Crisis, Danger and Opportunity in the A-League



Mandarin characters of Danger and Opportunity do not mean Crisis. But nevertheless it does give a point for discussion.

I have had the dubious distinction of being retrenched twice in my working life.  The first time was as a public servant under the Jeff Kennett regime when sways? Of public servants were being made redundant.

At least, probably to give the impression that ‘they cared’, they engaged a private ‘work transition consultant’ which basically meant someone that showed you how to write a good CV, enhance your prospects at an interview and so on.  Part of this was also a bit of a pep talk where they gave us a spiel about ‘seeing this as an opportunity’ to maybe take your life in new directions you always wanted etc. Yes, while the mortgage repayments loomed.

Anyway, most of us were understandingly pissed off, and not very receptive to any spin that losing our job was a new wonderful opening.  Matters were not made better when our trainer opened his talk saying that losing one’s employment was a ‘crisis’ but then stating that old chestnut that in Mandarin, the character for crisis was ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’. Christ, here we were, some well into middle age, fearing if we were ever going to get another  job and this guy was spouting pop psychology straight out from an inspirational poster  (not only that, but a bit of research would have found that the word crisis in Mandarin is not a combination of crisis and opportunity).

Fortunately my work life turned out for the better. But even if the Mandarin character for crisis does not encompass danger and opportunity, it is still an interesting juxtaposition.  And I was reminded of this with all what’s happening in the A League at the moment.  There is no denying that the competition is in crisis.  Gold Coast gone, plus the Newcastle Tinkler dispute etc. Added to this the decision by the FFA to get a team in Western Sydney. Which is a good move, but many fear it is too rushed and in an area which is considered somewhat of a ‘holy grail’ of Association Football in Australia and therefore fatal to the competition if it fails.

So there is plenty of danger. But with this also come opportunity.  If, and I say if, the FFA takes on board the criticism levelled at them by the owners, start to consult with them and perhaps changes the model on which the A-League is being run and the A-League goes through this rough patch, it could actually come out stronger on the other side.

As Slater has said, it seems that with Western Sydney perhaps the FFA has learned that it  needs to get the community first, and that creating a club and then saying to fans: ‘here it is, now follow it and be grateful’ doesn’t really work.

Creating a new competition is not easy.  Many places the AFL as an example of stability and a well run organisation, and that is true, but they had a 127 year start comparing to the A League.  Let’s read the Wikipedia entry on the history of the VFA.

Foundation Senior clubs of the VFA were Albert Park, Carlton, East Melbourne, Essendon, Hotham, Melbourne, St. Kilda & Geelong. The Junior section of the VFA originally included such clubs as Ballarat, Hawthorn, Northcote, South Melbourne, Standard, Victoria United, Victorian Railways and Williamstown. During its early years, many clubs dropped in and out and there were erratic promotions between the Senior and Junior sections. Hawthorn, Northcote, Standard, Victoria United, Victorian Railways and Williamstown dropped out within a year or so but Hawthorn, Northcote and Williamstown were all to return at various times.

You can recognise some clubs that are currently in the AFL, but many have disappeared or playing in another competition. Of course in 1896 there was a split which created the VFL, which later became the AFL.

All this turmoil and changes was of course at a different time, before sponsorship and multi million TV rights. But this also happened when there wasn’t a huge media attention.  But the point I am making is that a new competition may need some time to settle.

Ultimately as a fan, and as someone who hopes that Association Football becomes viable and sustainable in Australia (and this doesn’t mean that it has to become the number one code, which I believe it will never happen) I fervently hope that this crisis will not kill the A-League but make it stronger.  As I said in a previous post it seems that some football fans would be happy to see the A-League fail.  There are issues with the FFA and the A-League, that is sure. But for the sake of the code in Australia let’s hope that it goes through the crisis and takes the opportunity to change and grow, the alternative is too dire to contemplate.

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