“The definition of insanity is doing the same bloody thing over and over, fully expectant that shit will change”.

Yes, I realise this isn’t Einstein’s quote verbatim, but it’s the version that my U 16’s soccer coach, Mario Viggiani (Mr ‘V’) used to use in the change room if we dared falling into comfortable but unsuccessful patterns of behaviour. Which, playing at South, wasn’t often.

We grew up in an era when if (on the rare occasion) we were losing – at half-time, our coach would abuse us in mad fits of frothing rage. And we copped it in technicolour – Greek, Italian and English.

And when he had calmed down, he would forcefully ram home the half time message – “Kapnias! Yu the captain! Change the game!” Simple really.

The ultimatum was issued with such unrelenting and unforgiving definity, you grew to learn – week in week out – soccer was in fact, just as Bill Shankly had wisely coined – not just about life or death, but more important than that!

We played for keeps and it counted. And there was no parental insubordination if the coach went off the top rope to remind us of such. In fact, they urged him on.

The greatest gift of soccer? The life lessons we acquire in a competitive environment that we utilise in our everyday lives … for the rest of our lives.

And so, when last Thursday the FFA finally (the term extracting teeth comes to mind) announced its (fair-dinkum) expansion plans for the A-League, I rolled my eyes, bewildered by the FFA’s determination to continue to play the same failed hand, over and over again.

Despite the monopoly position the FFA has enjoyed over the past 13 seasons, despite having the Federal Government in its ‘back pocket’, despite open-spread print media coverage and despite telecast right windfalls, almost all A-League clubs to date, with Victory being the outlier, have been declared bankrupt or sought a bailout of sorts from the mothership (FFA).

I can foresee future MBA’s using the FFA’s economic howlers over the past 13 years as a case study of how NOT to succeed in sport.

And do we need to mention those doozies – Townsville Fury and Gold Coast (was it?) Lethargy – whoever? Does it really matter? Journeymen, all of them.
And the FFA backed them all.

The Board and CEO almost as though sleepwalking, talk of ‘challenges’ and ‘learnings’.

Fast forward to December 2018 and despite all those ‘learnings’, we are still stuck with Central Coast Mariners away to Wellington Phoenix as the FFA’s prime-time Saturday night offering! Empty, lifeless stands – dispiriting and as exciting as watching paint dry!

Twenty five years ago, the AFL – which is the proud monopoly model that the FFA would like to impersonate – shut down its bridgehead to suburban windfalls (Arctic Park) and realised that future stadiums need to be rationalised, centrally located, accessible to the greater Melbourne public, serviced by excellent amenities in desirable locations that can be cohabitated with other sports so that they are financially sustainable.

Now you’ll pardon the bias, but does this sound like Tarneit or Lakeside?

Yes, a purpose-built stadium sounds terrific. Just that, in the interim, we’ll have to endure a few seasons on Kardinia Park cricket pitches.

I’ll concede that in 2024 (or is it 2025?) when the stadium is finalised, at least, it will give the ‘Tarneit Wanderers’ a sense of place. They might not yet know ‘who they are’ but at least they’ll know ‘where they come from’.

Further, it is reported that the governing body did an exceptional amount of due diligence and it was very confident that the money behind the Tarneit group “is good, solid Australian(?) money” and that “they are genuinely invested in the A-League”.

Reassuring. I wouldn’t be surprised if the FFA believes in Santa Claus.

In the past, FFA due diligence included beacons of ethical corporate behaviour who also were invested in the A-League – remember shysters like Hinkler and Clive Palmer. That is, until it got too hard and puff, just like that, they were not.

Before getting granted their A-League licence they didn’t know how to spell the word soka.

Passion? Love for the game? As foreign as all those wogs and their ‘non-Australian’ money and on whose backs the game has been built for seventy years.

I fear that the ‘Tarneit Wanderers’ will trowel the same trough as Melbourne City and discover that hosting home games with a few thousand new age convert ‘mums, dads and kids’, who are as fickle as Melbourne weather, won’t cut it no matter how pretty the renderings of the stadium.

In a hypercompetitive sports economy, why the FFA continues to deny Australian soccer’s greatest competitive advantage – historic clubs with a deep football culture – is inexplicable.

Apart from recent derbies, the bigger crowds in Australian soccer history were regularly South v Perth Glory, v Melbourne Knights, v Heidelberg, v Sydney Olympic, v Marconi, v Juventus, v Polonia. Yes. We go back.

Sorry FFA. Just the facts.

In deciding against South, they had to protect their almost stillborn test tube baby ‘City’ and the diva of the group Melbourne Victory. Yes that’s right, they fear awakening the sleeping giant of Australian soccer. Did I hear someone say protection racket?

Just like the banks, it seems the FFA firmly believes in an open, competitive economy. For everyone else.

Can you imagine South needing an extra few seasons (like South-West Sydney) to get its stadium/juniors/women’s/community engagement etc etc up and running?
We would be salivating. Let us at them. And them at us – next week if possible.

It would be like high octane drag racing for soccer fans.

And as long as the FFA keeps seeking silver bullets – rich, secretive, privateers, as against adopting AFL’s most successful technique (being broad based membership clubs for whom soccer is a part of life and an extension of their identity), the FFA will continue to build their empire on quicksand.

For an aggrieved ‘old-soccer’ fan that is still waiting for ‘new-football’ to say “all welcome”, the formation of a second division can’t come soon enough.

And until it does – AND IT WILL – we’ll be waiting.