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FFA powerbase under fire as FIFA says clubs left out in cold

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Football Federation Australia could have some of its powers diluted if it is forced to bow to pressure from FIFA to make changes to its constitution.

World governing body FIFA have confirmed to The Australian that their representatives and several from the Asian Football Confederation will be in Sydney on September 21 and 22 to meet with FFA and its stakeholders to discuss bringing its constitution in line with FIFA’s statutes used for member associations around the world.

It is understood FIFA are concerned that some sections of the game in Australia are not properly represented. A-League clubs, who have long been unhappy that they have not had a bigger say in the national competition, would likely benefit from FIFA’s move, which is believed to have been instigated after AFC intervention.

One of the implications of FIFA’s push for constitutional change is the introduction of an independent commission to run the A-League or, at the very least, the clubs having a representative on the independent FFA board.

The relationship between FFA and the clubs has been strained at times. There was much rancour this time 12 months ago when the head body identified three candidates to take over from retiring board members, including chairman Frank Lowy.

It was suggested the candidates be elected unopposed. The clubs offered a candidate to run against Lowy but could not find two seconders among the members.

The three candidates, including Frank Lowy’s son, Steven, who was eventually installed as chairman, were elected unopposed. It is understood that situation did not go down well at FIFA or the AFC.

In a response to inquiries from The Australian, a FIFA spokeswoman said in a statement that: “FIFA statutes stipulate that legislative bodies of FIFA’s member association must be constituted in accordance with the principles of representative democracy. We can confirm that a FIFA-AFC delegation will be visiting Sydney to engage with the FFA and other Australian football stakeholders.

“The objective of the mission is to ensure the full implementation of the decision taken by the FIFA Association Committee, which requires the FFA to align its statutes with the requirements of the FIFA and AFC Statutes, as well as the FIFA Standard Statutes.

“As any other FIFA member association, the FFA is obliged to ratify statutes that are in accordance with the requirements of the FIFA Standard Statutes.”

FFA will mount a strong case to maintain the status quo. In a letter to all stakeholders ahead of the meetings, FFA said it will argue that Australia has “enacted a best practice representative model that meets FIFA’s representative governance model.”

Among a number of key points, it said:
• There is an appropriate balance between stakeholders;
• A truly independent board of directors acting in the best interests of the game as a whole;
• Key stakeholders’ interests promoted and protected by long-term binding legal agreements;
• The current governance model has delivered unprecedented reform and success.

The head body says FIFA’s plans come at a critical time, especially given it is about to negotiate a new broadcast deal.

“The existing membership model, which has produced governance stability and underpinned the achievements of the last decade, should be preserved at this critical time in the evolution of the game in Australia,” FFA said in its letter. “The constitutional membership model is, and should continue to be, supplemented by dedicated, binding stakeholder arrangements that deal specifically with those groups.”

© 2016 The Australian | This article was written by Ray Gatt and first appeared on The Australian website on 13 September 2016.

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