FFA's congress review saga set to drag on

Vince Rugari
FFA chairman Steven Lowy's relationship with A-League club owners remains strained

Sweeping governance changes proposed for Football Federation Australia by a FIFA-backed working group appear likely to fall at the first hurdle.

Tuesday was the deadline for the eight-member congress review working group to submit their document to the world governing body on how FFA's membership should be expanded to comply with FIFA statutes.

Once approved, FIFA will direct the group's proposal be adopted at an FFA special general meeting by September 7.

However, AAP understands a furious late lobbying effort from FFA has all but ensured the working group's changes will be blocked if they go to a vote.

An amendment to FFA's constitution is required to pass the changes, which means 75 per cent of the current 10-member congress must vote in favour.

FFA has convinced Capital Football and Football Federation Northern Territory to vote against it, and they are believed to be supported by at least one other state federation.

Those three votes are enough to block the changes.

FFA's position, and that of the state federations in their corner, is that the working group's recommendations would tip the balance of power too far in the favour of A-League clubs, putting at risk the proportion of funding currently allocated to grassroots football and youth national teams.

FFA is also unhappy that the structure of the congress working group does not account for the views of the state federations who are not part of it.

But a source from inside the working group said the content of its report to FIFA was such that there would be no obvious basis for a state federation to oppose it.

Should the group's proposal not be adopted, the ball will effectively be back in FIFA's court.

FIFA had the opportunity to sack chairman Steven Lowy and FFA's board and install a 'normalisation committee' in November 2017 when the last deadline for governance change was not met.

It chose instead to establish the congress review working group in a last-ditch attempt to force a diplomatic solution.

With that now doomed to fail, the big question is what FIFA will do next. Normalisation appears to be its only remaining option, but that could be met with potential legal action from FFA.

Alternatively, suspension from FIFA would have drastic consequences for the sport in Australia and potentially the Socceroos' defence of their Asian Cup title in January.

FIFA did not respond to a request for comment from AAP on Tuesday, nor did the chairmen of Capital Football and FFNT.

The irony is that the latest skirmishes have come at a time when collaboration between FFA and the clubs is at its highest point in the last few years.

Other working groups have been formed and are operating cordially to discuss topics such as marquee players, a new collective bargaining agreement for players and the feasibility of a national second division.

But while executives in those two camps might be on good terms, the relationships between Lowy and the A-League club owners remains strained.