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Phil Moss: Australian football coaches deserve better

Phil Moss

Former Central Coast Mariners coach Phil Moss claims football coaches in Australia deserve more respect and a higher level of support.

Speaking exclusively to Soccerscene, the former A-League coach claimed associations such as Football Coaches Australia (FCA), which he is currently president of, will improve the conditions and reputation of coaches in Australia.

“I think the main aim (of FCA) is to wrap coaches with a support mechanism, give them a collective voice and really drive towards a level of respect for coaches that we haven’t seen in this country,” he said.

“We’re always the easy option when things go wrong.

“There’s an old saying, when the team’s going well the players are great, but when the team’s losing it’s because the coach doesn’t know what he is doing.”

Moss had various coaching stints in his career at Dee Why FC, Northern Spirit youth (assistant), Manly United and the Olyroos (assistant) before moving to the Mariners in 2010.

He took over from Graham Arnold after being an assistant coach for the club in the three years prior, which included a championship winning season in 2012-2013.

Moss led the Mariners to a third placed finish in his first season as head coach in 2013-14.

However, he was eventually sacked near the end of his second season in charge after disagreements with the owner.

“We had a fantastic first season, we had a lot of success, we missed the grand final by one game,” Moss said.

“We also missed out on the second round of the ACL by a point and then we sold a lot of players. In the January transfer window of the following season, I think I lost six players in that period and that proved to be really tough.

“Things spiralled out a bit from there and the owner and I fell out. There was only going to be one winner in that situation.”

Moss believes a lack of appropriate professional support at the time of his removal, planted the seeds for his eventual involvement in FCA.

Central Coast ended up compensating Moss in the region of around $500,000 according to The Daily Telegraph, after his case for wrongful dismissal was settled before a court date. (Moss would go on to be an assistant coach at Sydney FC in 2017).

“I had my family, my closest friends, my mobile phone and a pretty good lawyer and that was it. That’s where FCA sort of morphed from.

“My mantra is to make sure no Australian coach is ever in the same situation I was in. Plenty of others before me were in (that situation) with no real support.”

Steps in the right direction have been taken to improve the employment conditions and general well-being of coaches through work driven by the association.

FCA recently released the findings of a study completed by the University of Queensland on these factors.

The report showcases data which highlights the need for contractual guidelines to be implemented, as well as standardising grievance and dispute resolution procedures, among other things.

FCA hopes to address these issues and move quickly into a process to fix them.

“We’re fighting for better conditions for coaches and probably a bit more uniformity,” claimed Moss.

“We are working hard on a well-being program for coaches, to support coaches in and out of jobs and in that transition into a job and out of a job. So, all those things are really important to us.”

The association was also in contact with the FFA and A-League clubs, before the start of this A-League season.

Greg O’Rourke and the FFA were kind enough to give us a slot during their agenda with the coaches.

“That was an opportunity for us to ask the coaches what their issues were, going into the season.

“We’re in the process of sharing that information with FFA and working through that, and not just with the FFA but obviously the new operating company of the independent A-league.”

The organisation has a seat at the table in the discussion for the introduction of a national second division, thanks to FFA Board member Remo Nogarotto.

Nogarotto is the current chair of the National Second Division Working Group.

Moss is thankful for FCA’s inclusion in the conversation, in what will provide elite Australian coaches with more job opportunities in the future.

“Full credit to Remo and his working group, for seeing it fit to include coaches.

“At the end of the day, coaches are responsible for the happiness and the satisfaction of four key stakeholders, the ownership and boards, the dressing room, the fans and the media.

“So, when you’ve got that sort of vested interest in the game, holistically, it seems really illogical not to have coaches part of the discussion and part of the decision-making process around the game.”

After being formally elected as president of FCA in July 2018, Moss was re-elected at an AGM in August of this year, in what was a proud moment for him.

Speaking about the privilege of leading FCA, Moss said: “It’s a massive honour. Probably aside from coaching in the A-League as a head coach, it’s right up there.”

FFA launches Skills Hub for its #PlayatHomeChallenge

Football Federation Australia (FFA) has launched its official Skills Hub as another part of its #PlayatHomeChallenge.

The Skills Hub will allow those in the Australian football community to stay connected, ensuring both physical and mental health are looked after.

There are twelve challenges that can be completed within four core categories of football skills.

The four categories are: First touch, Striking the ball, Running with the ball and 1v1.

According to the FFA, here is how the #PlayatHomeChallenge works:

  • Every week the organisation will announce a skill for you to master
  • Record yourself showing your best efforts or your own skills
  • Challenge three of your friends to match your moves
  • Post your video on social media – and be sure to tag your three friends and include #PlayAtHomeChallenge and #StayAtHomeChallenge

More information, including the first skill to master in the #PlayatHomeChallenge can be found here.

Time for Australian football to reassess its direction

On Tuesday morning, the A-League followed in the footsteps of the NRL and AFL and postponed its season.

There were last ditch attempts to bring all teams into New South Wales and play the remaining matches of the season there, but ultimately those plans were impossible to pull off due to the impact of the COVID-19 situation.

The FFA will further assess their decision on April 22, in the hope of completing the season later in the year.

The J-League is one of the first football competitions to announce they will aim to restart their competition on May 9. Fans will be allowed inside the stadium; however, every second seat is to be left empty.

While the health of the community is the biggest priority, like other sporting organisations and businesses as a whole, Australian football will face financial problems and uncertainties.

According to the Australian, if the season was entirely cancelled it would allow Fox Sports to send the FFA a breach letter which gives them 10 days’ notice of the cancellation of their deal, because there was “no seamless continuity of services”.

Under the deal, the FFA must provide Fox Sports with a 27-round season as well as a finals series.

If the season is abandoned, these provisions allow Fox Sports to terminate the current $57 million dollar a year contract or break the deal and re-negotiate a much lower price for the rights.

These will be options that Foxtel will continue to explore as they try to address a loss of sports subscribers due to the suspension of the NRL, AFL and A-League.

Speaking to SBS TWG, head of consultancy at Global Media and Sports, Colin Smith, explained:

“The reality is that this is as tough for Fox Sports as well since they’re about to lose most of their Kayo subscribers because there’s literally no content, both locally and internationally.

“They’ll be looking to make savings and won’t be paying rights fees to any sport (NRL and AFL included) while there’s no content.”

Smith also predicted the end could be near for the A-League on Fox Sports.

“In terms of the A-League, I would suggest firstly they won’t get any new payments and secondly, I understand, Fox Sports have the right to withdraw altogether (from the final three years of the six-year $346 million deal).

“They might not embark on that course right now – but I think they’ll be keeping their options open to say ‘thank you, we won’t continue to broadcast … feel free to go with anybody you want to’.

“I would imagine they have Force Majeure clauses and everybody will be going back to read the fine print.”

Smith claims the A-League clubs would have to expect a lower broadcast fee in the future, whether they are with Fox or a service like Optus Sport.

“It’s clear Fox Sports is in cost-cutting mode – and if they were to walk away from football, in the current circumstances you would fully understand it,” he added.

“I think the A-League will need to plan not only for a life without Fox Sports but for a significantly lower rights fee, whomever they deal with (in the future).”

So, how will the possible loss of the Fox Sports deal affect the A-League?

In its current setup, the A-League would be unviable without the Fox contract.

A smaller rights fee (from wherever it comes from) would mean the current A-League model needs significant re-modelling as it can’t be so reliant on a single revenue source from a broadcaster.

The signs are definitely there, that change is needed.

Australian football needs to adapt to a true global standard and think long term, rather than focusing on short term reactionary fixes.

FFA CEO James Johnson knows this. His stand out line in his opening press conference referred to the need to act local and think global.

Plan for a sustainable whole of football pyramid, embrace those participants, clubs, volunteers who know how to operate within their own means.

Give them the opportunity to play at the highest level in Australia.

The possible collapse of the current A-League model will hurt Australian football right now, but an overdue re-build will be successful if the direction is there.

Of course, it will be difficult, it’s easier said than done.

Money will always be a question mark, but the game will always be there.

How should Australian football best use its COVID-19 postponement?

FFA head James Johnson revealed the worst keep secret in Australian football early Tuesday morning; announcing the immediate suspension of A-League play on the back of the continued threat of COVID-19 . With states and territories having moved decisively on border control and lock down procedures, Johnson referred to a continuation as having become practically impossible.

The W-League did manage to squeeze their season in before the announcement was made, with a grand final between Melbourne City and Sydney FC last Saturday. The Melbourne City women may well be the last football team in Australia to win a championship for some time.

Words such as unprecedented, unique and testing have been common place in language over the past few weeks and the seriousness of the pandemic escapes no one at this time. Public health and prude governance are the most important aspects of the current situation, hopefully, wise decisions and action lead to a flattening of the curve and a slow return to normality over the next few months.

With around 1.8 million Australians who would normally be engaged with the beautiful game at this time of year in isolation and forbidden to compete, it would be prudent for FFA to think about encouraging behaviours that will benefit domestic football when it does eventually return.

As a first port of call, FFA should interact with the federations and ensure that junior players are sent age and skill appropriate drills to complete whilst confined to their home address. Many children will have a backyard in which to complete the drills, whilst others may be limited to small spaces available in apartments or town houses.

Technical directors could construct short clips and illustrated diagrams and then email and/or text the content to players using the official register in each federation.

Many young people will be feeling anxious about COVID-19, thanks to certain sections of the media that do little to encourage calm and thoughtful behaviour. Providing content for kids to work individually on their football skills would be a nice way to add a dose of normality for what will be a very strange time in their lives.

Slightly older players could also be engaged by their clubs, with coaching staff and technical consultants producing content they feel individual players need to work on. Within a supportive and digital environment, coaches might be able to set goals and objectives for the group and could potentially instil a competitive and diligent commitment to the drills that is so often lacking in junior players.

Players at NPL will find great challenges in maintaining fitness levels during the hiatus, with many young players no doubt living in high density situations with partners and young children. At a professional level, the AFL and NRL have set about the task of outlining fitness programs for their players that are adaptable to both indoor and outdoor environments. No doubt, the A-League will be following suit as we speak.

Many of the AFL players spoken to appeared at a loss as to how they would maintain fitness and skill levels without the expensive and vast resources of the football club to which they below. For NPL players it will be even more difficult, with the now closed local gyms the most common place for them to develop and maintain physical condition.

All NPL clubs need to establish a digital forum that includes the players, support staff and coaches in order to be pro-active during what appears likely to be an extended period away from the game. Once again, that sense of collegiality would be emotionally beneficial and with performance targets in place, the incentive to work collectively could potentially avoid any apathy that may occur in isolation.

The successful E-League concept should be immediately expanded with A and W League players engaged in play. A handful of players from each club with some X-BOX or PlayStation experience could be enlisted to play brief matches live on line, with the games streamed for fans to view via the club’s Facebook pages and the official A-League site.

The banter and enjoyment provided by what would no doubt be a comical yet also potentially competitive competition would further engage young fans and continue the objective of keeping the football community connected at this difficult time.

NPL New South Wales’ Facebook page is leading the way with lateral and creative thinking, already posting classic NPL matches for fans to view. The newly launched NPL.TV offers further potential in terms of streamed content and interaction and the National Premier Leagues’ #PlayAtHomeChallenge is a fun initiative that many players will be drawn to.

There is an emotional component to what all professional sport is about to encounter in Australia and monitoring and measuring that will prove difficult. The mind is fundamentally more important than the body and ensuring our football communities remain connected, active and positive is vitally important as most of us enter a period of isolation thanks to COVID-19.

© 2019 Soccerscene Industry News. All Rights reserved.

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