Smith review into the sustainability of Australia Football

This week Warwick Smith presented the FFA and the Federal Government with his findings regarding the sustainability of the game, and came up with 11 recommendations, which we’ll take a brief look at some of the more interesting points of it, given that large part of the recommendations are fairly obvious. If anyone wants to read the Smith review in full here.


Below are the recommendations from the report:


Recommendation 1: A-League clubs should develop stronger and deeper links to grassroots.

This should be achieved through:

1.1 FFA, working with stakeholders, should develop a blueprint for Cooperation Agreements (as required by the club participation agreements and Member Federation Charter) between A-League clubs and member federations to promote community engagement and both oblige and enable A-League clubs to forge deep connections with State leagues and juniors

1.2 Disbursements to A-League clubs should be provided and increased at the level planned, to the extent this can be afforded, with disbursements linked directly to clear performance measures including establishing links to the community

This is fairly obvious no? Of course the clubs should be engaging the local community, and the FFA can play a major role in that. To be fair I think clubs and the league as a whole have made some good steps in this regard, however more needs to be done to engage the entire football community.


Recommendation 2: FFA should explore ways of further enhancing the existing A-League Committee structure, having regard to the following key principles:

• providing the A-League club owners with a formal structured opportunity to contribute to the strategic decision-making affecting the A-League

• developing an annual operating plan for the A-League in collaboration and consultation with owners and a regular process for reporting against the objectives of the plan

• ensuring that ultimately decisions are made in the overall interests of the league

• ensuring and recognising that given the interdependence of the A-League and other strategic pillars of the game as a whole, particularly the important role that talented player development policy plays in the future success of the A-League, decisions regarding the strategic direction of the A-League recognise and factor in this interdependence


This is an interesting idea from Smith and I think that the owners of the clubs should absolutely have a major say in the direction the league is heading in, after all they are the ones investing the money in the clubs. The idea of the A-League being independent to the FFA is also a valid one imo, and one which would allow the FFA to focus more on the game as a whole and not just the A-League, similar to how the setup is in England.


Recommendation 3: Until the A-League is self-sufficient, measures supporting clubs’ drive to sustainability should be explored as follows:

3.1 Salary cap reforms including options to freeze or reduce the cap and remove the minimum salary

3.2 Strict application of the ‘capacity to afford’ approval criteria for marquee player qualification to ensure that the risks remain with the owners, for example via balance sheet and profit and loss tests, or bank guarantees

3.3 A review of stadia deals and options to reform stadia costs


This one is highly contentious and we’ve already seen PFA chairman Brendan Schwab come out vocally rubbishing the concept of lowering the salary cap, and I can see his point about the rise in quality over the past couple of years. Without knowing what each club spends on players per season, its difficult to pass comment but in principal I would be against measures that lower the quality of the league. The stadium deal comment is a valid one but im not sure its practical to get them to provide the same services, at a lower cost.


Recommendation 4: The A-League should remain at ten clubs until it is sufficiently strong financially, or where expansion could be demonstrated to significantly contribute to broader sustainability.


Thanks for that captain obvious, the only thing I would add that the next expansion has to be in strategic markets, and not just becuase some rich person wants to invest in a certain market.


Recommendation 5: Any changes in ownership of existing A-League clubs should reflect the importance of extensive community and grassroots links and, where appropriate, have broadly based ownership structures.


Again, an obvious one.


Recommendation 6: FFA should continue to invest in the non A-League components of its business, including grassroots and women’s football, and protect these business lines from the risk of A-League losses.


Absolutly, infact imo investment in this area should be viewed as essential given the huge numbers and growth in these areas.


Recommendation 7: Within the constraints of its formal obligations to AFC and FIFA,  FFA should prioritise its support for national teams, noting the need to balance short, medium and long-term objectives.


We saw what the FFA goals were earlier in the week and they absolutly should prioritise those things because the Socceroos are the real money spinner for football in this country, and when they are on the rise and playing well in big games, it provides a big boost to the rest of football.


Recommendation 8: FFA should identify, deliver and report on cost reductions to head office. Plans to increase the workforce should be put on hold, with any salary increases funded via further efficiencies. More efficient approaches to travel and other procurement should be explored.


Hard to comment on this without knowing what their costs are, but anything take makes the FFA more cost efficient  can only be a good thing.


Recommendation 9: The roll-out of new initiatives or programs should be prioritised, with specific consideration of the funding for and timing of the implementation of the FFA Cup. In the absence of an appropriate level of sponsor and broadcast commitment, serious consideration should be given to delaying implementation.


It’s been mentioned time and again but this FFA Cup has to come in for a host of reasons but most of all it provides a link between ‘old soccer’ and ‘new football’ which absolutly must happen. I find it hard to believe that the FFA couldn’t find a sponsor for this competition and there is surely more than enough broadcasting interest for the competition from both free to air and subscription television.


Recommendation 10: The review considers governance reform is an important area for improvements that have the potential to deliver tangible benefits for football stakeholders, especially at the grassroots. Accordingly it recommends reform continues to be explored initially through the current joint governance review being undertaken by FFA and its member federations.


I think this is absolutly correct, reform in the governance of the game and making it similar across the board would be an important step. Im lead to believe that the FFA have had some discussions on this with the local federations up here and I would assume they have done likewise with other federations around the country. Again anything that links the local clubs with the A-League can’t be a bad thing.


Recommendation 11: In light of the centrality of World Cup qualification matches to the value of broadcast rights, as far as possible within the broader context of communications policy, the government should minimise changes to the status quo in the short to medium-term (capturing the current and next broadcast deal), enabling FFA to package World Cup qualification matches with the A-League and other Socceroos matches, thereby decreasing reliance on government support.


Fine, whichever way will bring in the most $$$ for the game is absolutly the way to go. Personally I would love to get one A-League game a week on free to air but if this is the best way financially than thats what they should do. Also, idk if this is feasable but I would try and get a similar deal to what the Wallabies have- games shown  on both free to air (9?) and also on fox sports but thats just my own idea. On the whole thou thids review appears to have produced some good ideas, although alot if it is pretty obvious when you sit down and think about it. Hopefully the FFA takes this on board and the game goes onwards and upwards.


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