The Australian Association of Football Clubs (AAFC) has released a response to Football Federation Australia’s (FFA) XI Principles, supporting the call for a more inclusive governance strategy moving forward.
Speaking exclusively to Soccerscene, AAFC Chairman Nick Galatas believes the FFA’s new ‘living document’ is a step in the right direction to building a “vertical, democratic model” which will ultimately help to unify the game.
The XI Principles were publicly revealed on 2 July 2020 in release titled ‘XI Principles for the future of Australian football’. The discussion paper is intended to outline 11 key strategies to drive the growth of Australian football.
“The AAFC welcomes the FFA’s XI Principles. From our perspective it demonstrates a recognition that there are currently issues within football that need to be addressed, so we believe it is fantastic that they are inviting discussion and comment,” Galatas says.
“To the FFA’s credit, they have stated that it is a ‘living document’. This means they have opened the bidding to everyone involved in the game by encouraging them to participate and contribute.”
The AAFC represents National Premier League clubs from across Australia’s state federations and the ACT. The association advocates for the clubs and their more than 40,000 players around the country.
In its official response to the XI Principles discussion paper, the AAFC called on the need for a linked football hierarchy that will act as a fluid pyramid. This, according to Galatas would help to create a competitive system where ambition is rewarded, and clubs can earn progression based on merit.
“Unifying the game sends the message that people, and clubs are not categorised into positions. They should not be labelled and should not be given a function. Clubs should aspire to be the best that they can be and what the club’s members want them to be,” Galatas says.
Football Federation Australia today released a discussion paper detailing eleven proposed principles to underpin the future development and growth of football in Australia ⚽️🇦🇺
— Football Federation Australia (@FFA) July 2, 2020
The FFA’s new message under CEO James Johnson appears to be one of collaboration, an approach which differs to the previous strategy which inadvertently created a divide between the A-League and state-level clubs.
“We all want to see our top tier thrive. Unleashing the potential of our clubs, providing a linked structure, offers the best chance for our struggling A-League to be re-energised and become the top-tier we all want it to be, at the top of a linked, inclusive, fluid football pyramid,” Galatas said.
The idea of a linked system would likely lead to a stronger collective outcome from Australia’s football clubs, which would lay the foundations for a stronger national team.
One of the goals of the AAFC’s desire for a linked system would be the implementation of a national second division. He believes the creation of a competitive second division would reinvigorate the A-League and strengthen all levels of the game.
“Ultimately creating a linked system could lead to promotion and relegation. I say ultimately because we need to create that over time, but we want to see a real second tier that the strongest and most aspirational clubs can form,” he says.
“The remainder of NPL clubs can then form a tier below that. This would alleviate them from the burden currently imposed on them and make football more accessible for kids to participate at a junior level.”
In terms of governance, the seventh principle proposed by the FFA is to ‘Transition towards a modern, fit-for-purpose governance framework for football in Australia in line with global standards and best-practice sports governance in Australia.’
Although this model has not been clearly defined yet, Galatas says the ideal solution would be to implement a “vertical integrated democratic model” which clubs have direct representations in their federations.
“Clubs are members-based. They are run by the people who elect a committee to represent them. Since 2006 clubs are not members of the federation so we are aiming to achieve the implementation of a vertically integrated democratic model where there is linkage and representation from top to bottom,” Galatas says
This fits one of the AAFC’s key visions, to secure voting rights on FFA Congress. The body is already a congress member and considers it important to create a system that is not exclusive and involves those at the grassroots rather than isolates them.
The release of the XI Principles comes a little over a year since the FFA scrapped the controversial National Club Identity Policy (NCIP), a policy which Galatas believes alienated people, clubs and the link strong link between tradition, multiculturalism, and football.
“The NCIP was a slap in the face to the history of the game. Australia stands for inclusiveness and welcoming migrant culture and legacy. It smacked of a totalitarian approach. Abolishing the NCIP was the first step towards demonstrating inclusiveness,” Galatas says.
View a full list of the FFA’s XI Principles here.