Australian football governance crisis as FFA expansion delays add to putrid track-record

Ladies and gentleman, prepare for another classic Football Federation Australia cock-up.

Last week, I expressed my frustrations with the state of the ever-stagnating A-League which – right on cue – failed to attract more than 10,000 people to a single fixture last round, the lack of promotion and relegation and the unfair burdens placed on the infrastructure beneath to support expansion of the top flight.

This week, such expansion was pushed back even further.

Seriously, the big wigs at the FFA in Sydney have gotten so good at this, they should patent the process and sell it to governments all around the world.

Of course, it might not be of use to most governments, given their constituents can vote them out after a set term.

No such luck in football, I guess, but in any case…


  1. Make grand statement about lofty ambitions for the future, set date for minimum two years in the future (but if we can make it 20 years, even better)
  2. Promise plenty of consultation with “key stakeholders”, whoever they are
  3. Outline key dates on the way to achieving previously stated lofty ambition
  4. Get distracted with other issues
  5. Postpone said key dates
  6. Repeat until everyone forgets lofty ambitions

Who remembers the FFA’s “Whole of Football” Plan?

This was announced in 2015 and presented the FFA’s vision for the next 20 years of football in Australia.

Fresh off Australia’s brilliant hosting of the AFC Asia Cup, which the Socceroos won, there probably was not a better moment for former FFA chairperson Frank Lowy, David Gallop and Co. to drop their latest load of marketing guff on the public.

“Welcome to the Whole of Football Plan (WOFP), a vision for Football in 2035,” the introduction reads.

“The plan is a set of ambitious, yet tangible goals that everyone in Australian Football can work towards over the next 20 years as we strive to become the largest and most popular sport in Australia.”

The plan splits goals into three areas; Administration, Competitions and National Teams, each of which has its own sub-categories from “Fan Connection” through to “Player Development”.

You can read it HERE (careful, that’s a 25mb document you’re about to download. Pretty pictures are a big part of the plan).

Interestingly, the plan has no plans for promotion or relegation, rather expansion and an “in and out” system. The word “relegation” appears once in the whole document.

Since its announcement, there has been little discussion or reporting on how the FFA is travelling with respect to their ambitions in the document.

I suppose that would be hard to do given the fact there is very little in the way of quantifiable targets in the document.

For example, under Competitions, one of the targets for the A-League is “Composition of the A-League” which says “The A-League will aim to be the strongest Football league in our region”.

That’s it really. Some stuff about what goes into defining an eligible club for entry to the A-League, but nothing that actually quantifies at what point exactly the A-League will be the strongest league in the region and what steps have to be taken to get there.

Classic FFA and it gets even better.


If you do not remember the “Whole of Football” plan, then you probably do not remember when Lowy promised promotion and relegation from a 12-team A-League by 2018.

“Promotion and relegation is the lifeblood of the game, so we can’t ignore it and we won’t ignore it,” he said in 2008.

“By the time the (2018) World Cup comes there will be promotion and relegation, we will probably have a lot more teams and … I believe we are going to move forward in big steps, as we are now.”

Odd then, that the “Whole of Football” plan makes no reference to any such system, which we were promised would be in place by 2018. Oh, and we still don’t have 12 A-League teams.

Sure, Lowy probably only said it because FIFA – no darling itself – was breathing down his neck with the FFA in the process of bidding for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, but he still said it and frankly the lack of accountability is disgusting.

The pressure from FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation on the FFA to expand the A-League and introduce a system of promotion and relegation remains, but the governing body’s ability to produce results or be held accountable in the absence of them remains the same.

Frank Lowy may have stepped down but the installation of his son, Steven, as FFA chairman has proven the apple does not fall far from the tree.

Instead of just working to achieve the desired outcomes, the FFA has been sidetracked with the pressing need to prove the legitimacy of its governance structures and and improve its decision-making processes to come into line with FIFA’s demands, instead of serving Australian football and providing the game the proper leadership it so desperately needs.

After promising that the criteria for applicants wishing to become a part of the expanded A-League – and there is no shortage of suitors – would be made available in December, the date was pushed back to February.

Mid-way through February and that date is set to be pushed back again. The FFA excited football fans, made promises to them and is again failing at the most important stage – execution.

It is an all too familiar process, but this time, it might just consume the FFA.

A-League clubs are jostling for position as they look for greater influence on the FFA board and a greater share of the increased revenue from the new broadcasting deal, aspirant National Premier Leagues clubs are hungry for their chance to step into the big time and fans are growing increasingly restless.

Something has to give and someone has to start holding the FFA accountable for its putrid track record of big statements and broken promises.

The Author

Matthew Galea

A former full-time journalist who crossed to the dark side of media and communications. Fortunately, football, Manchester United and freelance writing keeps me sane.

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