FFA must open its books to clear the air

by John Iannantuono on Jun 21, 2011

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I might get a bit of stick for saying this, but you have to feel for Ben Buckley.

Just as it appeared he and the FFA were starting to earn some brownie points on the back of a favourable A-League draw for next season — a small shred of evidence to suggest the FFA is beginning to listen to fans — from the woods emerge the FFA’s two favourite investigative journalists in Nick McKenzie and Richard Baker with allegations of a salary cap breach being swept under the carpet by the CEO and another senior FFA executive.

Not surprisingly, Buckley has come out punching, emphatically denying the accusations and defending his honour by labelling the whistleblower — Matt Phelan — as a “disgruntled former employee”.

That mode of defence is fine if you’re correct. The problem is, the image of the FFA — and that of Buckley — isn’t one that is looked upon particularly favourably by large sections of the football community, given the spate of events that have plagued the game’s governing body during the past 18 months, ranging from their involvement with dodgy World Cup consultants with bad hair to the whole North Queensland Fury fiasco.

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As more news of the allegations come to light, you can understand football fans having about as much confidence in the stance of the FFA and Buckley as they do in a Julia Gillard promise.

So Ben, there’s only one thing you can do: employ an independent party to investigate the matter and clear FFA’s name.

The salary cap is seen as the enforcer of competitive balance; a system designed to ensure fairness across the board and allow clubs to compete on a field that’s as level as possible. In theory, anyway.

In recent years, fans of the game have become increasingly disillusioned with the FFA and its governance of the game. As evidenced in recent fan forums held across the country, they’re fed up with not being heard, are feeling disconnected and have little faith that the FFA are acting in the game’s best interests.

Events over the past 18 months haven’t exactly painted the image of the FFA in the best possible light. The FFA — or Buckley — shouldn’t subject the salary cap to a similar fate.

After all, there’s no harm in opening the doors if there’s nothing to hide.