When I started a “To Do” list for my first day in the job as FFA CEO, writing this note to football’s stakeholders was top of the list.
It’s not about setting out an agenda. My intention in my initial few weeks in this job is to do a lot of listening. My goal is for everyone who plays, watches and works either for wages or on a volunteer basis to feel like they belong in football.
I encourage everyone with an interest in the game's future to let me know what they would like to see. In turn, I’ll do my best to get around the country to see football in action and meet as many of you as I can.
If you do want to share your thoughts, you can add your comments at the bottom of this page.
In the first instance, I wish to thank the FFA Chairman Frank Lowy, the Deputy Chairman Brian Schwartz and the Board of the FFA for the opportunity they have given me. It’s a great time to head up such a dynamic sport and business.
No one could have missed the excitement that has accompanied the opening rounds of the Hyundai A-League this season so far. On that topic, I pay tribute to fans in the stadiums who have come in record numbers and have created such a great atmosphere. It will be a privilege to help continue to build on that momentum.
No other sport can truly reflect the unique multiculturalism of our country and that must continue to be used as a positive force in the community.
The other key point of difference that football has against the other brands of footy in Australia is the women’s game. I know the Westfield Matildas are the current Asian champions, but the fact that more than 20 per cent of all registered players are female is remarkable.
Like most sports fans I have always liked and admired football, or soccer as
it was called. If I slip into calling it soccer every now and then, I’m sure you’ll understand. It’s natural for my generation. I grew up watching Match of the Day with Jimmy Hill on the ABC. I attended Canberra Arrows games under the coaching of a true legend in the late Johnny Warren.
Both my son and my daughter played football as youngsters and I helped coach and even occasionally refereed their games at Queen’s Park in Sydney.
In 2005 I was at Homebush Bay when John Aloisi kicked us into the FIFA World Cup finals. I jumped out of my seat, but remember also being one of the first in the ground to quickly sit down. With my rugby league hat on I sat down and thought, "Uh-oh, this could be bad - the sleeping giant just got a giant prod."
The giant continues to be not only awake, but on the move. The stats around participation, crowds and TV ratings are hugely impressive. No other sport can put us so clearly on the world stage and Australians love to watch the Qantas Socceroos take on the world.
Football is the biggest game on the planet and we want to be part of it as a world-class football nation.
My early sense is that in terms of its strategic direction, the game is in an execution rather than creation of new strategies phase. Government reviews and strategic plans have been put in place. While there is always an opportunity to review things much of that work has been done.
In any event, you can announce lots of strategic plans and targets, but unless you execute your strategy you will fail. The game is witnessing the execution of strategy - the marquee player rule - every weekend now. It has taken a few years, but who could doubt its pulling power now?
In my previous role at the NRL we set twin strategies of running a close competition and pursuing a deep level of community engagement in 2002. It took some time for the value of those strategies to be fully recognised.
That recognition came clearly through in 2005 when Wests Tigers won the competition and spent the next few months taking the trophy into the community - the strategy was being executed.
The cultural imperatives set down by the Sydney Swans are another example of a well executed strategy bringing success on and off the field.
In football, I can see the Central Coast Mariners have made a strong virtue of community engagement and infused that culture in the playing group. I’m sure it was a strategy written down very early on, but you need the right people and processes to get it right.
The same applies to the success of the Melbourne Victory in being a very strong membership-based club and the emerging Western Sydney Wanderers flying the flag in football’s heartland. I’m sure there are many more examples of clever execution of strategy and I look forward to seeing them first hand.
On a broader scale, I know the game has a strategic objective to better connect the massive participation base across Australia to the national competition. I believe that the Hyundai A-League is in for a period of sustained growth. As the shop window of the game, that growth will have an impact at the grassroots. I am excited to be part of it.
As for the "We Are Football" campaign, I love it as a slogan. It captures a feeling of pride that football people clearly have for their game.
My job is to lead a team of people. Some of them will be steeped in football and some won’t. That is entirely appropriate. Passion in sport must always be carefully managed. My job is to keep the passion for the sport in balance with sound principles that will drive the game forward at every level.
I am looking forward to working with the many highly capable people at the FFA and throughout the game who can help me in that pursuit.
When Archie Thomson scored the second goal against Iraq a few weeks ago, I jumped up in my lounge room and this time I didn't need to sit back down.
My transition into the job comes as the new broadcast arrangements are being formalised. It was the intention to start the job once the deals were done and announced, but events have overtaken us.
I won’t pre-empt the detail of the broadcast announcement, but I want to express my gratitude to Ben Buckley for all the effort he has put into the game. A huge amount of credit for the current success must go to him . I also want to express my admiration for the whole transition process that has been in place since my appointment was announced in August.
I’m delighted to get started as the FFA CEO and help the game grow. I will keep you informed about the game’s progress through the website and many other forums in the game.