Under Ben, we’ve got Buckley’s

Don Arnold/Getty Images

Corporate games are highly tactical.  Like professional footballers on the pitch, employees at Football Federation Australia (FFA) have to be elite.  A coach, manager and even a scholar will tell you, in order to be considered so requires 10 years or 10,000 hours of training.  Today, FFA announced a major overhaul of its staff – a new structure.

According to FFA Chief Executive, Ben Buckley, “Our strategic focus for the next four years will be all about elite performance of our national teams on the international stage and the key domestic targets of consolidating the Hyundai A-League and enhancing the vital connections with the game’s grassroots participation base.”

Pardon me, but wasn’t that the plan from the outset?  Can’t see anything new about that.  Apparently, the old staff missed the memo.

Maybe they didn’t.  Maybe the football people just weren’t used to ticking little boxes on a sheet marked, “KPIs” and handing it to their line manager for weekly appraisal.  Believe it or not, there are (or were) some “football” people working away in the bunker.  With clinical precision, they were the first to go today.

Buckley’s primary objective is, as he said, to “give FFA the right size and right skills and resources for the strategic priorities in the lead up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup.”  Yet all he’s done is give the men in the highest-paid positions with the greatest amount of responsibility, more accountability – a higher perch to fall.

Call it downsizing, a restructure or streamlining.  Whatever hyperbolic human resource management term you can find in your old Business Studies textbook.  It’s sociopathic behaviour at its best.

A strategic plan is important in any corporation, vital in fact.  Any MBA graduate will state its function as the foundation of a sound business model.  But cutting support staff is the first sign of a deeper cultural problem.

The established organisational culture at FFA is the responsibility of the CEO.  Buckley’s house, Buckley’s rules.  So, we’ve all got Buckley’s.

How quickly “new football” has become a game of politics.  Buckley is aligning his henchmen like a fascist dictator who’s losing the support of his people.  He took his eye off the metaphoric ball and put all “our” eggs in one basket with the 2022 FIFA World Cup bid.  In doing so, the A-League and W-League suffered, the clubs in particular.  None more so than the recently axed North Queensland Fury, who are demanding an independent review.

Opportunities missed, lessons unlearned and one big mess that resembles an old administration bereft of leadership.  There’s something unsettling about a former AFL player running football.

While some are now preparing their resumes others are smiling ear-to-ear.  National Technical Director, Han Berger, has said all the right things to be given greater autonomy.  He may consider himself some kind of Abel Tasman but don’t be fooled, he hasn’t discovered anything.  What we have here in Australia – the widely underestimated and undervalued talent pool – has been developed by those at the grassroots long before he flew into town.

Berger’s now officially the boss of Socceroos coach, Holger Osieck and Matildas coach, Tom Sermanni.  According to FFA, Berger will “oversee and implement a comprehensive player pathway from grassroots to elite levels and will build a uniform national program designed to set the foundations for sustained Australian success on the world stage.”  You can do all this by cutting staff, hey?

Lyall Gorman better have his cholesterol under control.  The A-League is his baby but now he’s been given the W-League and National Youth League to run.  Gorman will also be in charge of event management for all national team games played at home.  How many eyes, arms and legs has this guy got?  Buckley’s paid him handsomely to do his worrying for him.

Of course, rugby man, John Boultbee is always there to lend a helping hand.  Boultbee is now in charge of ensuring the application of national programs to football’s grassroots participation base.  Good luck sorting out the States and Territories.  You’ve had what, six years to do so?

There is a fresh face in a senior position.  Former SBS broadcaster, Kyle Patterson, has been handed the Head of Corporate Affairs and Communications role previously held by Bonita Mersiades.  This is an interesting appointment.  Patterson, one-time host of SBS’s On The Ball program, would be considered “old soccer” by many who have been in and around the game for a long time.

According to FFA, Patterson will have responsibility for “an overarching and comprehensive communications strategy engaging all stakeholders within the ‘football family’ and will cover media management, marketing, public relations, government relations, on-line communications and broadcaster operations.”  Can one person really make an impact in each of these key areas?

He can start by putting the A-League on free-to-air television so more than 25% of the country has access to it.  So the people have access to the people’s game.

Buckley said today, “These changes recognise where we’ve come from as well as set us up for the next four years.”  He went on to say, “A key to this is integrating the three core areas of our game and engaging at all levels of football.”

A toxic culture is like a cancer: it spreads if not caught early.  Buckley may believe he’s stopping the rot but the fish rots from the head down.

3 Responses to Under Ben, we’ve got Buckley’s

  1. Dave says:

    Buckley is under pressure to perform from his Board – surely!? And he’s desperate. He realises FFA’s & his reputation have fallen in a hole since Bonita left and now he’s bringing in Kyle (good man) to save his vain a*^e. But he doesn’t realise that he also needs to get things done. No record of this in 4 years. Well said Anthony.

  2. Terry Hands says:

    You have written most of what i would have written as well. Spot on Anthony.

    All the rhetoric in the world wont change football. There must be action.

    “If nothing changes, nothing changes.”

    Lets hope these changes actuually ammount to something

  3. peter says:

    Spot on with comments there.After reading buckleys report i didnt even know kyle was still around, is this the ploy where you take one step forward and two steps back

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