The FFA last week released a discussion paper titled ‘XI Principles for the future of Australian Football’.
In a move which invited the football community to have their say on the future of the game, one of the principles the governing body identified centred around resetting and re-building an optimistic narrative for Australian football.
A focus on this aspect comes after years of negative press, through incidents of political infighting and declining TV ratings across the board.
Sometimes the media attention was justified, sometimes it was not, but the FFA believes the game needs to be in better control of its narrative and unify the footballing public.
In the early hours of Friday morning, a fortnight ago, it had just the perfect news story to get this process underway.
The announcement that Australia were awarded the right to co-host the 2023 Women’s World Cup, was a shot in the arm the game needed.
Let’s not understate this for a second, the FIFA Women’s World Cup is at the very least in the top four biggest sporting tournaments in the world.
Because of this event, football participation will rise significantly, investment in football infrastructure will be prioritised, as well as a host of other positives for the sport.
FFA CEO James Johnson and his team were rightly lauded in securing the event, with the win receiving considerable coverage in the mainstream media.
Importantly, however, it gave football fans in this country a favourable narrative to unify behind, with an event to look forward to, as well as a growing sense of faith in an administration that has promised to put the best intentions of the game first.
How quickly things change in football.
Move forward to this week and the focus is not on the success of the Women’s World Cup bid, but rather the diabolical situation in regards to the resumption of the A-League.
The scenes of players from Victoria’s A-League clubs not being able to leave the state after the rising coronavirus count, were farcical.
It’s an all too familiar moment where the administration has shot itself in the foot, with Supercars facing a similar situation but able to navigate around it in an appropriate, timely manner.
The AFL, NRL and Rugby Union also relocated all of their Victorian teams to other states in advance.
Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) were highly critical of the FFA, after the events that transpired on Monday and Tuesday.
“What the players and their families have had to endure over the past 48 hours is unacceptable,” the PFA said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The lack of clarity, the ad-hoc planning and shifting commitments have left the players embarrassed, frustrated and entirely lacking confidence in the process.
“Whilst the situation is complex, what the players require is simple; a reliable and feasible plan that does not shift the game’s inability to effectively manage these challenges solely on to players and their families.
“Responsibility sits with FFA to present and then execute an achievable resolution that will ensure the completion of the A-League season and does not create further distress for the players.”
FFA’s Head of Leagues, Greg O’Rourke, has accepted responsibility for the stuff up, but ultimately it made the league look amateurish.
This is an example of how quickly the football narrative can change for the worse.
That feeling of positivity and hard work conducted by the FFA to win the hosting rights of The Women’s World Cup has partly come undone.
Instead, the football community is left embarrassed by self-inflicted mismanagement at the top, not by external forces.
It’s once again a case of football being its own worst enemy.
The issue, as of late Thursday night, seems to have been somewhat resolved with an exemption granted to the Victorian clubs to travel to NSW.
James Johnson’s intervention was likely to have been essential, to get his administrative team out of hot water.
“I would personally like to thank the NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, and NSW Heath Minister, Brad Hazzard, for granting this exemption during these extraordinary times,” he said in a statement.
However, if the governing body is to properly project a positive narrative to get its fanbase on board, they must set higher standards and not sit on their laurels.