Last week, prior to announcing his faux resignation, FFA Chairman Steven Lowy apparently made a few phone calls to FIFA heavyweights in Zurich. 

He told them of his plan to resign; he informed them that it was a tactic aimed to force at least three of the state member federations to see things his way - a tactic he made clear in his media conference the same day, and subsequently in a friendly interview with the ABC's The Ticket radio program. 

Lowy told his FIFA contacts that it would strengthen his position if FIFA did not endorse the report of the Congress Review Working Group (CRWG), but instead suggest that the warring factions have one more meeting to try to resolve the differences between the CRWG, the FFA Board and management and four state member federations. Lowy also pushed the state member federations to reconvene. 

For some years, the FFA Board has leveraged the perception that they have a 'special relationship' with FIFA. Many people have commented to me, particularly after reading my book Whatever It Takes - the Inside Story of the FIFA Way, that they must have something “over” FIFA.

They don't. 

And to the extent that they may have had a special relationship, either between Sepp Blatter and Frank Lowy or Gianni Infantino and Steven Lowy, the introduction of even limited management and administrative reforms to FIFA in recent years means that those sorts of relationships are no longer the only currency in Zurich. 

The currency now also includes process, looking at issues, having a reference point (in this case, the FIFA Statutes), and coming up with the best solution for the time and circumstance, and which is fit for purpose. 

This is why the decision of the FIFA Associations Committee via the FIFA Secretary General, Fatma Samoura, has: 

  • accepted the report of the CRWG, 
  • recommended to FIFA - not FFA - that they “reach out” to the four state member federations who expressed concern about some of the recommendations,
  • directed the CRWG’s recommendations be submitted to an extraordinary general meeting of FFA, and
  • instructed FIFA to provide an update on the matter at the next meeting of the Associations Committee on 26 September.

Having been one of the first people in the world to call out FIFA on the ‘FIFA Way’ of doing business and all that it meant, and having co-founded campaign group #NewFIFANow that advocates for a world governing body in which we can have trust and confidence, it is pleasing to see that FIFA is evolving in how it conducts its business.

Once upon a time, including in the timeline of this protracted battle between the factions in Australian football, Lowy's political intervention might have carried weight. However, this time, the intervention and Lowy have been rejected. 

Instead, the Associations Committee has focussed on the issues and respected the process by endorsing the CRWG report. (By the way, that is not to say that FIFA is perfect - just look at the recent changes to their ethics code - but it is improved.)

The CRWG might not have gone as far as some of us wanted it to go, but after almost three years of this inertia which has held football back in this country, the CRWG delivered what was required of them by the process agreed by all parties.

Any action now by, for example, the FFA Board attempting to challenge the CRWG recommendations and the FIFA decision, thereby prolonging this saga, could only be seen as individuals acting in their own interests, rather than the best interests of the game. 

The recommendations of the CRWG will not take us backwards, they will help evolve the game to its next stage of development. They should be accepted at the extraordinary general meeting.

It is up to all stakeholders now – including and especially all of the state federations – to work within the framework the CRWG has laid out, to achieve what is the common goal of all of us: advancing Australian football at all levels to help achieve our potential of being the sport of the 21st century for the entire nation. 

Categories: Opinion | Football Business

ffa congress, ffa governance, fifa

You might also like: