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The Independent Soccer Review Committee was established by the Federal Minister for Arts and Sports, Senator the Hon. Rod Kemp. The main purpose of the committee was to critically assess the management, governance and structure of soccer in Australia, to create the appropriate governance framework and practical management practices for soccer Australia that meets the expectations of all stakeholders and organizations, to establish the likely bottlenecks of reforming soccer management and administration and provide  strategic solutions for overcoming these challenges, and develop a clear and concrete plan for the implementation of the recommendations of the committee. The management and the administration of soccer in Australia had come into sharp criticism and focus from both the media and stakeholders. Allegations of conflict of interest, constant political infighting, and lack of sound strategic plans, poor staffing, mismanagement and corruption at the board level had come to be associated with soccer Australia. These problems were compounded by inadequate funds. For instance, as of  June 30, 2002, soccer Australia had members’ equity of negative $2.6million.

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These problems, unfortunately, permeated not only the national governing body, but also constituent bodies at the state and territorial levels. Hay (2006), notes that the National Soccer League was plagued by other issues that curtailed to develop as an elite sport. For instant, there has been a failure to attract and retain elite players to the NSL, the ever present problem of tension between the  soccer clubs due to racial, cultural and political identities. According to Skinner, Zakus and Edwards (2008), Australia has four football codes and Australian Football (AFL) rates number one in terms of revenues and spectators, followed by Rugby League and Rugby Union, and lastly, soccer (football) is rated the fourth in terms of revenue and spectators. Despite this obvious bad state of soccer, there were concerted efforts by the top management to scuttle any attempts to reform Soccer Australia. Rosenberg (2009), states that there was an urgent need for the total overhaul of the management and administration of soccer across Australia and the eventual dissolution of the National Soccer League (NSL) in 2004. The Australian government through the Australian Sports Commission managed to ensure that the reforms of the Crawford report were implemented.

The Crawford Recommendations

The Crawford report envisioned that for soccer to prosper in Australia, certain fundamental changes needed to be effected. These included among others:

  • The need for Soccer Australia to establish an independent board under a new constitution. This board shall be charged with the responsibility of developing good policies and strategies geared towards the development of the sport and engage in international issues through FIFA.
  • The appointment of a new Chief Executive Officer to the board was necessary. The responsibilities of the CEO were to oversee the implementation of a sound management structure to achieve the laid down plans and objectives of Soccer Australia. Through this, the attainment of game development, performance and operations was feasible.
  • The need to have independent board members to ensure that no conflict of interest arose in the management of the game. This called for adherence to the governing principles of Soccer Australia.
  • All stakeholders in Australian soccer were to have a say in the administration and management of the game. To be able to do this, it was necessary that everyone had a say in the appointment of the board members through the national voting system. The stakeholders must include: the NSL, registered participants at grass root levels, and special interest groups such as women, referees, futsal, coaches and players. Therefore, membership to Soccer Australia must be a combination of state bodies, standing committees and the National Soccer League.
  • The National Soccer League needed to operate not as an independent entity but as an affiliate of soccer Australia as provided by FIFA statutes 7.4.
  • The national membership structure shall form the basis for all other membership structures at state levels. This was to ensure that the management of soccer is complimentary through similar constitutional models and mutual member agreements. Through this arrangement, the achievement of effective communication, proper development and implementation of policies and attainment of strategic aims was possible.
  • To bring about the consistency with international standards, there was a need for the board to rename the position of ‘chairman’ to ‘president’ and the position of the ‘president’ be replaced with a ceremonial “patron’ at the behest of the Board .
  • Soccer Australia Board had to have six directors, inclusive of the president. This was to make sure that the Board remained focused on the important strategic and compliance plans. The CEO, though, is not required to have voting rights, but can be present at the Board.
  • The election of the president and directors must be done by the national council with members allowed to nominate a candidate of their choice. The president should be elected first then followed by the directors on a two four-year terms. These elections must be carried out in odd-numbered years to avoid clashing with the years FIFA (Men’s) world cup is held. This was to avoid complacency and business as usual attitudes of office bearers and ensure the management team is focused on achieving their goals and objectives.

The adoption of the Crawford Report and subsequent implementation of the recommendations has allowed for a wider participation and involvement of all stakeholders in the management of football in Australia. This has entrenched the independence of the governing bodies and streamlined the communication between the relevant affiliate members. To this end, football development has greatly improved in terms of financial security through sponsorship; fan base increased resulting in increased revenues and spectators, reduced ethnic tensions and improved performance on the world stage.

However, the Australian Football Federation is still facing challenges of conflict of interests, and is not attracting world class players to play in the domestic league. These challenges should not be wished away, but all the stakeholders should join the efforts to iron out any differences that may arise time to time. Building a successful league is a timely process, hence, patience, understanding and unmatched resolve by the football Board is a turn in the right direction.

Organizational Culture

According to Smith and Shilbury, ‘organizational culture is defined as a collection of fundamental values and attitudes that are common to members of a social group, and which subsequently set the behavioral standards or norms for all members’. Organizational culture has been deemed as shaping how the members of a certain  group behave and ranges from what can be easily perceived, e.g. the environment, rituals, symbols and tradition to psychological manifestations.

Smith and Shilbury (2004), outline the following organizational dimensions:

  1. Stability/changeability- characterized by a disposition towards change, that is, embracing new way of doing things
  2. Cooperation/conflict- tendency to solve presenting problems. That is the degree to which organizations encourage cooperation or conflict
  3. Goal focus/ orientation- clear understanding of objectives and organizational expectations
  4. Reward/ motivation- this defines how organizations encourage performance and rewarding
  5. Control authority- the degree of independence and responsibility allowed to members of the organization
  6. Time/planning- the ability to plan for the long term aims versus short term gains

Since the adoption of the Crawford Report Australian football has undergone tremendous changes. The organizational cultures have been influenced by various dimensions. Individual football teams were associated to the origins of the fans and players alike. For instance, clubs bore names reflecting the cultural background of the players such as, Czech club was named ‘Prague’, Jewish club was known as ‘Hakoah’ and Italian club was called ‘Apia’.

Football has also been defined of late by the ethnic background of the players. For instance there has been a concerted effort to encourage aborigines to participate in football through indigenous player scouting programs. Though, these ethnic and cultural affiliations have been problematic in creations of racial prejudices among clubs, fans and players, they also formed a huge fan base.

The performance of the national team (Socceroo) on the world stage along with the Australian football heroes like Cahill and Kewell have also immensely contributed to the development of the game.

This sense of nationalism is seen when the national team competes especially in the World cup matches. During these matches the fans stream the national flag and wear clothes of  the national colors which brings about a sense of one country- Australia.

Conclusion

To operate a sporting competition at its highest level needs the observance of certain governance principles and management strategies. Horvath, argues that ‘The governance structure of a sport may follow a number of models: the delegate model, where each member (club, State etc.) in the competition appoints a delegate to the board which governs the sport; the independent board or commission; or the board with powerful Commissioner who runs the sport’. According to the Independent Model, the composition of the board consists of members who are not part of the organizations that form the league, on the other hand, in the delegate model, the delegates are appointed to the Board from the organizations in the competition. Horvath, argues that ‘One important difficulty with the club delegate board is that there can be a conflict of interest between the delegate’s duty to the league and its best interests, and to the members of its own club. It may be that each club representative has the best intentions to act in the best interest of the league as a whole. A major difficulty will always be the perception of conflict from an outside perspective.’ 

Ross and Szymanski (2006), note that club delegates chosen to the Board that runs the league are likely to be affected by the conflict of interest. The delegate model has been recommended for sport organizations like Cricket Australia and Athletics Australia whose membership is drawn from constituent states. Horvath (2007, p. 4), argues that ‘It is submitted that a football league of even modest proportions is much better served by a board with no partisan interests, only the interests of the league as a whole’

According to Crawford, ‘The Board of Soccer Australia should at all times be acting in the best interests of soccer in Australia. Board members should be independent of special interest groups and through strict adherence to appropriate governance principles free of any conflict of interest of a financial, personal or representational nature. This call for independence of Board members means they are to have neither an official position on another soccer body nor receive any direct or indirect material financial benefit from Soccer Australia in accordance with appropriate governance principles’. Therefore, the complete implementation of the Crawford Report shall ensure that Australian football competes with the rest of well established football leagues on the world stage.

However, there has been negative publicity to the game that taints the gains achieved so far. This includes infighting and tussles to control the league. But despite this, the future development of the game is on the right track.

Code: Sample20

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