The news that really catches the eye today is the one first reported by Dave Lewis at The World Game and also today by Ray Gatt in The Australian and David Davutovic in News Limited tabloids regarding the apparent imminence of a 'Normalisation Committee' to organise Australian football governance. 

I have written and spoken previously about FIFA's own flawed governance (most recently here), but let's put that aside for one moment while we look at what a Normalisation Committee could do. 

What is the impasse about?

What this boils down to is one vote.

 State FederationsA-League clubs

Professional Players

FFA/State Feds Model941+1
A-League/PFA Model951+1

The one vote is important because election to the FFA Board requires 60% of the Congress approval.

The state federations maintain their 60% control with their preferred model of 9+4+1+1 (also reluctantly agreed by FFA); they lose it if the A-League is given another vote for 9+5+1+1.

Will a change in the FFA Congress meet FIFA requirements?

There is one big hole in the positions of the three factions involved in this battle.

According to FIFA Statute 15(e), member associations’ congresses “must be constituted in accordance with the principles of representative democracy and taking into account the importance of gender equality in football.”

Neither the FFA/state federations model nor the A-League clubs/PFA model meets this requirement.

As an example of another FIFA member association, the structure of the England FA involves a Council (Congress) that has 126 members representing all facets of English football – including the professional, semi-professional and amateur levels of the game - with 24 members non-voting.

The FA Board has eight members: the Chairman, three representing the national game, two the professional game (Premier League specifically), all of whom are drawn from the Council, one independent director and the CEO.

What should the Normalisation Committee do?

While the A-League clubs have largely driven this agenda so far, if the FIFA staff members overseeing this issue remain true to the requirements of FIFA Statutes, a Normalisation Committee should go further than any of the parties currently propose.

First, there is the underlying issue of whether the FFA Constitution is still appropriate. It was prepared in 2003 in response to a specific set of issues and challenges highlighted by David Crawford in his 2002 report into the management and governance of the game.

The issues now faced by the game are different. The environment has shifted. The context has moved-on.

As an example, the FFA Constitution requires that FFA Board members should have no involvement in football for at least two years prior to election to the Board. The FIFA Statutes require precisely the opposite from its Council members. 

Second, there is the issue of how wide the net will be cast by the Normalisation Committee in adhering to the “principles of representative democracy”

If these are to be more than mere words, then fans should also be represented. This is something I have been advocating for publicly since 2011 (and privately within FFA before that), and which #NewFIFANow has made a key component of its platform.

Just like FIFA itself, FFA has conducted its stewardship of the game without accountability to the two critical stakeholders – players and fans. This may have been appropriate last century, it isn't in this one. 

The PFA’s alignment with the A-League clubs will ensure the professional playing is now represented.

Along with incoporated organisations such as the Association of Australian Football Clubs (AAFC) - which has a strong argument for its inclusion based on the FIFA Statutes and reforms - fan groups should be organising NOW to advocate to a Normalisation Committee for inclusion, even if as a non-voting member. Of course, there are practical issues around how fan representatives are identified, but these are not insurmountable and there are models in the UK and Europe which could serve as examples. 

In this way, we can ensure that we have a more democratic, accountable, inclusive and progressive Congress to advance Australian football.

Categories: Opinion | Football Business

ffa congress, fifa, governance, normalisation committee

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