Sunday, 27 January 2008

FFA's telling, foxy ways

Frank Lowy is a man of integrity. Aside from his major achievements in the corporate world, he has been the single biggest factor in the rise of Australian football and its administration from its tawdry NSL days.

It's a pity then to see the FFA demonstrating a lack of integrity on two fronts in the A-league in recent days, in both cases compromising fairness in favour of commercial interests. Firstly, we had the exciting prospect of the top four teams going into the final round level on points, with everything to play for. With such a close situation then, it was astounding that the FFA had scheduled the final four fixtures all at different times.

Listening to Simon Hill of Foxtel being interviewed on ABC radio about this aspect, it was quite clear from his comments that it was Foxtel dictating that the last round the matches remained staggered. This is extraordinary. Any league or other football competition with any integrity would ensure that the last round is played with the same kick-off times. And why? Because there are several well-noted cautionary tales regarding the "convenient" results that come about when it's not done that way. The "day of World Cup Shame" at Gijon in Spain in 1982 is perhaps the most poignant example of what happens when a result can be engineered to the satisfaction of both teams, in this case Austria and the former West Germany at the expense of Algeria, but there are plenty of others.

Another decision made last week which was all about boosting the FFA coffers in favour of treating all teams fairly was the decision that should Newcastle or Central Coast win the major semi-final, then the grand final would not be held at either's home ground, but in Sydney instead. This because the Sydney venue can hold a lot more than the other venues. Again, a rubbish decision of which the FFA should be ashamed. So we have the prospect at time of writing that should Sydney FC reach the final, they will be at a decided advantage despite their being ranked lower then the team they will be facing. For football followers outside Sydney, this would leave a bad taste similar to what occurred in the A-leagues' first season when the FFA bailed out Sydney FC's losses at the end of their title winning season.

The FFA finances are presumably not in a great state at present. But that is no reason to devalue the A-league competition by putting the dollar above all other factors.