Last week on FNR‘s The State Of Our Football Nation, we were joined in-studio by FFA Chairman Chris Nikou.

In the hour, he covered a wide variety of issues facing the game, and the options on offer for reform.

His vision for the game in 5 years’ time:

“I would like to see us further along the totem pole of sport in this country. One of the things that we haven’t done very well is action things rather than talking about them.

“I think the biggest issue for us is to convert that 1.7 million participants to fully fledged members of our football ecosystem: Going to A-League, W-League, Y-League games, Second Division games, supporting the national teams.

“I would like to cure the infrastructure deficiency, which is circa $500 million. I think the planets are aligning and that the Member Fed presidents know that we’re all in it together.

“By way of example, they are working with head office to do a facilities audit, so we can with one voice go to government and say: ‘Well, this is what the shortfall is, and you don’t have to do it because we’ve done the work for you.’ And we can say with a great degree of detail, what is needed and where. We’re not asking for Rolls Royce facilities – we’re asking for fit for purpose, community facilities for boys and girls.”

On the salary cap:

“Why we had the salary cap. in year one, was to cure the environment that existed 15-odd years ago. It was to prevent clubs from spending beyond their means.

“The new model now gives the owners the control over their own destiny. They’re all smart businessmen – they’re not going to go out like drunken sailors and spend money until there’s nothing left.

“Ultimately, you can’t babysit clubs. You need to have the right infrastructure in place and the right regulatory controls to stop silly behaviour. But ultimately, you need to put some faith in the people that are running these clubs.”

On active support:

“I’ve always said that one of the core ingredients to football in this country is the fans. And there’s been issues around that. But if you want the right atmosphere, we need to engage the active fans in the most meaningful way.”

On promotion and relegation:

“Yes, the participation agreements [A-League licences] are subject to that criteria. We’ve always said that to have promotion and relegation you need to have somewhere to promote and relegate to, and from.

“The reality is to have promotion and relegation we need to get a viable second division up – one that’s going to be there for the long haul. Once you’ve got that in a viable state, you can do a couple of things. Certainly as the A-League expands, I would hope that that would be a hunting ground for new clubs.”

On the 2023 Women’s World Cup bid:

“FIFA has come out and confirmed that they want to go from 24 to 32 countries – we expected that to be the case. The France World Cup was an unbelievable success on many fronts. You just look at the turnout, the way France put on a tournament… to keep it at 24 would not be a prudent decision. And they’ve made the smart decision to go to 32.

“So from a purely Australian perspective, we’re one of nine other bids. As a consequence of last night’s decision in Zurich, the timelines have now been pushed out effectively at each level by a couple of months. So what we’re waiting on is the revised criteria, just by the sheer numbers and more countries means a couple of more venues and we’ve got to work through that. We remain committed.

“We’ve been we’ve got a working party that involves the Women’s Council of the FFA. It involves the PFA, the club’s the member fed. So it’s a true collaboration, as it should be.

“We’ve got a significant Asian piece to get through. We’re up against Japan and the two Koreas each of which will put compelling cases forward to the AFC. Our first priority is to get through that AFC group.”

On a potential joint bid with another nation:

“I wouldn’t rule out anything at this point in time. I think as you go to 32 you’ve got to get a feel for the water, to see what the appetite is for joint bids.

“The issue that we will combat is that there’s a conflict on facilities. Other codes have got legitimate interests around it. We’ve had good dialogue with the NRL… but we need to reach an accommodation.”

On development fees:

“[NPL & grassroots clubs] are aggrieved of having developed the next generation of talent, and not getting adequate compensation as the reward.

“I’ve taken a view on all things that we’ve got a system that was put in place in 2005, given the environment at that time.

“Now’s the time to put the pause button on a lot of things and say, does it still serve a purpose?

“So, [transfer fees] would be one area that I would be looking.”

On resurrecting the AIS:

“I think you’ve got to work out, is that the right model for us to breed the next generation of players – boys and girls?

“Rob Sherman was awarded National Technical Director, we’ve gone local. In that sense it was a bit of an issue, let’s be frank about it – whilst they were good football brains, not understanding our culture and the way we go about it.

“Rob’s currently consulting up and down the country, and I’m waiting on his report as to what is the best structure for us.

“I think what we need is an alignment. What is the structure that we’re going to commit to? You’ve got academies cropping up; what you can’t have is all these different bits and different levels that don’t talk to each other.”

On the cost of playing football:

“One of the things on the ‘To Do’ list, which is long, is to look at the cost of football.

“It’s probably not understood properly in the heartland that at FFA level, we actually only get $15 from a registration (for juniors). For senior players, it’s under $30.

“We can’t afford to be losing people because of the cost of football, so we need to look at it in a tangible way. How do we drive the cost down? That is certainly on my agenda.”

The State Of Our Football Nation examines the big issues in Australian football.

Every week, George Donikian & Josh Parish bring a new guest into the studio, each of whom brings a unique perspective on the challenges facing the game in this country.

The show airs 6pm Thursdays on, and streamed live on the FNR Facebook and Twitter pages. 

Josh Parish