Reality check: we’ve got a long way to go when it comes to women and football
What has the FFA Congress done to improve their own gender equality shortcomings?11 March 2019 | Bonita Mersiades
Writer, editor, publisher
More than four months after the 2018 annual general meeting of FFA which saw sweeping changes to the Constitution, there is still a long way to go for FFA’s Congress Members – comprising state member federations, A-League clubs and the PFA - to comply with some elements of it.
This lack of action was no more obvious than on International Women’s Day on Friday, which saw FFA and state member federations patting themselves on the back while they handed out 'gender awards'.
The hollowness of the Constitutional changes can be seen in the extent to which the Members of FFA meet the new s44 of the Constitution which states, inter alia, that “… all FFA bodies, including its Members and Directors, and its various committees; and all bodies and committees of other stakeholders of Football in Australia, including District Associations, and other Clubs and associations …” will meet the 40/40/20 principle of gender representation.
The only Member of FFA that does this is Football Victoria whose Board comprises equal numbers of men and women for a total of six Board members.
Northern NSW Federation is next closest with three of their eight (38%) Board members who are women.
The worst Member Federation is Capital Football with just one woman from six (17%) Board members, but FFA is not much better with currently one woman from five (20%).
The Congress Member whose representation on Congress was often at the centre of the debate about Congress changes, the PFA, still has work to do with only 30% of their executive board being women.
State member federations, PFA & FFA Boards gender representation, March 2019
When it comes to the A-League clubs, the situation is even worse with only four clubs having one woman Board member. In two instances (Melbourne Victory and Newcastle Jets), they are on the Board as Company Secretary. The ‘best’ performing clubs reach 33% female representation but only because these clubs have only three Board members. Six of the A-League clubs have no women Board members at all. (Western United has not yet named their Board – or their owners - so there is not data available).
A-League club Boards gender reprsentation, March 2019
By not meeting s44 of the Constitution, the Congress members are also not complying with s6.4(i) of the Constitution ... which requires them to comply with the Constitution.
Not one CEO of a state member federation, the PFA or the A-League clubs is a woman, although there are women on some of the senior management teams of these organisations with the PFA's deputy CEO being a woman.
Amongst the aspirants for Congress the Football Coaches Association achieves the 40/40/20 principle with 43% women Board members.
The Association of Australian Football Clubs (AAFC) with 22% women membership of their Board has to find at least another three women to join their current nine-member state-based Board, if they are to meet the 40/40/20 principle. Of course, in light of the dismal performance and lack of action from existing Members of FFA Congress, AAFC would have a strong argument for ignoring the s44 principle altogether – although that would not be progress.
The Football Supporters Association’s Board membership is not made public but is understood to include at least one woman in its five-person interim Board (20%). It is also not yet offering open membership.
Women's Football Council
Compounding the lack of diversity in football’s top structures is the membership of the new Women's Football Council which, with one exception, comprises women who are seen by their Congress nominators as safe options, rather than those who might push the envelope.
Despite being handed a welcome opportunity to bring new and different people into the game through the Council, the male Congress members who nominated the Council members overwhelmingly opted for women with existing ties in the game, who are already in positions of influence relevant to the operational and fiduciary responsibilities of the Congress members. Of the ten members:
- one is self-employed but has strong links with the PFA and shared funding programs with FFA;
- two are on the Board of an A-League club as the company secretary;
- one is a senior executive with an A-League club (that has no women on its Board);
- three are on the Board of PFA;
- two are on the Board of a state Member Federation; and
- only one - nominated by Football Victoria – is from outside the game, and that is Sydney resident Maha Abdo, OAM.
Ms Abdo's place on the Council is noteworthy because her nomination and appointment was criticised by one high-profile well-connected and influential woman within Australian football circles because she is the sister of the AAFC Chairman, Rabieh Krayem (from Queensland). The woman who disapproved wrote that Ms Abdo was only nominated because “there are too many deals”.
It is unclear what deal the writer of the message was referring to, but a Football Victoria spokesperson said Ms Abdo came to their attention as a community leader independent of Krayem and they have made no deals with him or the AAFC. Amongst other things, Ms Abdo is the CEO of the Muslim Women's Association who holds a Masters of Social Science in youth services, and has been a finalist in the Human Rights Medal.
However, when looking at the women already involved at governance or executive levels in the sport and the members of the Women's Council, and taking account of the comments of the high-profile woman who criticised Ms Abdo's nomination, it suggests that there is little scope for women who are not already part of an apparently exclusive group to become involved in the game at a senior level.
This is an issue the game needs to address. It is challenging enough for women to advocate their cause with the men who run the game, but it is a challenge that is shamefully exacerbated when the women who hold power and influence in the game actively resist a broader pool of talent.
gender equality, ffa governance, football governance, a-league clubs, state federations, pfa, ffa, fca, aafc, fsa, women's football council, #iwd2019