The Scott McIntyre case – The pitfalls of social media and work

“Guido, come and see me in my office”.  That was a phone call first thing in the morning from my boss.  Immediately I felt a knot in my stomach.  My boss always emails me.  When she asks to see her in her office it usually means something not good.  Also I came to know her tone of voice and this time it was the ‘somber’ one.

I walked in and I was shocked to see photocopies of something I posted on Facebook and subsequent interactions.

My crime was that I posted a link to this article from the Herald Sun about adult film actor Angela White filming sex scenes in the LaTrobe Bundoora campus library.

As a University Librarian (not at LaTrobe) I thought it was a funny story.  And I wasn’t posting anything ‘naughty’, you can’t go wrong with putting up something from the Herald Sun .  The discussions that followed in Facebook involved in recounting some of the things that were done to some books.  OK I can leave this to your imagination (they were about nudism…we’ll leave it at that).  But nothing really scurrilous.

Somehow my Facebook post was picked up by the University’s media unit and it percolated from the University’s Librarian (position just under the Vice-Chancellor) to my boss’ boss’ boss then to my boss’ boss and then to my boss.

Maybe all the Universities media unit were on red alert after the news came out and were scouring social media for any comments.  My boss warned me about the dangers of social media. But, I protested.  That post was done on a Sunday, on my iPad at home.  My boss said that it didn’t matter.  My posts identified me as a Librarian at the University and this could have repercussions.

She then passed me the official University policy for Social Media. I said that it was not relevant as I wasn’t posting as an official staff member.  She said that it didn’t matter as I could be identified as so, and said to be careful in the future.  She advised me to steer clear from anything controversial, even if it was my personal account.

As you would imagine I was taken aback.  How could something fairly innocuous which was done in my own time on my personal Facebook account has to do with my employer?  No doubt that the University was a bit oversensitive.  My posts were in no way in any ‘official’ work capacity.  However I imagine that media units of universities were ultra careful that the mainstream media didn’t pick up other ‘incidents’.

So I deleted where I worked on my Facebook account, and made a professional twitter account just for work stuff.

Social media is like a South Eastern Eucalyptus forest on a 40 degrees windy day in summer.  A spark and a small flame can become a  wildfire.  This has happened with Stuart McIntyre today.

In case you didn’t follow the shitstorm on twitter these were the tweets that got him sacked from his job as SBS Asia Football commentator.

Inevitably this created a huge backlash.  A torrent of abuse ensued like

Then Malcolm Turnbull denounced his tweets and this morning Scott was sacked.

Now many are criticising SBS for denying Scott freedom of speech. However whether you agree of disagree with his statements, the problem was that his account was also a work one.  He identified himself as a SBS employee and that twitter account was used as a work tool.

scottBy identifying himself as a SBS employee rightly or wrongly he dragged them in the controversy.  As Molks tweeted.

The question is whether if Scott tweeted those opinions on a purely personal account where he didn’t identify himself as an SBS employee whether he should have been sacked.  And I firmly believe no.

So if I tweeted something really controversial such as Scott did on my personal twitter and facebook account, not identifying myself with my employer, in my own time, should my employer take action? No. That would be totally inappropriate.  If anyone managed to link me to my employer now they would have to do a Google search and contact them, it would border on the malicious.

It would be akin as being dismissed because I wrote a letter to the editor, or voiced an opinion at a public meeting.  It really would be a breach of human rights.

Same if Scott wrote that in a personal account with no links to his work, just himself and tweeted that I also believe that he shouldn’t have been sacked.  But he didn’t

By paraphrasing Pat Benatar….Social Media is a Battlefield…..

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Cricket. I tried, but you’re just not my type.

Congratulations on Australia winning the Cricket World Cup.  Despite not following this sport I am always glad when an Australian team wins a top tournament.

In my previous post I did state that in my opinion the Australian cricket team is not reflective of the current cultural diversity of Australia.  Nevertheless cricket remains is a very important aspect of not only sporting culture but Australian culture as a whole.  It was a sport that defined Australia, especially as a way to differentiate itself from the mother country.  Australia might have been “British to the bootstraps” as Menzies said, but it loved beating the Poms.

I had no concept of the game of cricket before I came to Australia.  It happened that my first Australian summer of 1974- 75  the Ashes were on.  All I remember in the haze of that first summer Christmas, was that every time I turned ABC TV on there seems to be this game on.  I remember my family asking ourselves if these were different matches played over days.  We were aghast when at a work Christmas party we were told that in fact it was one match over five days.

 

It was when we came to Melbourne four years later than I decided to understand this game.  This early Melbourne period constituted my ‘assimilation period’  I had another chance to make this country my own and therefore try to participate in the Australian society.  I liked Australian Rules immediately, so cricket was next.

I would watch an hour or so of test cricket on TV.  I would listen to it on the radio.  A friend of mine drew the positions names on a transparency sheet so I could stuck it on the inside of my windscreen and take a quick peak when they talked about ‘backward point’ or ‘deep square leg’.  Of course I was living where the cathedral of cricket, the MCG, was located.  My late brother in law was a MCG member, a legacy of when his mother put his name down on the waiting list during the 1956 Olympics.  So he and I went to see a couple of day matches (one against India I remember) and I also went to a test match on the day after Boxing Day.

But despite all my efforts the game did not grip me.

It gave me an appreciation of it.  I understood what a tactical game it is.  The fact that the ball and the pitch change their characteristics over time and therefore tactics need to change.  The fact that captains have to change the way they place their players depending on what they see the strengths and weaknesses of a player.  Whether to use fast bowling or spin.  But for me what impressed me most were the batsmen.  I can’t think of any other sport where you are facing an opponent on your own (apart the other batsmen who is opposite, but apart from running can’t really help you when you are facing a bowler) with twelve members of the opposing team around you (and a wicketkeeper just behind, ready to pounce).  In other team sports you have your team mates around you.  In cricket all of them bar one are looking at you from a balcony.  It is truly a test of character.

And of course I can understand why a test game is a ‘test’.  Standing on a field for hours (especially if it is sunny an hot) and maintain concentration for a whole day is an effort that requires Guru qualities.

But somehow the game’s ebbs and flows couldn’t sustain enough interest for me.  So I stopped trying.  Sport is supposed to be fun, not hard work.

Maybe is my Italian background.  When my team, AC Milan, was formed by the Englishman Alfred Ormonde Edwards, he named it as ‘ Milan Foot-Ball and Cricket Club’.  But once the Italians starting running the club the cricket was quickly forgotten (despite this Italy has a Cricket Federation which is an associate member of the International Cricket Council).

In the words of 10cc I may not ‘love cricket’ but at least I gave it a go.

 

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Soccer or Cricket. What is the most representative team?

For most of the time of the A-League existence, Association Football and Cricket – two sports played in summer – have maintained a sort of distance.

However I do wonder whether cricket did look at the A-League and felt that it did suck some of the summer attention away from it. Apart from the Ashes the traditional test apparently wasn’t being as popular as previous years. The one day game also (from what I was reading at least) was losing some audience. That is why they created the Big Bash League. A form of the game that despite being despised by the traditionalists has proven to be very popular, especially amongst the young.

I am not sure whether the Big Bash League was partly created to counteract any potential inroad of the A League on its traditional summer patch. Maybe it was, if the tweets of Malcolm Conn, the communication manager of Cricket Australia, are anything to go by. Malcolm went on a campaign of highlighting how the BBL was thrashing association football in the ratings at every opportunity. This included comparing the Socceroo games, which I thought thoroughly reprehensible. Its understandable advocating the success of a domestic competition against another, but negatively comment on the national team, the national team that represent Australia is ..well… un-Australian.

On the other hand I think that Gallop was responsible for this sort of code war. I cringed right at the start of his mandate as CEO of the FFA when he mentioned the hoary chestnut of association football being ‘the sleeping giant’. Then at the start of this season saying that ‘“other competitions have gone to sleep.” could not fail to raise the hackles of cricket.

As I said before, this sort of stuff is unnecessary and it betrays a sense of inferiority.

However, the latest statement of Gallop is right on the money.

Cricket was outraged. Malcolm did not fail to disappoint.

 

Then Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland came out stating that the cricket national team was still the country’s most popular team — “followed by daylight”.

I think that both Mr. Conn and Mr. Sutherland didn’t undertand what Gallop said. As George Donikian so succincly put it.

The discussion also ensued on Offsiders yesterday, and again the essential question was not discussed. Chloe Saltau from The Age again cited how more popular the BBL was to the A-League missing the point completely, as I tweeted while the program was on.

 

Perhaps I was being less diplomatic than Mr. Donikian, but my observation of cricket over the years is that it is a bit like Ramsay St.

Let’s look at the team that is currently playing for the Cricket World Cup.

Michael Clarke
George Bailey
Pat Cummins
Xavier Doherty
James Faulkner
Aaron Finch
Brad Haddin
Josh Hazlewood
Mitchell Johnson
Mitchell Marsh
Glenn Maxwell
Steven Smith
Mitchell Starc
David Warner
Shane Watson

The only player I could find from ‘non English speaking background’ was Mitchell Starc whose father’s parents are from what is now the Czech Republic. But apart from that I see a solid anglo-celtic background team.

Compare this with the Socceroos. The site codehesive showed how many connections teams in the last world cup had with overseas heritage. Australia was second in all 32 teams

 

These were the players with an international connection:

Ivan Franjic Grandparent from Croatia
Jason Davidson Grandparent from Japan and grandparent from Greece
Tim Cahill Parent from Samoa and parent from England
Matthew Špiranovic Grandparent(s) from Croatia
Oliver Bozanic Parent from Croatia
James Troisi Parent from Italy and parent from Greece
Mile Jedinak (c) Grandparent(s) from Croatia
Eugene Galekovic Grandparent(s) from Croatia
Dario Vidošic Born in Croatia
Massimo Luongo Parent from Indonesia and parent from Italy
Mark Bresciano Parent from Croatia and parent from Italy

Then if we look at the players that were selected since then such as Tomi Juric, Robbie Kruse and Terry Antonis, and we can see how the Socceroos are much more representative of a real multicultural Australia.

Of course Sutherland is right when he states that the cricket team may include Pakistani-born Usman Khawaja and Fawad Ahmed, indigenous former Australia all-rounder Dan Christian, Portuguese-born Moises Henriques and Gurinder Sandhu, who is of Indian heritage. However it seems that cricket has discovered NESB Australians very recently. The Australian National Association team had them for yonks, and yes when many referred to the code as ‘wogball’.

We can say that the Australian cricket team is the most popular. But when it comes to be the most representative the Socceroos have – to use a cricketing analogy – runs on the board.

 

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GWS Giants – Tim Lane fails to see the whole picture.

Parramatta RiverParramatta River. Photo: Jason Wong

Scour twitter and the internet and you see regularly plenty of supporters of different codes indulging in ‘code wars’. I do this myself, and as long as it is done in a lighthearted manner I think is OK. After all this is what social media is all about.

Sometimes you get journalists doing it which I think is a bit lazy as I see that as a way of generating clickbait for their article.

Fortunately Tim Lane is not one of those. Before I go on with this post I want to say to all my fellow Association Football supporters that I won’t hear a bad word about Tim Lane. Yes he’s an AFL journalist, and as far as I know while he’s not a Association Football fan, I’ve never read a word against it. I fondly remember him in my early days of AFL (or VFL as it was then) watching him with his 1970’s moustache on the ABC’s the winners. He is a man of principle refusing to share a commentator booth with Eddie Maguire when Collingwood was playing because of conflict of interest. He raised his daughter since she was 10 (sport journalist Sam Lane) as a single father when his ex-wife died.

However I have to take some issues about the article he wrote today ‘Giants are a weighty issue’ (but titled ‘A giant of the game, Wayne Carey, passes judgment on the AFL’s big problem’ online) about the problems faced by the GWS Giants.   This came off a comment by Wayne Carey that said that the GWS Giants won’ be in existence in 15 years, and  “describing an unwinnable war and providing a timeline for the ultimate surrender.”

Inevitably Tim Lane has to make a comparison to Association Football.


Until recently, the round-ball game had appeared incapable of penetrating the long-established cultural bases of the nation’s two popular codes. Till the last decade or so, these strangleholds only seemed to tighten by the year.

Then FIFA’s rules relating to World Cup qualifying zones changed, making Australia a likely regular participant. Also, the code now maintains an on-going place in the national consciousness via a thriving domestic competition. The achievement of this was imperative for a genuine foothold to be established.

While it took years to happen, this delay was – in a way – serendipitous. It meant the A-League was established at a time when national sport had completely superseded the old local model. This has enabled a genuinely national structure to be established on a clean slate, with cities and regions represented in proportion to their viability. It encourages support for each team purely on the basis of local pride and parochialism. There is no sense that soccer is a sport of any particular state, or group of states.

The A-League is a competition born of the jet-age.

This may come to some surprise to some Association Football supporters in Australia who are already ringing the death bell for the A-League.

Then Lane makes a comparison to the AFL and makes the point that its long history can actually be a handicap.  The majority of the clubs were born in the horse-and-cart era when they represented the majority of where Melbournians lived but have ceased to be so for a long time.  Tim Lane observes that the old VFL competition was so phenomenally successful that it couldn’t be rebuilt from the bottom up, only extended.  This, he explains, is a weakness for the AFL on two fronts. First, it imposes a limit on the scale of the game’s economy. That Victoria has continued supporting 10 clubs means that once those of the other states were added on, there were inevitably too many teams. This could not do other than spread the game’s resources – financial and otherwise – too thinly.  The second weakness in the AFL’s evolution, Tim Lane continues,  is that while its heartland is its greatest strength, this also has a counter-productive effect. It identifies the AFL within the psyche of residents of a city like Sydney as distinctly Victorian: something they resist.

I think that while Lane’s observations are right, they don’t explain the whole situation. And this may be the problem with many Victorians who grew up with Australian Rules Football.  They may be unable to see the whole picture.

The idea that Wayne Carey would know about Western Sydney because he comes from NSW (Wagga Wagga) can be seen as a bit strange.  Is a bit like saying Scott Pendlebury can comment on putting a new team in Toorak because he comes from Sale.  Yes, unlike Victoria, NSW is not an Australian Rules state.  But like Victoria, NSW is not all the same.  And Western Sydney especially so.

It is true that teams such as Collingwood, Carlton, Richmond etc. do no represent an area anymore. But this has been the situation for the past 50 years, times where the VFL/AFL didn’t have any problems in attracting fans.

The issue that the AFL is weighted too much to Victoria is certainly true. That is an historical fact.  But is putting teams where there is ‘population’ the right way to expand the league and make it more balanced?

You only need to read Ian Syson’s wonderful website ‘Neos Osmos’ to understand that for a variety of reasons when football codes were vying for predominance in the late 1800 and early 1900 – Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, and Western Australia, became predominant Australian Rules states.  While Rugby League became the  main code in NSW and Queensland.  Association Football was played everywhere but it never became the main code, as the other two became more and more supported by commercial and political interests.  But that’s another story.

To become a truly national competition the AFL rightly thought that Sydney had to be represented.  That is why they shafted one of those inner suburban traditional teams, South Melbourne, up there and re-branded it the Sydney Swans.  The AFL kept at it despite some wobbly times and now it has become a successful team with a substantial number of fans who came from the whole metropolitan area.  The Swans were created in 1983, a very different Australia that it is now.  At that time Western Sydney was am area of working class people (many from Non English Speaking Background) and where the two footballs were Association Football and Rugby League.  Then Western Sydney became demographically more and more important and the AFL decided that a team had to be there.  The merits or otherwise of whether of how an AFL team would work in an area which was solidly Rugby League and Association Football was debated for some time.  A great blog by Western Sydney local Mike Salter provided very interesting views of the AFL new team and the FFA attempts of creating one as well.  I have made an anthology of them written between 2006 to 2010 in a post three years ago.  For anyone who is interested in the football situation in Western Sydney it makes interesting reading.

Mike’s posts highlight clearly something that Tim Lane hasn’t surprisingly grasped.  The difficulties of the GWS Giant is not because most of the teams in the AFL represent area of Melbourne where most of the fans don’t live anymore, or because it is mainly Victorian.  It is because the game of Australian Rules Football is outside the cultural framework of the people living in the area.  As Mike stated in one of his posts, dated  February 17, 2008.

Driving through Western Sydney, one is always struck by the vast areas of parkland set aside for competitive sport. But they tend to be arranged into rectangles, not ovals.

Western Sydney simply isn’t AFL country. As far as I can see, the Swans (like Sydney FC to a much lesser extent) have relied on the more affluent areas of Sydney and the desire for novelty and separate identity that often goes along with affluence; it’s difficult to see the same attitudes prevailing west of Parramatta.

I think that many Victorian Australian Football aficionados are so enamored in their sport (which – as a Carlton member – I also appreciate) that cannot clearly see that it would leave many unmoved.  The FFA was almost perfect in the creation of the Western Sydney Wanderers.  Organising community forums where Association Football fans were instrumental in deciding on the name and colours of the team.  But it was fertile ground which was sowed by teams with tradition such as Marconi and Sydney United. The AFL plonked a team there and said: “Here, it is a great sport.  Follow this team”.

The AFL  doesn’t admit defeat easily.  It didn’t become arguably the most successful sport organisation without plenty of persistence and money.  They will see the success Sydney Swans, which also looked like failing just a few years after their creation, as an example for keep going.  We will have to see.

 

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My nominations for the 2015 FFDU awards

While the mainstream media has over the past few years, given more attention to football, in most cases hasn’t yet reached the same amount of space and analysis given to sposts like AFL, NRL and cricket.

I think because of this, an alternative media, consisting of podcasts, websites, blogs and specialised publications has arisen to fill that gap.

Here we need to thank Football Fans Downunder for organising awards that recognise football media in general, and especially the efforts of those who give up their own time to provide information (and in some cases entertainment) for football fans.

Here are my nominations for this year’s awards:

  • Football website of the year: http://www.ultimatealeague.com/
  • Podcast of the Year – Professional: Fox Football Podcast
  • Podcast of the Year – Amateur: Out of Our A-League
  • Best Use of Social Media: Shoot Farken
  • Twitter Character of the Year: ECP @ecpkoko
  • Print Publication of the Year: Thin White Line
  • Photographer of the Year: Keith McInnes
  • Writer of the year (print): David Davutovic
  • Writer of the Year (Digital): Joe Gorman

Best wishes to everyone who will be nominated!

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Tony Abbott. A product of a series of unfortunate events

AbbottUnfortunateSo, the man that was hailed as the most successful opposition leader in history is at risk at being remembered as on of the most unsuccessful Prime Ministers.

How is it come to this? Various pundits have written their reasons.  The electorate is volitile Or as Mark Latham say ‘Baby Boomers’ (I hate that term) PMs do not dig economics (but then backs Turnbull who was born in 1957, go figure).  I think the closest explanation comes from ‘Jack the Insider’ which does not think the electorate is not volatile at all.

In the midst of this shift in voting behaviour, the major parties increasingly have reacted by pandering to their bases, shifting incrementally to extremes on the spectrum and leaving swinging voters feeling unrepresented and either parking their votes with minors and independents or swinging from side to side depending on political and economic circumstances.

In other words, if there is an increase in electoral volatility it is because both the Labor and Liberal parties have increasingly left the centre abandoned.

If there are lessons to be learnt from the weekend’s summary punting of the LNP in Queensland it is that Australians will wear tough decisions but they won’t cop bad decisions camouflaged as tough. Australians have an intrinsic sense of fairness and they won’t cop inequity.  Similarly, they won’t cop bad decisions made in fits of hubris without consultation and discussion.

I would disagree with that analysis in the fact that the ALP did not go extreme.  The Liberal Party did and with that shifted the whole political spectrum (including the ALP) to the right.  What I agree with is that Australia electorate is overwhelmingly in the centre and it is the Liberal Party that has gone too much too the ideological right leaving the centre stranded.

The situation we are now is the cause of a series of unfortunate events.

It all started with Rudd winning the election in 2007.  I think Rudd was not that much liked by many in the parliamentary ALP.  A bit of an outsider, someone who did not suffer fools gladly.  But he was popular in the electorate, he defeated Howard who was hailed as unbeatable by the commentariat.  However the parliamentary ALP went along until the polls went down.  At the first whiff of unpopularity the MPs took their revenge and ousted him.  I believe that if Rudd was better in human relations with his MPs the outcome would have been very different.  Of course we know the story. It really didn’t matter that the ALP passed legislation, that Gillard very ably negotiated a minority government etc.  People were sick of hearing about the instability.

Many ALP supporters blamed ‘the media’.  But the media (especially in a hothouse environment like in Canberra) loves this stuff.  We can see it now with Abbott.  It is uncanny to read how Liberal tweeters blaming the media for Abbott’s predicament are almost the mirror image of ALP ones blaming the media when Gillard faced the same.

This was like shooting fish in a barrel for the opposition and especially Tony Abbott.  Any achievements from the Labor government were lost in the noise of leadership issues, and it has to admit that some in the ALP were fueling the speculation.

This sort of instability of course helped the opposition enormously, but also suited Abbott’s confrontational style. He and the Liberal Party were high in the polls and it was inevitable that they will gain Government.

The seeds of Abbott’s and the Liberal current predicament started then.  Buoyed by the surge of discontent about Labor and the polls, and also aided by a friendly News Ltd. media and the rest following their songbook they probably thought that they, and their philosophy, was more popular in the electorate that it really was.  Lots of people voted for the Liberals because they wanted stability.  The leadership issue made the ALP look dysfunctional to many and Abbott offered someone who at least could lead a united government.

But once the Liberals took the reins of power they started to implement a very ideological set of policies.  They thought that their substantial electoral mandate gave them permission to have carte blanche in governing, but that wasn’t the case.  They thought that by eliminating the Carbon Tax, the Mining Tax and being nasty to refugees and make them stop coming was enough to have eternal gratitude and do whatever they wanted.  The problem was that the Carbon Tax was more a trust issue.  The Liberals successfully gave the impression that Gillard lied to the electorate.  But the Carbon Tax was something payed by the polluters, not by the taxpayers themselves, so not many saw much improvement.  Those who went to Canberra and held ‘Ditch the Witch’ placards were a minority and the Liberals mistook this to represent the vast majority of the electorate,  Same with the mining tax.  It didn’t really affect much of the electorate.  The ‘stop the boats’ maybe a bit more.  But even this was swamped by a budget that attacked the unemployed young people, the sick poor and, eventually, aged and disabled pensioners, Where someone in the top 4 per cent of taxpayers on $200,000 a year would be paying $7.70 a week extra tax, while a single-income couple with kids will be losing a lot more than that, and someone under 30 denied the dole for the first six months will lose $255 a week.(source Ross Gittins).  Despite the Government screamed ‘Budget Emergency’ the electorate did not feel it.

Voters are happy to take a bitter medicine if they think is warranted.  This is what happened with Jeff Kennett.  As a ALP voter I have to admit that the last term of the Kirner government was quite dire.  The Victorian economy was quite bad and Kennett for better or worse came to government with the mandate to fix it.  I know, I was one of the public servants he sacked.  But Kennett lost when he continued to govern as an emergency Premier when things started to get better.  Stephen Mayne, who was an adviser for the then treasurer Stockdale, turned against Kennett when he thought he could not change from an emergency Premier into a growth one, and so did a majority of the electorate.

So voters did not buy the emergency budget.  Only the partisan Liberals believed it.  So when the budget measures came they basically though WTF.  They just wanted a government who was competent and kept things chugging along.

It is amazing how quickly things can turn around.  But it would be so easy to avoid it.  Just look at previous governments, who had MPs from a variety of backgrounds, did not rely only on advisors and were not obsessed by polls all the time.

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Australia’s football belongs in Asia.

Imagine this scenario.
The Kazakhstani football team becomes good. Really good. So good that it goes to the World Cup and Euro Cup regularly. Their clubs start to take places in the Champions League and the Europa League. This starts to get countries such as Austria, the Czech Republic and Norway really pissed off. Why should we have a country such that borders with China and is next door to Mongolia be part of UEFA? It should belong to the Asian Confederation.
In fact Kazakhstan situation is very similar to Australia, but in reverse. It was part of the Asian Confederation. But the Football Association of Kazakhstan, requested admission to UEFA after leaving the ACF in 2001, was eventually admitted as a UEFA member by the UEFA Congress upon the recommendation of the UEFA Executive Committee in April 2002. In the same way Australia left Oceania and the AFC Executive Committee admitted it in 2006. And it is on the edge of Europe. Only the far western part in the Urals can be considered in Europe, a bit like our own Christmas Island can be considered in Asia. But Kazakhstan national team and its Premier League do not seem to worry the powerhouses of Europe. If Kazakhstan won the European Cup and its teams European Club competitions who knows whether they would face the same rumblings of kicking them out of Europe and we have heard about Australia and Asia.
This issue has been raised recently in the wake of Australia winning the Asian Cup. Most tweeters congratulated the team, but we also had a few that questioned our right to be there in the first place.

AsianTweets

But the idea of Australia in Asia was not only questioned by people who came from an Asian country, I’ve read plenty of Italian tweets being baffled why a country in Oceania was playing in an Asian competition. And even in a major UK newspaper they advocated the exclusion of Australia.

The bottom line? It shouldn’t have been allowed. (admitting Australia in the Asian Football Confederation) Had FIFA treated the Oceania confederation with more respect and guaranteed one place at the World Cup, Australia might not have felt the need to break away; and, when they did, FIFA should have stepped in and outlawed the move. Countries cannot choose their continent as if from a catalogue. Yet FIFA, and Asia, are already complicit in a convenient illusion, highlighted on the AFC’s website as their tournament progressed.

I personally find the concept of an ‘Asia’ ranging outdated and anachronistic. It is and Eurocentric concept, and it is surprising that it is used by some living in ‘Asian’ countries to exclude Australia. Do Lebanon and Japan have more things in common that Australia and Japan? Would a Korean see a Syrian as a ‘fellow Asian?’

Furthermore FIFA’s confederations do not strictly follow geographical imperatives. Guyana and Suriname are geographically located in the South American continent but because they are considered “culturally” Caribbean, they play with the other Caribbean nations in the CONCACAF. Not only Kazakhstan is an ‘Asian’ country in UEFA. Azerbaijan is in UEFA although it is primarily situated in Asian Transcaucasia. Pacific island territory of Guam should be in Oceania but is in the AFC. And of course we have Israel, which won the Asian Cup in 1964, expelled for political reasons in 1974, and it is now in UEFA.

It is also true that the Asian Confederation is huge, spanning half the globe. Many have supported the idea of creating a ‘West Asia’ confederation and a ‘Asian-Pacific’ confederation which would include East Asian and Oceania countries. That concept is much more in tune with the real geopolitical situation in the world, rather some antiquated Western idea of geography on the 19th century. However logic and FIFA haven’t really being together. I think many in Asia would not want to endanger any power they have in FIFA or risking having less World Cup spot.

But while the idea that Australia doesn’t belong to the Asian Confederation is ludicrous, we do have a responsibility to be an involved and valuable member.

Australia has to take its membership seriously

One of the reasons why Australia was admitted to the ACF it was because it was felt it would improve the level of football in the confederation. But apart for providing more competition and winning championships it has taken this responsibility as much as it should have? Janek Speight has mentioned about the lack of players from the ACF and reiterates an idea that has been discussed for some time, and that should be implemented in the A-League.

Most Asian countries employ the 3+1 rule, which states the club can have three visa spots from any nation in the world, with an extra spot open for a player from a neighbouring Asian nation. The same rule applies for participants in the Asian Champions League, which means Australian clubs can only use three of their five visa players when competing in the prestigious tournament.

Changing A-League visa rules to a 4+1, and slowly moving towards a 3+1 (if FFA is determined to reduce the total number to four) would be a smart move, and could open up a lot more doors for clubs wanting to cash in on the fastest-growing region in the world. With current foreign imports signed to multi-year contracts, it’s certainly not a short-term option, so planning needs to start now to give clubs a chance to prepare.

The idea has been floated around FFA before, and David Gallop has admitted the advantages of the move. He realises that our links with Asia need to strengthen.

The other issue that Australia needs to address to remain a good ‘AFC member’ is promotion and relegation. I’ve discussed the problems and merits of promotion and relegation in the A-League in a previous post. Michael Lynch also outlines the dangers. But the AFC apparently wants all domestic competitions in its confederations to have this system. There are problems in having relegation in a league where teams can be financially unstable and where being relegated may mean their demise. However if that’s what our confederation requires, we can’t put out fingers in our ears and sing lah lah lah. But we should be intelligent to be creative. We can’t be part of an organisation and ignore its requirements. We are not ‘special’. If there are difficulties I am sure we could come up with some creative solution.  As it happens politically we want to be part of the region but often we turn our patronising noses up by feeling somewhat ‘better’.  This is beautifully explained in a great article by Scott McIntyre.

 

There will be always members in the AFC that don’t want Australia, but we have every right to be there. However we have to be actively a participant and be an equal amongst many.

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