As I sit here looking out over the calm waters of Wellington harbour, my mind drifts to wondering about just how hilariously naive the Australian Football firmament is, as week after week we see stories covered as fact that are clearly political agendas.
For a great new era, the Football Federation of Australia and those involved with the game in the 21st century do seem to enjoy regressing to the old Soccer Australia world of personal interest and political games.
Of course this month’s football of choice is the Wellington Phoenix, a club (it should be reminded) that is one of only two A-League sides never to require a bailout from the FFA.
If reports in Australia are to be believed, the club is either being kicked out of the league, sold, merged or folded sometime between now and 2020. The truly frustrating thing though is to see the media lapping it all up on both sides of the Tasman without actually questioning the motivations and drivers for those instigating the stories.
The first of the instigators is the FFA themselves.
What is it with this organisation with hiring folks with delusions of Machiavellian power and influence? Once they finally got rid of Kyle Patterson they have replaced him with a poorer clone, but of course some parts of the media are so quick to fawn over his inside knowledge that they would never question their source or the motivations.
The FIFA Congress sharks are circling closer and closer to the sinking masthead that Gallop and Lowy are clinging to, as the people who actually need the game to advance are finally being heard.
As a distraction technique, FFA throwing the ‘un-Australian’ side to the media sharks to distract them is a pretty soft win when you have compliant media at Fairfax and Fox.
Throw in the leadership role that head of the Wellington Phoenix ownership group Rob Morrison has in the Australian Professional Football Clubs Association (APFCA) and it’s a win win.
It’s also a pretty nice distraction from the issues that has turned the APFCA so militant. With collapsing viewer numbers and crowds, a TV deal that failed to come close the numbers that the FFA had hinted at and the FFA’s ridiculously amateur handling of A-League club funding last season, the owners have every right to seek more control themselves when the FFA are driving what could be a thriving product into the ground.
This moves us onto the expansion bids.
Well, why wouldn’t they make a play for the Phoenix licence? Before they even start dealing with all the rubbish the FFA will throw at them, all these groups hunting for a place in the league are well aware that based on the current set-up any business model is complete fabrication.
Some will look at Western Sydney Wanderers and see themselves replicating that, but the same people would be foolish to turn a blind eye to Melbourne City and the perils of expansion into a market that is already well covered.
If you were doing business modeling would you consider the consistent size of Brisbane Roar crowds to be an indicator of viability for another side in the same market? Are there enough people with interest in the A-League who have an aversion to the Roar? Likewise Southern Expansion, for all their ‘Above Average Football Enthusiasm” are there really 15-20,000 people in that area that have enough interest in the A-League but don’t follow Sydney FC?
Meanwhile the FFA are talking about a sizeable up front chunk for a licence plus a limited share of league returns for the opening years, in markets where your viability is by no means guaranteed. It makes stealing a license from Wellington quite appealing, so you would send out your minions, be they agents or media supporters to de-stabilise an existing club (the Mariners are not immune to these tactics either) to try and get in through the back door.
Remember that the Asian Champions League spots depend on a 10 team league, commercial arrangements are sold on five games a week. The deal with Fox Sports for coverage relies on five games a week. Why wouldn’t you find a way to be one of those 10 core clubs that the FFA can not afford to lose? The FFA have a record of propping up the core 10 so you can mitigate a sizeable financial risk by taking one of those spots.
The Covert Agent, John Kosmina, all these people fall into these two camps, but instead of media qualifying their statements they headline that the Phoenix are dead.
This is a club that at no point has required an FFA bailout, offers commercial advantages no other club can provide and has turned out week in and week out despite the FFA screwing them over for international windows repeatedly scheduling them in the worst possible timeframes.
The staff, players and fans have given as much to the A-League as any Australian fans.
It’s not rocket science but in this age of tabloid journalism and social media hand wringing, it’s all just a little too much effort for the media and supporters to actually put some substance into stories.
Even after owner Rob Morrison has spent 20 minutes on air dispelling the rumours, the immediate reaction from the media is that he didn’t say no to a merger. With little to no focus on his statements regarding the state of the league, the requirements for independence for the league or his definitive “no” when asked if the Phoenix license is for sale.
It’s hardly a wonder the club struggle to retain staff when every second day is a news item declaring that the club are dead men walking, but this is what life has become for the Phoenix - another day, another hands waving in the air panic caused by someone in Australia with a personal agenda, and little thought for the people who devote their lives to a functioning and financially viable A-League club.
Welcome to life as a fan of the Wellington Phoenix.
Fans are the heartbeat of football, so Goal Australia is always keen to hear from A-League fans of any team. If you've got something to say, feel free to email: Joshua.Thomas@goal.com