FFA CEO James Johnson has issued a call for unity in the face of the COVID-19, but stopped short of signalling an immediate intention to intervene in the growing rancour over A-League player stand-downs.
Johnson’s plea for harmony arrived soon after Central Coast Mariners became the second A-League club to issue stand-down notices to its playing group, following on from Perth Glory’s action on Friday.
"The whole of the income structure of the league has stopped. There's no income," Glory owner Tony Sage told AAP in the wake of his club's decision.
"The FFA has stopped the league. What do they expect?”
As it did with Perth, the move by the Mariners was met with swift condemnation by player’s union Professional Footballers Australia (PFA), with the organisation serving Mariners’ owner Mike Charlesworth a letter of demand seeking the players’ immediate reinstatement.
The PFA has been pressing for a collective, A-League wide negotiation over player pay, in a similar vein to the talks between the AFL and AFL Player’s Association that saw a deal struck last Friday.
Nonetheless, FTBL understands that Brisbane Roar are soon set to stand-down their playing group, and The World Game has reported that Newcastle Jets and Adelaide United could soon follow suit.
Of the remaining A-League clubs, only Melbourne City and Sydney FC have signalled their intentions to meet their player’s wage bills in April.
“These actions undermine attempts for our game to overcome common challenges, fight for common interests and re-establish our sport,” PFA Chief Executive John Didulica said.
“While other codes have fostered unity and demonstrated leadership amid crisis, we are at risk of regressing to the lowest common denominator.
“FFA has indicated an intention to intervene as this matter escalates.
“This morning, we have written to FFA to ask they follow the lead of other sporting codes in this country and lead a collective and uniform solution to our common challenge.”
However, while he did acknowledge that structural adjustments in the game were needed to meet the challenges of a new COVID-19 enforced reality in a Tuesday afternoon release, Johnson stopped short of declaring an intent to intervene in the growing split between A-League clubs and their playing groups.
“These are unprecedented and extremely difficult times for the sport and our nearly 2 million participants across the country,” the FFA CEO said.
“I ask that we approach our challenges with empathy and engage in open dialogue and meaningful collaboration.
“Most people would not have predicted the devastating impact caused by COVID-19 to human health and the economy. The pandemic continues to have a profound impact on our game, just like other industries and business in Australia and around the globe.
“What we must begin to realise is that everything has shifted around us and we now operate in a different landscape to what we were used to. For our game to come through this successfully, we need to approach our current circumstances in a different way.
“Importantly, we need to demonstrate leadership which suits this new landscape. During this time, Australian football requires considered and thoughtful leadership and for our leaders to help each other and come together to tackle the challenges facing us via open dialogue and in a collaborative spirit.
“Instead of picking up the phone to tweet judgement, let’s make a call and ask for help or offer assistance. The politics of old and the pursuit of narrow interests at the expense of the best interests of the game, will no longer work.
“We have come a long way over the last 12 to 18 months and it is imperative that we continue along this trajectory and not fall into outdated practices.”
As Australian football threatens to spiral into civil war, Johnson also made a call to supporters to stick with the game.
“To our fans and participants right across the country, we ask that you remain patient and stay connected and engaged with the game,” he said.
“Now more than ever, we need to be unified and stand in solidarity as we move through these challenging times.”
Johnson’s statement comes a day after The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the FFA had begun to explore avenues to find a new broadcast partner for the A-League, operating on the assumption that current broadcaster Fox Sports was looking to expedite a separation with the competition in the wake of its COVID-19 enforced suspension.
Australia’s governing body has been forced 70% of its 270 staff in the face of the COVID19 crisis, with the Sydney Morning Herald reporting on Sunday that the governing body had begun lobbying FIFA for financial support.