Ready for the next phase

Ben Buckley’s announcement that he was stepping down as CEO of FFA was not unexpected and the time now seems right for a change.

Ben Buckley-s announcement that he was stepping down as CEO of FFA was not unexpected and the time now seems right for a change.

The consensus of opinion appears to be that in some ways the job got the better of Buckley but that he could leave with a lasting legacy if the new broadcast deal delivers everything it needs to.

To be frank, Buckley was never everyone-s favourite CEO but you have to respect the fact that selling football to the mainstream Australian media and public at large remains the biggest challenge to anyone in the game.

Take into account the raised expectations of the Socceroos as one of our leading national sports teams and the ambition of the Hyundai A-League – realistically a competition not yet even into its adolescence – and Buckley-s was no easy job.

It-s difficult to identify the character of Buckley-s time at FFA; perhaps because the man himself has often remained at a distance.

He never really let his personality or passion for football shine through, which is perhaps what football needs in its top administrator ahead of all the other codes, with their historical places in the national identity.

Unfortunately, it-s failure that most will remember. The botched World Cup bid and collapsed expansion clubs seem to be what ultimately led to his time coming to an end.

But if Buckley can sign off his tenure with a $30-40 million a year (depending on who you read) broadcast deal, with some free-to-air A-league games thrown in, the clubs and football in this country as a whole will finally be in a strong position to build for the future.

Show us the money Ben, and all is forgiven.

If we get the funding to keep the A-League clubs on an even keel and continue to improve the development pathways for the national teams, the focus could then turn to consolidation and retaining those fringe fans that could boost numbers across the board.

It-s definitely a clean slate for football ahead of the new season, with Damien de Bohun set to start as the new Head of A-League this week, followed in a couple of months by David Gallop.

And with the World Cup still two years away, we-re entering a phase where FFA can put all its energies into making the domestic game stronger and preparing for the 2015 Asian Cup finals.

Ben Buckley certainly had his critics and didn-t quite have the impact those who love the game would want of their CEO, but if he at least leaves football on a stronger financial footing, we should be grateful and look to the future with optimism.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not in any way reflect those of FFA.