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Will Swanton’s attempted NBL vs A-League code war was an epic fail

A-League

People like The Australian newspaper’s Will Swanton obviously detest football and apparently enjoy watching the game struggle, for acknowledgement and towards expansion.

The veteran journalist took a pot shot at football on the 17th of November, in an article pumping up the tires of the increasingly well attended National Basketball League. It was poorly timed to say the least. It came just a day after the football community had embraced the now traditional romance of November 16th; the anniversary of the day Australian football returned to World Cup respectability.

On that day in 2005, John Aloisi’s boot and Mark Schwarzer’s hands helped send the Socceroos to their first World Cup in 32 years. Never before had a team of professionals represented the nation on the biggest of football stages, yet the generation of players that emerged around the turn of the century was mature and did so with pride and determination.

Following the record breaking crowd of 17,514 that attended the Sydney Kings vs Illawarra Hawks NBL match a day later at Qudos Bank Arena, Swanton felt the need to do two things.

Firstly, he correctly identified the increase in interest and attendance at NBL matches thus far in 2019. At the time of writing, that attendance increase stood at 6.7% when measured against the 2018/19 season average. A fantastic achievement and one potentially impacted by Australia’s stellar but ultimately disappointing run at the recent World Championships in China.

Swanton captured the NBL success well with his use of the term “slam-dunk” in the headline, yet had many astonished by his decision to suggest that the A-League was kicking an “own-goal” in comparison. The award winning journalist doubled down in his second paragraph by fabricating the existence of a “summer shootout” between the two sports; arguing that basketball was gaining traction whilst football was floundering.

Perhaps confrontational by nature, Swanton felt the need to use divisive and inflammatory language to outline his thesis, when the reality is that many football fans are also embracing the success of the National Basketball League. In short, any attempt to infer that either sport is dragging fans away from the other is merely nonsense.

More alarming is the rather loose use of language and the exclusion of data that actually counters his argument decisively. The reality is that A-League crowds are up 6.9% on 2018/19 season averages, even considering the introduction of Western United and their expected mediocre crowds as they attempt to build a loyal supporter base in Geelong.

Hardly floundering.

Just four days after The Australian published the piece, the FFA would announce an increased operating surplus for 2019 of A$44.04 million and a 13% increase in Australia’s football participation rates. That increase translates to around 1.8 million Australians playing the beautiful game on a regular basis.

A record 125,631 people became members of A-League clubs in 2019 and for the first time in the competition’s history, more than 50% of participants across the country were actively supporting an A-League team.

All potentially important fragments of information to be aware of before writing an article that death knells a competition and lampoons its quality as being “not in the top two” leagues in the world. Such drivel merely enunciates the limited research undertaken for the piece and potentially the lack of knowledge possessed by the writer when it comes to football and its deep seated roots in this country.

Former Socceroo and Fox Sports analyst Mark Bosnich made mere folly of Swanton’s reference to football’s poor television figures by noting that the viewing audience for the Kings vs Hawks fixture was in fact smaller than the crowd inside the arena for the contest.

Bosnich was correct in his assertion that football fans would never raise such a statistic. Co-existence in Australia’s overcrowded sporting landscape is a reality and there is room for both codes to survive and thrive.

Perhaps the writer should be more concerned about the shrinking attendances at international cricket matches, after the Brisbane test Match at the Gabba between Australia and Pakistan drew just 13,561 fans on the opening day of the international season.

Moreover, the 31.7% decrease in Big Bash crowds in just two seasons is surely worth more space than a rather desperate attempt to set up a futile code war between two emerging sports. Framing such a tension does little more than pander to those who salivate at the thought of seeing football punted from television screens and being told to assume its seat, as it has been told many times before.

Sadly for Swanton, the game at grass roots level continues to grow, women’s football soars ahead in leaps and bounds and the A-League is plugging away quite well thank you very much.

The standard is commendable, the fans engaged and with new found independence, the future looks bright. Hopefully, those of us who enjoy watching the NBL and the A-League can savour the growth of both, hold hands, and march into the future with wonderful viewing options over the course of an Australian summer. I’ll do so with or without Will Swanton.

Optus secures FIFA Club World Cup rights

Optus Sport

Optus have become the new rights holders of the FIFA Club World Cup, during 2019 and 2020 which are hosted by Qatar in both years.

Optus, who already have major competitions English Premier League and UEFA Champions League exclusively, have added the FIFA Club World Cup to bolster their football coverage for their subscribers.

After claiming live and exclusive rights to the top tier of English women’s football, the Barclays FA Women’s Super League for the next three years in Australia, Optus have pounced on the FIFA Club World Cup as the competition is not far from starting.

Optus’ coverage won’t be the first time a FIFA tournament has been on their network, as they broadcasting the full 11 days pf the FIFA Women’s World Cup earlier this year in France.

Optus’ new venture of the FIFA Club World Cup is an international club football tournament that pits each winners of the six different continental confederations from last season, as well as the host nation’s (Qatar) league champions.

So for example, Liverpool will participate in this year’s tournament for winning the UEFA Champions League.

Ahead of Optus commencing their new area of coverage, Richard Bayliss the director of Optus Sport spoke about their commitment to providing Australian’s with the world’s leading teams in the top competitions on Optus Sport.

“We are extremely pleased to add this tournament to our football schedule and we’re confident our 700,000 plus Optus Sport active subscribers will enjoy the format,” Bayliss said.

“Broadcasting Liverpool’s sixth Champions League triumph was a massive moment for Optus Sport, and it will be a privilege for us to show the Reds’ attempt to overcome the best of South America, Asia, North America and Africa. Brazil’s Flamengo had a stunning Copa Libertadores win in November, so they too will enter the World Cup in ominous form.”

Coming into this year’s tournament, Real Madrid are the reigning FIFA Club World Cup champions and are the most successful club in this tournament’s history with four titles.

In their place are Liverpool this time as the last UEFA Champions League winners in 2019, and will appear in the FIFA Club World Cup for the second time, since losing the final in 2005.

As part of the coverage, Optus Sport will stream every match live and exclusive, as well as offering on-demand and mini-matches combined with various highlights packages throughout the tournament.

They’ll be a new live show called Scores on Sunday hosted by various presentations including Mel McLaughlin, Richard Bayliss and Niav Owens, while they’ll be plenty of analysis and opinion from some of Australia’s leading pundits such as Heather Garriock, Mark Schwarzer, John Aloisi and Alicia Ferguson on all that happens during the tournament.

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 announces two new board members & Nikou re-elected as chairman, but where to from here?

Football Federation Australia conducted their Annual General Meeting (AGM) yesterday, with a host of announcements.

After the recent departure of Kelly Bayer Rosmarin and Crispin Murray, two new directors were revealed on Thursday.

Robyn Fitzroy and Carla Wilshire were both elected to the board, with 63 votes and 99 votes each respectively.

Fitzroy is in charge of a governance consultancy firm, whilst Wilshire is the CEO of the Migration Council Australia.

FFA chairman Chris Nikou was re-elected on Thursday, after facing no competition for the top job.

Nikou claimed 2019 was a year full of challenges, singling out the structural reforms promised the year prior as being particularly demanding.

“The structural reform was a painstaking one, however it was well worth the hard work, as it gives more stakeholders a voice in the game they love,” Nikou said.

“The separation of the FFA from the professional leagues into two separate but allied entities will allow both to concentrate on what they do best.

“We stand ready to work with the Hyundai A-League and Westfield W-League clubs to maximise the potential of our domestic competitions.

“For FFA, our focus is clear. To nurture and produce the finest national teams to represent us on the world stage and give them every opportunity to succeed. We will also work hard to enrich and enhance the game at the grassroots level and ensure the pathways to our national teams are available to everyone,” he said.

Current CEO David Gallop is set to finish his tenure at the FFA on November 28. Gallop claims the future is bright for the game in this country.

“Football has changed a lot and achieved a lot over the last seven years. Even this week we have seen the responsibility to deal with issues carefully and react appropriately to the unexpected, ensuring that we always uphold the highest standards to protect the reputation of the game, its commercial partners and its many fans.

“No sport can unite people and the diversity of the country like football.  Be confident about what this sport is and what it can be. As the world gets smaller football will get bigger,” Gallop stated.

The FFA also released their annual report for the year, which can be accessed here.

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