CHAIRMAN OF ASA MR FRANK LOWY AC
LAUNCH OF HYUNDAI A-LEAGUE
IMAX THEATRE, SYDNEY
MONDAY, 1 NOVEMBER 2004
It is 15 months since we began the reform of Australian soccer – the first 15 months of what will probably be a decade-long effort to get the game on a sound footing at all levels.
Already, it’s been a hard road, with many potholes, which of course we knew at the outset.
That’s why we’ve been short on predictions, and why it’s been frustrating for you, and for everyone interested in soccer, that we haven’t been out talking more about what’s been going on behind the scenes.
Soccer has had too many false dawns, and we have been determined to stay focused on doing the work, rather than talking about it in the media or responding to speculation.
Today, we do have something to talk about, and it’s very exciting.
In a moment, you’ll hear from John O’Neill and Matt Carroll when they unveil the details of the new national competition, but before I do, I’d like to quickly recap on where we’ve come from and where we are today.
Before we could even begin to think about a new competition we had to rebuild the foundations of the game at a national level from scratch.
Firstly, we had to free Australian soccer from the debts of the old regime. We’ve done that.
We are now close to finalizing a new constitution to govern the game. And this constitution will serve the best interests of the game, not entrenched political or self interests.
This has been a very complex process. We started out with the blueprint provided by David Crawford, but we have been working closely with the State Federations to make sure we get it right, so that the new constitution is one that is workable and one that lasts.
We have open lines of communication with the State Federations and have been heartened by the goodwill and co-operation we have received.
I should also acknowledge the initiative of the Federal Government, from the Prime Minister down, in kick-starting these reforms and supporting the new board.
Putting in place these building blocks has been unglamorous but necessary work.
We have made much progress on the international scene.
When I became Chairman, I immediately made contact with FIFA President Sepp Blatter.
We needed to urgently restore confidence in Australia and enlist FIFA’s support in what we were trying to achieve.
I’m pleased to say FIFA has responded very positively and John O’Neill and I have an excellent relationship not only with the various levels of FIFA, but also with the other football confederations around the world.
The World Cup qualification issue remains high on our agenda and we will continue to work hard on this to achieve the best possible outcome for Australia.
Another very positive development on the international scene has been the re-organisation of the Oceania Football Confederation, led by the ASA.
It is now a viable Confederation with ASA board member Ron Harvey having been appointed Vice President of the OFC. Ron is also now Vice-President elect of FIFA, one of just eight and I believe the first Australian to hold this position.
You will recall the controversies surrounding the Socceroos over the past year or so.
Under John’s leadership we have begun to instill a sense of direction and purpose to our national team.
The team management is now much stronger and players know what is required and when, and this will help everybody to plan their schedules around a definite program for the next year or two.
The Socceroos have qualified to compete in the finals of the Confederation Cup in Germany in June 2005, competing against first class teams including Brazil, Argentina and Greece. This will be an excellent preparation for the World Cup.
The players are enthusiastic and I am confident we are being well prepared for the Road to Germany in 2006.
It is important we put our best foot forward in the leadup to the next World Cup. At the same time, it is important we don’t stake the entire future of Australian soccer on qualifying for the finals.
I’d like to say a word or two about the new ASA board and management.
I can’t tell you how well the board is working together and of course we are very fortunate to have John O’Neill leading the management team.
I’ve been present at several meetings and presentations John and his team have made and I don’t have the words to say how impressed I’ve been with their professionalism and the way they’ve gone about dealing with the issues.
I’m proud to say that, in John, soccer at last has an administrator whose abilities match the game’s potential.
Ladies and gentlemen
Today is a Red Letter Day for Australian soccer.
We will unveil a new national competition. You will see that we have tried very hard to make sure it is a sustainable model.
About $35-$40 million of capital is being invested in the game by the clubs. More funding from sponsors and other sources will come in over time.
That’s a great start for the new competition and I’m grateful to the eight clubs who’ve stepped forward to join us at the start of this wonderful journey.
I’ve outlined where we’ve come from, and where we are today.
While we are not going to get ahead of ourselves, I should give you some sense of our priorities and ambitions for the medium-term.
· To establish a financially viable base for Australian soccer.
· To launch and conduct the new national league so that it is viable and well-regarded by the Australian soccer community.
· To look to expand the league by introducing new teams from, say, Hobart, Canberra and North Queensland, and to involve Asian teams in our club competition.
· To establish relationships, technology and expertise that allow ASA to provide tangible benefits and stronger links to the broad soccer community.
· To engage with Asia through Australian participation in matches and tournaments. We are already building relationships in the region. In fact, John and I will be attending the Asian Football Confederation Gala Awards in Kuala Lumpur in December at the invitation of the President of the AFC (Mr Mohamed Bin Hammam).
· Finally, while being careful not to put all our eggs in one basket, we aim to perform above expectations at the FIFA World Cup and see the Socceroos improve their standing to achieve a consistent world ranking in the order of 25-30.
That’s just an outline, and we’ve a long way to go.
Today, we are only running on to the pitch. We haven’t even blown the whistle to start the game.
So I appeal to you, and to the soccer community of Australia, for patience, for understanding and support.
If we all get behind these changes then success will breed success.
We all need that support. John needs it. His team needs it. The new clubs need it, and our game needs it.
I hope the community will respond positively.
Frank Lowy AC
Click here for all News Articles or go to the A-League section on the site