Football Federation Australia chairman Steven Lowy bowed out at today’s FFA AGM with a swipe at critics who attacked his fellow board members.
In a lengthy speech before the election of the new board, Lowy branded suggestions there was a lack of football people on the board as ‘nonsense’.
“I hear the argument that is fashionable at the moment that there must be more ‘football people’ and fewer ‘suits’ represented on the board,” he said
“It is a nonsense argument which is hopelessly superficial and naïve.“
“And it is typically advocated by people who have had no board or management experience at this level or the heavy responsibility that goes with it.”
He added: “Football is about passion. We all get that. Those of us in this room who have played it, lived and breathed it, know that.
“But passion is not enough.
“Football is also a serious business and it therefore demands skills and experience beyond just the game.
“The current board had precisely the right mix of skills: firstly, directors have been engaged in football at various levels both professional and amateur.”
He said the current team of directors had held a dinner recently and dubbed it The Last Supper, where they relived the success of the last 15 years under Lowy leadership, including the current broadcast deal and four World Cups for the Socceroos.
And he also paid tribute to his executive team for leading the game and dealing with issues like the fans revolt, thanks to David Gallop, Chris Nikou and Mark Bosnisch, he said.
”It would have been disastrous if this issue had not been resolved quickly,” he said.
He also warned the new incoming board of the pitfalls that lie ahead after he was forced out by last month’s coup.
“I was not prepared to cross my ‘red line’, as it were, which was to run the risk, in the existing board’s view, of undermining the true independence of the FFA board,” he said.
“The football community will expect the new board to continue to govern the game to the letter and in the spirit of that concept of independence.
“The new board will immediately confront very, very difficult choices in the allocation of finite resources to infinite stakeholder objectives.”
He added: “They will have to determine significant strategic and financial issues for the game, not least being:
- A new operating model for the A-League.
- The introduction of new clubs to the A-League – including consideration of their financial sustainability and where they are to be located.
- The vexed issue of the creation and viability of a national 2nd division looms, along with the question of promotion and relegation.
- Regulations that favour national teams or A-League clubs, or vice versa.
- And in an environment of scarce resources trying to reduce the costs for individual players in the community and the elite pathway systems.
“All of these have to be got right. And to achieve that requires wise debate and independent decision-making.“
Lowy acknowledged the fact that he was his father’s son had been a long-standing issue but insisted the old board had seen him as a lifelong football enthusiast.
“Many things have made me proud to serve FFA over the past few years,” he said. “The first is that I was able to follow my father, Sir Frank Lowy, who together with his board, led the resurrection of the game only 15 years ago.
“We have been together in all things football since I was a little boy.
“I knew that when I was asked to put my name forward for the board that my surname would be an issue.”
He admitted the board had fallen short in some areas.
“The board and I didn’t achieve everything we might have hoped to over the past three years,” he said.
“We would have liked to have moved more swiftly on issues like a new operating model and expansion of the A-League and addressing the urgent need to provide more resources and match experience for our junior national teams, both male and female.
“We would also have liked to have made more progress on better connecting the grassroots with the professional game.
“There were other issues too, but on balance I’m proud of the progress made over our term.”
He praised the work of his executive team and added: “The territory they must cover is vast, domestically and internationally.
“No one is perfect but they do an amazing job with limited resources.”
And he wrapped up by saying he was especially proud of the way the Socceroos and Matildas had conducted themselves as ambassadors of the sport...and of the fans too.
”They have never let us down,” he said.
“And our nation should be proud of the way our fans represent Australia abroad, something that was remarked upon to me at the World Cup by the FIFA President.
“Being in Russia and having the opportunity to spend time with the 8000 or so Australian fans who travelled huge distances in support of their team and country was extraordinary and on a personal level, a highlight of my time as Chairman.”