Jesse Fink. Misguided or misunderstood, whatever your thoughts on the man, Fink’s opinion is one that holds some esteem in the football world.
In the past few months there has been a lot of commotion over at the headquarters of Football Federation Australia. Speaking to me before the launch of his book Laid Bare, Fink shared his take on recent developments.
Like many sport commentators Jesse Fink is on Team Gallop. He believes the move to appoint the former NRL boss as the FFA’s new CEO is one that will greatly benefit the sport.
“I thought it was the shrewdest move Frank Lowy’s ever made,” he says down the phone.
“I sense Gallop has the charisma and connections to take the FFA where it needs to get to.”
By attracting women and families to the NRL as well as commanding notoriety in NSW as a decisive sports administrator, in Fink’s mind Gallop simply has more strings to his bow.
“My personal opinion is that Ben Buckley didn’t do a great job as FFA Chief Executive,” he tells me.
“I just don’t think he inspired a lot of confidence in football fans.
“The failure to expand the A-League in the way it was hoped has set the game back a number of years. Someone with Gallop’s ability was needed to come in and clean up a bit of the mess.”
But Fink doesn’t heap all the blame on Buckley.
Instead he suggests FFA Chairman Frank Lowy should shoulder some responsibility for those failures.
Never shying away from his disparaging view of Lowy since the failed 2018 World Cup bid, Fink called for more than just a new FFA CEO.
“I’d like to see Frank Lowy leave the FFA as well. I think it’s time for a change at the top.”
Australia’s national team head coach Holger Osieck is another in his line of fire. According to Fink, internationally, skies the limit for the Socceroos, just not under the German.
“I want us to get to a semi-final of a World Cup which I think we are absolutely capable of doing and maybe even go beyond that. But it’s going to take another Gus Hiddink to get us there,” he says flippantly.
Statements like these have brought Fink many friends and many enemies over the years, however that has not swayed him.
“I’ve written a lot of critical things about the FFA in the past but that criticism comes with good intentions,” he said.
“I want the game to be what it can be and I never really got the feeling under the stewardship of Frank Lowy and Ben Buckley that the game was achieving it’s potential.”
Despite his polarizing opinions, there is no doubt that Fink indeed has a fervent passion for the game.
This becomes clear when Sydney FC’s signing of Alessandro Del Piero is brought up.
A historic achievement for the A-League, Fink (a fan of the Sky Blues) believes it is validation for the domestic competition and the one thing that could bring more people through the turnstiles and get the disenfranchised fans he calls “old soccer”, back on board.
“There’s a massive community out there who really want to get behind the A-League and maybe now they’re going to do that,” he says.
The Del Piero acquisition orchestrated in a clandestine mission by Sydney FC CEO Tony Pignata and Tribal Sports Managing Director Lou Sticca, has captured the attention of sports fans around the world and Fink is no exception.
Though he admits, he did have a clue what was coming.
“I’m personal friends with Lou Sticca but I had no idea he was working on this at all. Interestingly he had a photo of Del Piero as his Facebook profile photo for a month prior, but no one actually twigged,” Fink said.
Nabbing the Juventus champion has resulted in positive exposure of the game here in Australia and abroad. It’s even attracted interest from TV broadcasters in Europe and Asia, all eager to get a taste of the A-League now Del Piero has signed on.
The ramifications are huge, and are already being felt.
Fink says it is people like Pignata and Sticca who should take credit for the upcoming lucrative broadcast deal, not Ben Buckley, though Buckley would surely disagree.
“What they’ve done is a sign that football people are capable of running things and I’d like to see more football people at the FFA.”
Fink points to Major League Soccer in the USA as a model and something the A-League should aim for in the coming years.
It’s quite a goal but Fink does believe it is achievable, given the right leadership. And he says the one-two punch of Gallop and Del Piero is at the very least, a step in the right direction.
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