COMMENT: Time for courage in Australian football

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A-League Season Launch

Courage comes in many different forms, not just the physical variety.

In a football context, we recently called on football associations around the world to show courage and vote to oust Sepp Blatter from the position of President. In the end 73 nations including made that vote, but it wasn’t enough.

Closer to home, that being Australia, we need to again call on the member associations, in this case the state federations and A-League clubs, to show courage and stand up to the ’s plan to parachute Steven Lowy, son of incumbent chairman Frank, into the role of Chairman.

According to the FFA constitution, must stand down as Chairman this year and the process of finding his successor has long been ongoing, with FFA curiously engaging the services of Egon Zehnder, a leading executive search company, to find suitable replacements.

I say curiously because according to the same constitution, it is the FFA members who nominate individuals for the vacant Director positions and the FFA members are the nine state and territory federations, while the ten A-League clubs have one collective ‘membership’. It is they who must nominate potential candidates, not the FFA.

Yet football politics being what they are, FFA will lobby the state federations to unanimously back their preferred candidate, paving the way for Steven Lowy to become an FFA Director, and its Chairman.

It is a curious process given how vocal FFA has been in the last week in regards to FIFA and their own election process, calling for governance reform and greater transparency.

Given the way the process of determining the next FFA Chairman is being conducted, the same calls could equally apply to FFA.

Pleasingly it appears as though some are willing to show that courage and resist the FFA’s desire for a simple transition from one Lowy to another.

Anthony Di Pietro, Chairman of A-League champions , told the Herald Sun last week that there needs to be greater transparency in the entire process.

“As far as candidates, I’m unaware of any. But like all of us I suspect that Steven (Lowy) is throwing his hat in the ring,” he said said.

“I want to understand what his ambitions are, and how he connects to all of those things.

“I’m making it my business as a chairman of an A-League club to meet with Steven and to query Brian Schwarz, the head of the nominations committee, on who the other candidates may be, as well as potentially put forward candidate nominations.

“I also want to understand what other candidates there are, and I want to engage with my colleagues at A-League clubs to come up with potential candidates. There’s three positions here, it’s not just the chairman.

“I would urge every A-League club that they involve themselves in that process.

“The really important one for us is that its someone that’s not in this for self-interest, doesn’t need to use this as a vehicle to promote themselves. Someone that’s established, that’s going to give not take.

“It’s the single most important time in the history of the league, there’s three highly influential candidates coming off.”

The other state and territory federations must show the same courage and hold FFA to the same levels of transparency and governance to which they hold FIFA.

We need to have a proper, thorough, transparent process where potential candidates can freely put forward their candidacy and outline their vision for football in Australia and be judged on that, and that alone.

If they find the required support (two members, or one member and one current director, plus another member/director to second) to achieve a formal nomination, fantastic. If not, at least they will have had the chance to do so in an open, transparent system.

It may come to pass that Steven Lowy is the best candidate for the job, but under the current process we’ll never really know. It just looks like a simple case of nepotism.

Candidates should be judged only on their ability, ambition, and vision for football in Australia, not on the strength of their surname.