In late 1989, Dr Graham Bradley, was asked to compile an independent report on the management structure and organisation of Australian soccer, and to make recommendations for a more effective administration for the 1990s. Bradley observed the lack of coordinated direction at national level with several competing and conflicting bodies, the fact that the National Soccer League drew half its teams from Sydney and only three other cities were represented, the perception that the game was one for ethnics whose clubs were no longer drawing successfully on the support of their communities (hence, were in financial trouble), and a fall in the number of children playing the game. Views strongly supported by Soccer Australia chairman, David Hill, in later years.

 

In 1995, the leadership of the Australian Soccer Federation became increasingly concerned about the effect of perceptions of corruption and maladministration on their attempts to raise the profile of Australian soccer. A former Justice, the Hon. D.G. Stewart, was asked by the ASF to undertake an investigation into the allegations of illegal player transfers and acts of self-interest, and to report on them. Due to a number of irregularities around how Stewart gathered his evidence, the report was largely dismissed.

 

Perhaps, the most significant inquiry, was conducted by David Crawford. The Report of the Independent Soccer Review Committee, which has become known simply as the Crawford Report, commenced in 2003. Crawford's strategy was brilliant. While he investigated the malaise at the heart of the administration of the game, he arranged for a countrywide submission of grassroots views on what should be done and allowed many of those who responded to appear before his representatives to present more detailed comment.

 

Crawford proposed total organisational reform but insisted on a dynamic team of leaders to implement his findings. Frank Lowy, the driving force behind the Westfield shopping complex group, was persuaded to return by Crawford and former Socceroos captain, Johnny Warren. He had abandoned the game in the 1980s due to his disdain for the game's politics. Now, with a promise of hand-picking his board and an injection of $15 million from the federal government to pay off all debt, he was back. Football Federation Australia was born.

 

Having accepted substantial public funding for its takeover of Australian football and in light of its failed bid to host the FIFA World Cup in 2018 and 2022, FFA's governance of the game came under greater scrutiny in the media and by the federal government. In November 2011, after seven months of deliberation, the chairman of the Australian Sports Commission and former Liberal Sports Minister, Warwick Smith, handed down a review of FFA and its custodianship of the world game.

 

The review was instituted by the federal government because of concerns - yet again - about the sustainability of the code, the level of public support provided, and the costs associated with the forthcoming AFC Asian Cup, to be hosted in Australia in 2015. The key objective of the Smith Report was for FFA to become independently sustainable by 2015.

 

Where is Australian football today? What have we learned? What next?

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