In recent articles we’ve taken a look at the governance of Australia’s powerful nine state-based federations. (See references below). We gave the state federations a ranking based on their ratings in the Transparency International good governance table, as well as the gender and cultural diversity of their Board.

These matters are relevant because the state federations are currently the most powerful group in Australian football, holding nine out of the ten ‘Congress’ positions that form the legal membership of FFA. As reported here, the state federation presidents were critical in ensuring that there was no compromise around a newly-structured FFA Congress when FIFA and the AFC recently visited in an attempt to broker a compromise.

More than five weeks on from that visit, a recent report via AAP suggests that this situation is likely to continue. The state federations have apparently agreed to a supposed compromise offer of 9-4-1-1 – a fact disputed on social media. Regardless of whether this is the case or not, the A-League clubs and the PFA have also rejected the 9-4-1-1 model. 

There is another reason why these governance measures are relevant.

All member associations of FIFA and their members are required to comply with FIFA by-laws, regulations, directions, decisions and the Code of Ethics. In turn, FFA members are required to abid by FIFA, AFC and FFA by-laws, regulations etcetera. Amongst other things, these include the ‘universal principles of good governance’ set out in the February 2016 FIFA reforms, as well as a requirement to introduce measures for greater recognition, promotion and participation of women in the game.

Our ranking showed that only FFA itself met all six measures comprising the four good governance measures, as well as gender and cultural and linguistic diversity (CALD) of the Board. The federations' scores were (out of six):

  • NSW, Victoria and Western Australia : 5
  • South Australia and Tasmania : 4
  • Northern NSW : 3.5
  • Queensland : 3
  • ACT and Northern Territory : 2

But the state federations are not alone in not meeting these basic governance requirements. What would happen if we applied the same measures to the A-League clubs and the PFA?

Governance Measures

First, we acknowledge that, as privately-held franchises, the A-League clubs do not have the same level of legal accountability as FFA or the state federations. Unlike the FFA and state federations, they are private companies and not member-based organisations. 

That’s just as well. 

They all rate a big fat zero on FIFA's good governance measures that require member associations to publish online financial reports, annual activity reports, organisational charter and a code of conduct. Not one A-League club publishes any of this information.

It’s not as if it would be difficult to do.

Each club's financial reports are provided to FFA annually, but as most clubs are in the red, it is thought to be more prudent not to publish them. They don't tell a good story. 

However, with respect to the code of conduct, all they would need to do to comply is link to FFA’s Code of Conduct for football in Australia – as do many NPL and community clubs – so it’s not that hard. By way of contrast, the City Football Group which owns Melbourne City, meets these measures for Manchester City. 

The PFA meets one of the measures – publication of its organisational charter – through the publication of their Strategic Plan and Mission and Values. 

Gender and cultural diversity of Boards

When it comes to Boards, the story isn’t much better. Using the same methodology as we used for the FFA and state federations, here is how the ten A-League clubs and the PFA score.

Adelaide United5411
Brisbane Roar *1100
Central Coast Mariners2110
Melbourne City **????
Melbourne Victory7613
Newcastle Jets ***1101
Perth Glory3301
Sydney FC7615
Wellington Phoenix????
Western Sydney Wanderers????

*    Only the Managing Director is listed for Brisbane Roar.

**  Melbourne City, Wellington Phoenix and Western Sydney Wanderers do not list their Board members. 

*** Newcastle Jets lists its owner and Chairman, Martin Lee, only.

The point is this.

If the A-League clubs and the PFA are to have representation on the FFA Congress - and we believe they should - then they are also required to comply with FFA statutes that, in turn, require them to comply with FIFA and AFC statutes. These now enshrine certain, basic measures of accountability that the A-League clubs and the PFA, as well as the recalcitrant state federations, must be prepared to meet.

In a nutshell, Australian football needs better governance. Australia should be setting an example when it comes to reform. This doesn't just mean the FFA, but those who form its Congress and who aspire to form its Congress. 

Note: This was updated on 23 September to reflect the fact that A-League clubs do give financial reports to FFA.

Categories: Analysis | A-League

governance, ffa, a-league clubs, pfa, apfca

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