Ben Buckley treads A-League clubs

Chief executive Ben Buckley has categorically ruled out giving A-League clubs a voice on Football Federation Australia’s board, despite the growing clamour from disgruntled owners to have a seat at the table.

Amid the firestorm set off by Clive Palmer’s attack on FFA this week, several other club owners have demanded a greater say in the running of the league.

Perth boss Tony Sage, for one, argued that all the owners wanted a seat on the FFA board.

And former A-League chief Archie Fraser claimed that more than half the league’s owners might be prepared to back a breakaway league if their demands weren’t met.

An unrepentant Buckley insisted the clubs could have no formal representation at the top of the game, for their own good and that of the sport.

He said that a new structure allowing the clubs a greater say would be unveiled following an FFA board meeting on Friday, but that a formal position of authority would be against the interests of the game.

“It’s an essential principle of good governance, sporting or corporate, to make sure that no sectional interests are represented in the ultimate authority of the game,” Buckley said.

“The FFA board has to remain independent so it can govern all aspects of the game. (A seat for the owners) is not being contemplated at all.

“As to the question of whether the owners should have a greater say in the strategic policy setting of the A-League, we listened to what they had to say at a meeting in December. We said we would come back to them at a meeting in February when we’d contemplated that.

“We’ll talk to the clubs about that, and what mechanism can give them more direct input. I won’t pre-empt the outcome of the board meeting, but the models we’ve looked at will give them more direct input.

“Having said all that, we do meet our owners two or three times a year to discuss strategic and operational issues.

“We do discuss their views and get their feedback, which is then considered by the management and the board.”

Reports last week claimed last year’s annual report had hidden extra government funding, but Buckley “refuted absolutely” those claims and also the A-League clubs’s complaints of a lack of transparency from the governing body.

“I don’t agree there’s a lack of transparency,” he said.

“We meet all of the corporate regulator’s guidelines, we are audited by an independent accounting firm annually, we report annually to our clubs and federations.

“The assertion we were bailed out by the government is not true. That money was budgeted, planned for and our budgets were in line with that.

“We provide accounts to ASIC, the same way everyone else does, in line with what’s required under the law. And that’s been accepted by our auditors. There’s a lot of commercial, in-confidence information we don’t disclose because we have to.”

by Buford Balony

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