The upper levels of Australian football at yesterday’s FFA AGM could not be further away from the gritty beer-soaked stands and chip-strewn terraces they try to fill.
Before the AGM began, the room was filled with empty seats, each with colour coded nametags according to voting rights. These were the heavyweights of Australian football - yet few would recognise many of the names, and certainly not the faces.
There were cabals and cliques everywhere. There were hushed deals and disagreements. There were nods, and winks, thin-lipped silent recriminations and symbolic fealty handshakes, with more metaphorical bending of the knee than in an entire season of Game of Thrones.
At its dramatic conclusion - after the remaining candidates had been whittled down to just two, despite the need for an absent “four-sided coin” at one stage - a whispered conversation on the sidelines sealed Remo Nogarotto’s election as the final board member.
Voting had already begun to choose between Nogarotto and former Labor pollie Stephen Conroy after the previous vote had been unable to edge either over the line with the crucial 60% of the vote, generating just 53% and 49% backing in the last round of six way voting.
As the company secretary was calling forward Capital Football to place their vote, a deal was being hatched near the back of the room.
Capital’s Mark O’Neill asked for a moment to finish his whispered chat with a go-between before he walked to the front to vote while the messenger moved to the other side of the room to whisper in the ear of Melbourne City’s Simon Pearce, who has been instrumental in leveraging the overhaul of the FFA and A-League structure.
The sign of that was enough for Conroy who immediately stood up and withdrew his nomination without another vote being cast.
A show of hands was then enough to put Nogarotto onto the board. That is how things are done at the top of football.