NPL clubs fear ACT will be sidelined over Capital Football’s anti-reform stance

Lachlan Roberts 1 September 2018
Capital Football's chief Mark O'Neill is facing a backlash from within his own federation and from a growing number of disgruntled clubs across the ACT.

Capital Football’s chief Mark O’Neill is facing a backlash from within his own federation and from a growing number of disgruntled clubs across the ACT.

There are fears that ACT football could be isolated from the rest of the country and its A-League bid put at risk if Capital Football continues to hold out against proposed reforms to Football Federation Australia.

A FIFA-backed working group has proposed sweeping changes to Football Federation Australia including an expanded congress, governance reforms and a pathway for an independent A-League.

But Capital Football is one of four federations which have voiced their resistance to the reforms recommended by the FIFA-sanctioned Congress Review Working Group (CRWG).

Capital Football’s chief Mark O’Neill is facing a backlash from within his own federation and from a growing number of disgruntled clubs across the ACT.

The Territory’s nine NPL clubs and wider membership are asking for a ‘please explain’ from the Capital Football chief, and for him to clarify his decision to thwart the reform. O’Neill, according to his critics within the ACT, has not articulated his position to the local football community and is being pressed to clearly explain why he is not supporting the CRWG’s findings.

Here are the simple facts about the issue:

  • FIFA has certain guidelines in place that Football Federation Australia (FFA) has to abide by. FIFA said FFA was not working within the guidelines and was required to make changes. One of the guidelines was to review their Congress Working Group.
  • The Congress Working Group is in effect the group that works with the board of Football Federation Australia to determine the direction of football in Australia.
  • FFA has begun to apply the changes recommended by FIFA and has established the Congress Review Working Group, which consists of different stakeholders from across Australia.
  • The Congress Review Working Group set up 29 guidelines, which were given the thumbs up by FIFA and now have to receive endorsements from the different football member federations across Australia.
  • As things stand, Capital Football, Northern Territory, Tasmania and Northern NSW are believed to be voting against the guidelines at an extraordinary general meeting next month, a move which could see Australia suspended from world football by FIFA.
  • ACT and Northern Territory represent just three per cent of Australia’s registered players. Northern NSW and Tasmania represent 15 per cent. Seventy-five per cent of the vote is needed to rubber stamp the CRWG’s recommendations in September.
  • Capital Football opposes CRWG recommendations, putting it at loggerheads with FIFA.

One of the presidents of Capital Football’s nine NPL clubs is worried that Canberra will be left isolated unless Capital Football agrees to the reform.

Tuggeranong United president Jon Thiele said the future of football in Australia hung in the balance based on Capital Football’s decision to reject the recommendations and fears for the future of football in the nation’s capital.

“Capital Football could very well find themselves isolated and that could have serious ramifications for football in the ACT,” he said.

“Mark O’Neill is isolated. He is hanging on by the skin of his teeth. He has not consulted with any of the clubs here in the ACT about this. There are some serious ramifications to Australian football if the reform does not go ahead.

“The nine National Premier League clubs do not endorse what Mark O’Neill is doing. He has gone rogue on this topic and he is going to isolate Canberra from the rest of the continent in regards to football. You can forget about the A-League bid. We won’t get anything unless he changes his position on the reforms.”

The nine clubs have banded together and have written an open letter to Mark O’Neill, obtained by The RiotACT, to try and get his attention and response.

An open letter sent on the 28 August addressed to Mark O’Neill from the nine NPL club presidents.

Thiele believes the CRWG recommendations will still pass but if Capital Football stands by its decision to oppose the recommendations, it could find itself out in the cold.

“The two biggest football states in the country, NSW and Victoria, have endorsed it. What are we doing? O’Neill has not corresponded with any of the nine NPL clubs. He is refusing to engage with us. Several NPL club presidents have reached out and he has not responded,” Thiele said.

Presidents and board members from the nine NPL clubs will meet on Monday night (3 September) to figure out their course of action going forward.

It remains to be seen how long this standoff will ensue. Let’s hope, for the good of football, it ends soon.

Capital Football was approached but declined to comment at this time.

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