’s vote - which will be exercised by President Kimon Taliadoros on the basis of a vote taken by the six-person FFV Board - is crucial because the FFA Board needs 75% of the existing members to agree to Constitutional change.

The voters on Wednesday that are known to be voting in favour of the FFA Board’s proposed changes are all the state federations except NSW and Victoria. Those who are known not to be voting in favour of the FFA Board’s changes are the A-League clubs (with one solitary vote) and NSW. Victoria’s vote is not publicly declared.

So the maths is simple: if Victoria votes with the FFA Board, Steven Lowy has 80% and he ‘wins’; if Victoria votes against the FFA Board or abstains, Lowy and his Board have 70% and he ‘loses’.

However, even if Lowy wins on Wednesday, he could still lose. Depending on the attitude the FIFA Member Associations Committee takes to a 9:4:1:1 model, a FIFA Normalisation Committee could be inevitable regardless of the outcome on Wednesday.

Why?

When the Member Associations Committee meet in Abu Dhabi in December, they will be asked to consider  the definition of “representative democracy” of the FFA Congress, as required by FIFA Statutes.

If we strip away the personalities involved in the various roles around the country at the moment – whether that be Steve Lowy, Kimon Taliadoros, Greg Griffin or Mark ‘Text Message’ O’Neill – the question the Member Associations Committee will address is whether FFA is meeting FIFA requirements in relation to its Congress. And that will boil down to the argument on whether you think a single bloc holding the balance of power is “representative democracy”.

On this basis, logic is on the side of the A-League clubs and the PFA. A single bloc ought not to hold the balance of power, and they are right to push for 9:5:1:1.

The state federations who seek to retain the balance of power for themselves either don’t understand the concept of representative democracy and/or are thinking more of their position in the game, rather than the best interests of the game.

Who are FIFA to tell us what to do?

This has been one of the ‘dog whistles’ put about by FFA. How could we possibly accept what FIFA wants to do, as opposed to the upstanding scion of a billionaire property owner in Steve Lowy? 

Six words.

It’s a bit late for that.

FFA has been a vocal supporter of the changes to FIFA Statutes that were agreed in 2016. They were cheerleaders by the side of Gianni Infantino when he was elected, and they have repeatedly said FIFA has reformed - even going so far as to tell the Government that is so. 

Let’s rewind even further back to 2011 when I – almost alone in the entire world except for a handful of wonderful investigative journalists who were referred to as “discredited morons” by some people in this country – stood up to FIFA and its way of doing business, and called on FFA not to support Sepp Blatter’s re-election.

What was the reaction of Frank Lowy and the then CEO? That it would be an “empty gesture” not to support Blatter. Oops.

In other words, FFA has nailed its colours to the mast time-after-time. They can’t vote for FIFA reforms and then not like it when those same reforms come back to bite them.  

Why is Steve Lowy so keen to hang on?

This is a question that has many people perplexed.

  • Ego – possible, but not likely in Steven’s case.
  • Right – he might genuinely think the only way is the ‘Lowy Way’ and he wants to retain control of the voting bloc.
  • Doesn’t like to fail – fair enough, most people would feel the same.
  • Block access to financial accounts – maybe. After all, we know that the investigations into the conduct of the World Cup bids by Swiss and US authorities are “ongoing”. Both their Attorneys-General have said so. 
  • Legacy – protecting the Lowy legacy in football, which currently we would argue is predominantly positive and secure – but the more this situation lingers, the more it is eroded.

Steven Lowy’s term expires in 12 months. Why don’t we just let him have another year?

It may be Steven’s name at the top of the letterhead now, but a Lowy has been running the game for almost 14.5 years. How long is long enough for one family? If this was Zimbabwe, we’d all point fingers and laugh. 

As the Victorian Football Federation listen to Steven Lowy and debate the issues together afterwards one last time, here are some questions to ponder.

If they side with Lowy on Wednesday and he is the victor, what is he going to do differently than what he has already done?

What does he stand for? What does the FFA Board stand for? If this was an attempt to set out a vision in this open letter in the News Limited tabloids in August, it is risible – for reasons we outline here.

Can the game stand another 12 months of lack of vision, negativity and division?

What is going to propel the game forward in the next 15 years, as opposed to resting on the laurels of the last 15?

Are they satisfied there is sufficient leadership, vision, energy and innovation in the executive management of the game?

  • There are many examples of where this is lacking, including as recently as last Friday. When a nascent Association comprised entirely of volunteers (AAFC) dared to put something in writing about creating a national second division and deepening the quality and quantity of football available to elite players, and say “here are some ideas, let’s discuss this” Lowy and Gallop effectively said “NO." We understand they also contacted FIFA on Friday evening asking FIFA to tell AAFC to butt-out: that’s not the reaction of people who are truly interested in the long-term development of the game, only those who are interested in their role in it.

And, finally, is this what we want?

Over to you Victoria. 


Categories: Analysis | Football Business

ffa congress, governance, ffa, football federation victoria

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