The meeting that determines the future of Australian football

Why is the AGM so important?
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World football’s governing body, FIFA, has mandated Football Federation Australia expand its congress to become more inclusive, representative and democratic of Australian football, and given it a deadline of November 30 to do so.

The last chance for Australian football to end a toxic civil war will be the FFA annual general meeting on Thursday where a vote will take place to approve the FFA’s preferred 15-seat model.

What will happen?

Sources suggest it is unlikely the FFA will get the required 75 per cent of the current 10-seat congress to back its model. As it stands, the A-League clubs have one representative and nine seats are made up of the state member federations. The A-League clubs are staunchly opposed to the proposed FFA model, so too Football NSW, while Football Federation Victoria are unlikely to support FFA chairman Steven Lowy.

All three groups suggest his model does not satisfy FIFA’s requirements for independence and being sufficiently democratic.

Why is there a rift?

A-League clubs want either independence from the FFA or a greater influence in the organisation, largely prompted by disagreements about funding, revenue and future direction of the competition.

Football NSW and Football Federation Victoria want a more democratic congress – which has the power to elect, nominate and remove board members – that is more representative of the game’s constituents.

FFA and seven other state member federations are reluctant to provide the A-League clubs with 40 per cent of the votes, enabling them to block motions at the congress. Since the beginning of the process nearly two years ago, the FFA and seven state member federations have shown a preference to expand the congress only slightly, initially on terms that did not satisfy FIFA.

The Australian players’ union, the Professional Footballers Association, is not yet part of the congress, but has been accepted as an entrant into an expanded congress. They are requesting two votes, one reserved for female professional players. The FFA and state member federations are only prepared to grant the PFA one vote.

Where to from here?

If consensus isn’t reached for a new congress on Thursday, FIFA will likely intervene and remove the FFA board and govern Australian football through a “normalising committee” to oversee a transitional period. That could spell the end of the tenure of Steven Lowy as FFA chairman, as well as other directors. A FIFA normalising committee usually includes between four to six local administrators hand-picked by FIFA to restructure a national federation’s governance and lasts no longer than 18 months.

It has been introduced in countries such as Greece, Guinea and Argentina.

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