NPL clubs across Australia are on the march sensing a critical juncture in the history of the game in this country. A newly formed association, representing 90 per cent of the 110-115 NPL clubs nationwide, has convened an inaugural meeting in Melbourne this Monday to elect officials and prioritise its objectives.
Spokesperson for the Association of Australian Football Clubs (AAFC), Thomas Kalas, says the meeting is expected to draw 60-70 representatives from all over the country.
Impetus for the formation of the group was the FFA’s recent announcement of the need to develop a new model of ownership and structure for the A-League and W-League, following its analysis which revealed that expansion under the current model would lead to unsustainable losses.
The announcement set off alarm bells for the NPL clubs. As Kalas explained to Neos Kosmos, “The NPL clubs have been starved for way too long. We’ve locked the money in the top tier of football, A-League, and FFA headquarters in Sydney, and we’ve starved the rest of the football landscape in Australia to the point where everyone is struggling and has had enough, to be frank.
“Football is where it is today because we’ve been following a flawed strategy. The FFA came out publicly two weeks ago, where they said the financial model is wrong for football. After that came out, we were extremely alarmed, because that has massive repercussions for the football landscape. We need to get involved and we need to help.”
With the FFA under pressure from FIFA to change its constitution and governance structures, the formation of the AAFC is a timely move by the NPL clubs to have a stronger voice and become involved in the decision making.
Kalas told Neos Kosmos that the AAFC has already notified the FFA that it wants “a seat at the congress that is scheduled at the end of the month alongside the A-League Clubs and the PFA (Professional Footballers Association), where they will determine the voting structures for the change in the constitution.”
The AAFC has also briefed FIFA of its intention to pursue direct representation at the forthcoming FFA Congress and direct representation on the FFA board.
“We represent over 30,000 players across Australia. I hope they (FFA) understand we have a lot of expertise. We have a lot of insight. Obviously what they’ve rolled out these past years, has not worked, so we need to help, for our membership. We need to focus on that area. If we don’t invest in infrastructure, facilities and fund that tier of football, Australia’s football future is in very dire circumstances.”
“Football in Australia is funded from the bottom up. We need to change that mechanism and what model we decide, will be determined on the table, but we need to be there to argue the case and to explain and to educate, because sometimes people are a little bit too removed from the coalface, from what their decisions have repercussions and impact on.
“It’s not just asking for money. We have to change the model of football. What we did in Australia over the last decade, we tried to build football without building a football culture… to fill stadiums with deep football culture will take two or three generations. In the interim, we need to invest, develop, and grow the football clubs in the tiers under the A-League, because that’s the engine for football growth.”
It’s not yet clear what the AAFC’s preferred model would look like, but it’s reasonable to assume it would involve the introduction of a second-tier national competition at some stage. Kalas says the AAFC will commission a study to help build a model.
“We can’t do this quickly. It’s not going to be next month or next year. We’ve got to make sure we get it right this time. We’re going to build a football model for Australia. This time we’ve got to do it right.”