Women’s football and the Australian Association of Football Clubs (AAFC) are the big the winners from the Congress Review Working Group’s (CRWG) report to FIFA, which also earmarks the potential for an independent A-League as soon as 2019-20.
The report, which was submitted to FIFA in Zurich on 31 July but distributed to the public by the involved stakeholders with the blessings of FIFA today, lays bare its recommendations for fixing the governance crisis currently engulfing Australian football; key of which is the recommendation for the expansion of the FFA congress.
Currently the smallest and least democratic in world football with only ten members (nine representatives member federations and one representative for the A-League and W-League body the Association of Professional Football Clubs Australia) the congress would be expanded from 10 to 29 under the newly proposed model.
Under the new system, member federations would receive 55 votes, the APFCA would receive 28, the players union Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) seven and a newly established Women’s Football Council 10.
The creation of the Women’s Council is one of the key recommendations of the report and shows a clear push by the members of the group to bring Australian into line with FIFA’s policy on gender equality.
The report outlines the makeup of this newly established Women’s Football Council would be made up of an independent chair, three representatives from Member Federations, three from the PFA and three from the APFCA.
This structure, as well as giving greater representation to women, would also effectively bring the voting powers of the PFA and APFCA in the new congress to 10 and 31 respectively.
Explicitly mentioned in the report outlining the expansion of the Congress is the objections of the FFA Board to the CRWG’s proposed model.
The report also makes specific mention of the AAFC several times, including outlining a pathway for the body seeking to give NPL a voice at the national level a clear pathway to gaining acceptance into the Congress as a recognised special interest group.
Importantly for the AAFC, their previous efforts at gaining representation have been recognised by the CRWG, meaning that they could be recognised as full voting rights members of the Congress by July next year.
Other interest groups, such as fans, coaches and futsal would have to begin a longer pathway to membership of the congress that begins with a two-year qualifying period under a process outlined in detail in the report.
Any new A-League clubs added to the A-League through expansion would qualify for two votes within the Congress once admitted to the relevant competitions.
Aside from the Congress, the biggest news to come from the report is the CRWG’s recommendations surrounding a pathway to an alternative A-League governance model, that could see an independent A-League, W-League and Y-League as soon as the 2019-20 season.
Noting that, once again, the FFA Board objected to the proposal, the CRWG outlined plans for the creation of a ‘New League’s Working Group’ (NLWG) that would, in consultation with key stakeholders such as the PFA, APFCA, Member Federations and the FFA, work towards a proposal for a new organisation by next April.
The mandate of the NLWG shall be comprised of two key objectives/phases of work, being:
1. To consider, evaluate and make recommendations for consideration by the FFA Board and FFA Congress respectively in relation to a new governance model for the professional leagues in Australia (A-League, W-League and Y-League); and
2. To consider, evaluate and negotiate terms and make recommendations for consideration by the FFA Board and FFA Congress respectively in relation to legal and commercial aspects pertaining to the new A-League model.
The Congress Review Working Group Report – Pg. 50
Beyond changes to the Congress and the A-League, the report also recommends that further steps to ensure that it is fully compliant with FIFA statutes on human rights, including the employing of an expert on business and human rights to report on what the FFA needs to do to embed respect for human rights across it’s international and domestic operations.
Alex Wilkinson, president of the PFA, welcomed the release of the report.
“I’ve been part of the A-League since the very first season and seen it evolve,” Wilkinson said.
“There was a time when we needed absolute support but the competitions – both the A-League and the W-League – are now ready and mature enough to step out on their own.
“What this report has proposed is a plan to ensure all areas of the sport will be stronger. Not only the professional leagues but also the national teams and development pathways; as each stakeholder will be able to contribute to building the league and then focusing on their own areas of expertise.”
Greg Griffin, who serves as chair and CEO of the APFCA, also welcomed the public’s chance to view the report.
“This report and its recommendations represent an opportunity for a new era of collaboration, transparency and democracy for Australian Football,” the former Adelaide United executive said.
“They are borne from a process of unprecedented cooperation and engagement between the diverse stakeholders of our game – interactions that should be given every chance of becoming the cornerstone of a brighter future for the entire game.”
FFA responded with a statement of their own, outlining their concerns.
“FFA has been supportive of the CRWG process from the beginning and is committed to working constructively with all stakeholders,” chairman Steven Lowy said.
“There are many elements of the report which are positive steps and wholly supported by the FFA board.
“However, there are also some crucial aspects of the report which the FFA board does not believe are in the best interests of the game and are inconsistent with its guiding principles submitted at the beginning of the process.”