Saturday, November 25, 2006

Australia's football chairman wants four more years

Frank Lowy, Australia's second-richest man, shows no signs of slowing down in his quest to turn football's potential into reality. Indeed he is about to stand for a new four-year term as chairman of Football Federation Australia. He spoke to Michael Cockerill of the Sydney Morning Herald about the major issues confronting the game.

He said he would support Graham Arnold as Australia's national coach "until such time as we have a high-level, experienced, coach. It's not that likely that will happen tomorrow, so I think he feels secure in his position until the Asian [Cup]. You see all these coaches, at the moment, they are engaged....I don't think we will be able to get one just off the hook. Maybe by the middle of next year, we should be able to. There could be some vacancies."

He said the new FFA CEO, Ben Buckley, will bring fresh ideas. "He doesn't come with any baggage. I'm looking forward to working with him, I'm sure he'll make a great contribution. When you get to know him, you'll be pleased. I am pleased, the board is pleased we were able to find someone like that. We interviewed 15 people, and he stood out by a long way."

On his own future contribution, Lowry said he will commit to another four years as FFA chairman because the work is not completed. "I don't like unfinished business. I'm not in it for the glory. I want to see the game, which I was involved in all my life, to succeed. To leave it at this stage, for me, would be inappropriate. It's not that I have that much time, you know. I'm not as young [77] as I used to be. But to do the job requires the next four years of hard slog, as you call it. We need to make the A-League strong, we need to make sure we win some of the competitions we are in, we need to create a strong financial base. We can live with what we do, but in order to create all the things we need to do, we need more money. So there is a job to do. It won't be as glorifying, immediately, but the results will be over the years to come. I really, really, want to do that. To put the game on a foundation that will prosper. I hope it won't need a chairman with the 'wow' factor. A CEO with all the pizazz which surrounds it. Just a strong management team, that are interchangeable so to speak. I want to institutionalise the game. With a new board, which will be next year, so the processes are all established. All you need then are professional people to come in and do the job."

He described the A-League as doing very well, "the supporters are coming, Melbourne is a wonderful example. Unfortunately New Zealand is not. Not in crowds, not financially, not player-wise" and he'd like too see it expand from eight clubs to 12. "There are letters [from] Canberra, Wollongong and North Queensland. I see them as serious. If New Zealand stays, lets hope they do because there is room for a New Zealand team, it gives us an international flavour. I'd love to see a 12-team competition within our horizon."

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