FFA chairman Frank Lowy has revealed in his first in-depth interview since the 2022 World Cup bid failure he believes football is in good shape in Australia except for the A-League.
Speaking with Mike Cockerill from the Sydney Morning Herald, Lowy discussed all things football including the failed World Cup bid, the A-League's future, North Queensland Fury's axing, the upcoming TV rights deal and FFA chief executive Ben Buckley's future.
The past 12 months have been difficult for the FFA but Lowy, 81 this year, said the game isn't in crisis although he conceded times were tough.
Lowy, who is set to be re-appointed for his third and final term (four years) as chairman later this year, said getting the A-League right was the FFA's biggest challenge right now.
“The only thing not where I'd like it to be is the A-League but the rest of the game is doing very well,'' Lowy said.
“People talk about governance. We have an independent board not influenced by anyone else, with no sectional interest, no conflict of interest.
“The financials. We started (when he was appointed as chairman in 2003) with nothing, and today we are an $80m business. We have a national team that was 84th when we started, now we are top 20.
“We have hosted the Asian Cup for women, now we're going to host the (men's) Asian Cup in 2015.
“We now have unprecedented co-operation with the states. You will see the results because we will be able to introduce a uniform code throughout Australia from the children to the senior game. We have that set up and financed.
“We will have an FFA Cup in the near future. These are all achievements, aren't they? If we get the A-League right, I'd give us a nine out of 10.”
When discussing the growth and ideal size of the A-League, Lowy said he hoped to have the competition 'fixed' by the time the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia comes around.
“I have an expectation that by the time the Asian Cup comes in, the A-League will be fixed, all the things will be in place, and if we do a good job we can look at that (expansion) later on,” Lowy said.
“But we will only do it if we can afford it. In the meantime, we need the support of the football-loving people. At the start (2005), I begged the people to come. Maybe I need to beg again.”
Lowy added: “There was not enough money coming in to make 13 or 14 teams. That realisation made us decide to stabilise the league to 10 teams for a number of years. I can't tell you how many but for a few years.”
On the axed North Queensland Fury, Lowy said: “In order for Townsville to have a team, the people of Townsville have to take it on and get the job done.
“We would have loved to keep them in there but no matter what they say, there was no plan that said they can meet 50, 60 per cent of the costs. We would have been happy on that basis.”
Lowy also spoke about the code's next TV rights deal, with the current agreement with Fox Sports set to expire in mid-2013.
“I'm confident the deal will bridge the gap. At the moment the clubs are getting $1m (annual dividend),” Lowy said.
“They will get a small increase next year but eventually I want to take over the costs of the players so the clubs can concentrate on other things. I believe, sincerely, we can do that.
“Free-to-air? That depends on what we can negotiate with both the government and Fox Sports. The government will hopefully support us with anti-siphoning in the air. We are looking for an adjustment for a number of years.”
Lowy discussed FFA chief executive Ben Buckley's future but refused to blame him for any failings, claiming all successes and failures reflected the team not individuals.
''I don't separate myself and the board from management. You have to look at us as one unit. If there are flaws, we share the blame. If there are good things, we share the glory,” Lowy said.
“The public has a right to scrutinise. I don't make a public pronouncement about Ben.”
When asked if Buckley will hold his position for the next four years, Lowy said he expects him to retain his role.
“I don't know what the next contract will be but I expect Ben will at the FFA for quite some time. Is the criticism fair? Let the people decide.”