Football Australia CEO defends against Hadley’s Multicultural remarks

Ray Hadley’s stoush with CEO of Football Australia James Johnson represents the ongoing media bias against football that is present within the Australian broadcasting world. In the wake of a violent brawl that erupted at a New South Wales National Premier League game between Sydney United 58 and Rockdale Ilinden FC, Hadley seems to believe that “You can’t be representing people who come from Croatia or Macedonia”.

He uses anecdotal evidence of a football fan supporting Western Sydney Wanderers over Sydney United, and takes this as a gospel, uniform opinion of all football fans in the country, going as far as saying that any changes to the Club Identity policy are “a step back in the eyes of most football fans” based on this testimony. What is clear however is that Hadley is no fan of football, and has very little knowledge of the game or its history. The Crawford report that he cites in his rant against the FA, who he says is now subservient to the clubs, recommended that the NSL should be “allowed to operate as a stand-alone body with its own board and constitution, and able to set its own rules and regulations, with the NSL clubs as members”, something Mr. Lowy, a businessman “with acumen and connections”, never allowed in his tenure at Football Federation Australia.

The Crawford report, commissioned by the federal government, doesn’t suggest that ethnicity is a major issue within the game and instead focuses on the governance issues that had plagued football in Australia before the creation of the A-league. To cite the Crawford report as supportive of his views regarding ethnic names within football contributing to violence is intellectually dishonest and factually incorrect. The Report argued that an Australian professional football league should be independently run with representation from the clubs, something that hadn’t been achieved until last year. While Frank Lowy did a lot for the game, ignoring this recommendation has set the league back by a decade. Steven Lowy, his son who succeeded at the FFA, wasn’t torpedoed from the job like Hadley claims, instead he resigned when it became clear that the clubs would take control of the A-league in 2018.

Johnston held strong in his belief that this violence had nothing to do with an ethnic influence, a view supported currently by New South Wales police. Hadley however won’t be able to see that, as he has already decided that the changes to the Club Identity Policy are to blame. It is easier to blame the ethnic narrative that has been presented by those in the media for decades. As Johnson pointed out in an interview with Stephen Cenatiempo on 2CC, there are no ethnic tensions between Macedonia and Croatia. The brawl that occurred was caused by anti-social behaviour by a small minority of fans, rather than any greater ethnic issue. Hadley would like to blame the ethnicity of the clubs instead of recognising the issues that are present within all codes of the game, including his own rugby league.

Multiculturalism is a strength of Australian football. It is part of the identity of the game, allowing us to speak a common language and unite us through the love of the sport. When media personalities regurgitate talking points that are reminiscent of xenophobia, we should defend the game as the uniting force between different cultures it represents. The brawl at the Sydney United vs Rockdale Ilinden FC wasn’t the work of some race war between Macedonians and Croatians, but instead the work of a small minority of attendees who partake in anti-social behaviour at the disadvantage of the clubs and their fans.

The easily debunked arguments made by Hadley are nothing new to those storied to the history of the game in Australia. They are a damaging force that attempts to separate us on our differences, instead of uniting through our passion and love for the game that we share.

FIFA’s mission to expand the World Cup will only damage it

With 166 member nations of FIFA voting to explore the concept of a two-year cycle for the World Cup, questions need to be asked whether too much of a good thing will destroy what makes the competition special.

One of the best parts of the World Cup is the spectacle of it all. The elite quality of the tournament is already being watered down with the changes to the format, with 48 teams instead of 32. 

While allowing more teams in will create new markets for the competition, it isn’t like the World Cup would struggle for viewership without them, as it is the most-watched sporting event on the planet.

The changes to the structure of the cup – with two out of a group of three going through instead of the top two in a group of four – is already challenging the tradition and excitement of the World Cup. If you draw one of the powerhouse teams, like Spain, France, or Brazil, then it is likely your country will be on a plane ride home after playing just two games.

Despite the success of the World Cup, FIFA seems to want to tinker with the competition without any concern for the negative impacts the changes may cause. To build support for this, FIFA is wheeling out stars like Arsene Wenger and Yaya Toure.

Wenger is currently FIFA’s chief of global football development

Why FIFA wants to interrupt what has proved to be a winning formula only has one answer: Greed. More games mean more money. In a 48 team competition, there will be 64 games, compared to 40 in the current format. More games equal more money for TV rights and a wider reach for the game with an added 16 teams.

Combine this with the concept of hosting a World Cup every two years instead of four, and FIFA will be printing money like never before.

The unfortunate side effect of this will a weaker competition in terms of quality. There are always some relatively poor teams featured in a World Cup, but adding another 16 of the ‘best of the rest’ will dilute the talent pool. Combine this with the fact some teams may even go home playing only two games, it will surely make the World Cup a less exciting affair for many appearing in the group stage.

Another factor that needs to be considered is sustainability. We’ve already seen that major sporting tournaments often leave countries with huge stadiums without any use for them.

Engineers Against Poverty say that hosting a World Cup leaves a “legacy of white elephants”, with stadiums built for the 2010 South Africa World Cup and 2014 World Cup in Brazil “hemorrhaging taxpayer’s money”. 

A white elephant refers to a possession whose cost of maintenance is well beyond its value, and whose owner cannot dispose of it. An apt reference to what World Cup stadiums have become for countries that do not need bumper stadiums.

Four cities in Brazil that hosted games at the 2014 World Cup –Manaus, Cuiabá, Natal, and Brasília – have no major football teams to play in the humongous stadiums built for the event.

South Africa spent $2.7 billion to build 12 new stadiums for the World Cup, in a country where half the population lives off an average of $242AUD a month

Polokwane, a city of 130,000, now pays $2.7 million a year in maintenance towards the legacy of the South African World Cup.

Peter Mokaba Stadium, Polokwane, South Africa

Russia is also struggling with issues related to stadiums built for the 2018 World Cup. In Saransk, local authorities are dealing with the upkeep of 300 million rubles (AUD 5.5 million) to maintain the stadium built for the event.

Major events don’t just lead to empty stadiums either. For the Sochi Winter Olympics, the Russian Government built a $13.5 billion tunnel system to connect Sochi to the rest of the country. The operation and maintenance of this underutilised infrastructure cost taxpayers $1.6 billion a year. 

FIFA has praised the joint World Cup bid from the United States, Mexico and Canada for using existing infrastructure instead of building new stadiums, however, few countries already have the facilities to host games. 

By expanding the World Cup to every two years, many countries will  be hosting for the first time. This will inevitably lead to similar cases to South Africa, Brazil, and Russia’s stadiums becoming a burden on citizens. 

FIFA risk damaging their premier competition in the pursuit of greed. It needs to be asked why they seem hell-bent on changing a winning formula, especially one that has already been embraced worldwide.

Bundesliga looks to become the first sustainable league in the world – will Australia follow?

The German Football League (DFL), the body which governs the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga, recently outlined their ambitions to become the world’s first carbon neutral domestic football leagues.

On August 19, the DFL announced that clubs would take a vote in December of this year on whether to include environmental sustainability as a part of its licensing requirements.

Environmental sustainability has been placed at the forefront of the DFL’s objectives over the past six months, through their Taskforce for the Future of Professional Football.

The taskforce, which is made up of 36 business, sport and political experts also looks to focus their energy on other topics such as financial stability, communication with fans and supporting the growth of the professional women’s game.

“This is only the first step of a marathon,” Christian Pfennig, member of the DFL management board, explained to Forbes.

“Our goal is to anchor sustainability oriented to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals as another key factor in our licensing program by 2022/23. Then the following year, we want to introduce incentives, but also sanctions should a club fail to meet the minimum criteria.”

The criteria itself will be finalised with external experts in the coming weeks and months.

Multiple German clubs have been extremely well received for their commitment to sustainability over the years.

Wolfsburg, who are currently first in the Bundesliga this season, were ranked the most environmentally sustainable club earlier this year in a report conducted by Sport Positive.

The report highlighted Wolfsburg’s dedication to using 100 per cent green energy across the club by using bioplastic cups and for ensuring zero landfill waste, whilst offering vegan options at their stadium on game-day. The club’s website also contains a corporate responsibility page with information about climate protection and environmental initiatives, as they plan to be carbon neutral by 2025.

Freiburg have used solar energy at their Schwarzwald-Stadion since 1993, with their new stadium to follow suit when it opens in October. The new facility will also have green energy storage and plug-in charging stations.

In 2010, Mainz became the Bundesliga’s and one of the world’s first carbon neutral football clubs.

These promising examples and many others have generally been taken individually , but the DFL now wants to centralise its approach to sustainability.

“The most important step now is to create a framework for the different clubs that are part of the DFL, from a Champions League participant to teams promoted from the third division,” Pfennig said.

It’s a significant task, but the DFL believe they have to play a role in pursuing the best practices in tackling social issues, but they keep a realistic head in their objectives.

“There is no ideal world or ideal football, Pfennig said.

“We are aware that we will have to adjust our goals, also taking into account the background of an enormous change in all areas of life. That’s why we need a framework and always work in improving our goals.”

The centralised method has been successful for the implementation of other initiatives such as Supporter Liaison Officer’s (SLOs) and improvement of youth academies.

These works, which are part of the DFL’s licensing framework, have been copied by other countries around the world and Australia should be keeping a keen eye on them.

While looking to Germany may be a good guide for improving fan to club relations and youth academy developments, they should especially look to follow their upcoming sustainability guidelines.

Australian clubs should be further focusing on improving their efforts towards sustainability, in a country which generally fails to meet any of those types of objectives.

It may be a difficult initial transition but clubs will eventually benefit from this push in the years to come.

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