We recently took a look at how each of the state federations rate on the Transparency International (TI) basic good governance table, and found that there’s scope for improvement in Northern NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, the ACT and the Northern Territory.

We thought we’d extend this further and look at two other big issues in football: gender and cultural diversity of the Boards - and then put the two together, to assist us in having a better understanding of the powerful state federations and just how well they're governed. 

How we did it

The first – gender - is easy to determine.

The second is more problematic. As the current brouhaha over dual citizens in the federal parliament shows, a family name is not necessarily an indication of cultural diversity. Likewise, it doesn’t measure other links that may exist between Board members that may challenge the definition or perception of ‘independence’ - such as on the FFA Board where several Board members have either personal or business links to the Lowy family or Westfield/S Centre.

The ABS defines culturally diverse as being someone who was born overseas (first generation) or having at least one parent born overseas (second generation). On the football boards, this includes people such as: 

  • Steven Lowy, born in Australia to a Slovakian father and Australian mother;
  • Sherif Andrawes on the Football West Board, born in Egypt to an Egyptian father and English mother, raised in Scotland and a Partick Thistle supporter;
  • Francis Wong from South Australia who was born in Brunei Darusallam and migrated here almost 30 years ago; and
  • Reiko Okazaki on the FFV Board who grew up playing football in the USA and Japan.

However, in the absence of being able to ascertain the individual’s own assessment of their cultural diversity, we have assumed someone is from a culturally and linguistically diverse background via their family name - even if it is not a perfect measure.


As far as we can tell, there are 70 people serving on the boards of FFA and the nine state federations. (Western Australia doesn’t list their Board members on their website, so we have made an assumption about their named Board members from the 2016 annual report).

  • Gender

Of these 70, slightly less than one-quarter (24.3%) are women. Clearly, this falls well short of the population share of women, but it is almost the same as the number of registered players who are female (adults and children) at 23.5%. If volunteers were also included, it’s reasonable to expect the proportion of women participants would be higher. There is also a strong argument that if there were more women involved at leadership levels of the game, there is likely to be increased participation by females in the sport. For the purposes of this exercise, we have assumed FFA at 37.5% to be the minimum benchmark to be met, although all should be aiming for 50%.

The order of merit in the gender stakes is Victoria with 50%, followed by FFA with 37.5%. NSW is doing the worst with only one woman on their eight-person Board (12.5%) followed closely by Queensland (14.3%), Northern NSW and Western Australia (16.7%), South Australia (22.2%) and Tasmania, the ACT and NT (25%). 

  • Cultural diversity

More than two-in-five (44.3%) of the Board members are from CALD backgrounds. There does not appear to be anyone of Indigenous background (2.3% of the population in the 2016 Census).

Those with the highest proportion of members from a CALD background are Victoria at 100%, followed by Western Australia with 83.3%. There is then quite a drop to South Australia with 55.6%, FFA and NSW with 50%, Northern NSW (33.35%) and the three smallest federations again on 25%. However, Queensland has zero people of obvious CALD background.

Northern NSW6512
Western Australia6515
South Australia9725
Northern Territory4311
  • Comparison between federations and with Census

A look at the diversity of the boards of each state federation and FFA is depicted in the chart below, with the cultural diversity measure also compared with the 2016 Census data for that state. (Note: NSW and Northern NSW are not separated in respect of Census data). 

Good governance ranking

If we now put together the governance measures from TI given in our previous article, as well as these two diversity measures, we can give an overall rating and ranking of FFA and state federations as follows. Where federations equal or exceed the 37.5% benchmark of female representation, they are assessed as meeting the gender diversity measure; where they match or exceed the proportion of culturally and linguistically diverse people in their state, they are assessed as meeting the cultural diversity measure.

 Governance (4)Diversity (2)Total (6)
1.  FFA426
2.  NSW415
2.  Victoria325
2.  Western Australia415
5.  South Australia314
5.  Tasmania314
7.  Northern NSW3.503.5
8.  Queensland303
9.  ACT202
9.  Northern Territory202


Congratulations to FFA on a perfect score. It's pleasing to see, although we note there is scope for improvement in their gender diversity and the quality of their financial reports. 

However, overall, the fact that a football Board member is almost three-and-a-half times more likely to be a man than a woman is simply unacceptable in modern Australia. It's no surprise, but it needs to be fixed. 

For a large state, Queensland's performance is astonishing. Their stakeholders should be asking some hard questions and demanding action. 

The ACT and the Northern Territory also have work to do; on the basis of this, it is questionable whether they should be indulged so readily in terms of determining the future of football in Australia.

For the others, this gives an easy indication of steps they can take to improve their governance and diversity performance.

In light of the basic FIFA reforms agreed at the FIFA Congress in February 2016, all federations should be required to meet these six fundamental measures by the end of the current financial period, or face a reduction in their grant from FFA.

If the state federations are going to talk-the-talk, they also need to walk-the-walk. Their governance performance should be leading, not lagging. 

Note: This was updated on 30 August to reflect that Victoria has six Board members, not five as indicated on the Board of Directors page of their website (when we checked on 28&29 August): three women, three men, all of CALD background. While the tables and text have been updated, the chart has not yet been updated to reflect this. Thanks to Board member Nicholas Tsiaras for letting us know. 

Categories: Analysis | Local

governance, ffa congress, diversity in football

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