Australia votes for sweeping reforms

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Steven Lowy. wikipedia/CC BY-SA

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australian football faces its biggest upheaval in 15 years after sweeping governance reforms were endorsed yesterday, marking the end of the Lowy family’s long reign over the domestic game.

Football Federation Australia’s Congress voted in favour of changes to the body’s constitution at an Extraordinary General Meeting, ending a two-year power struggle that had threatened the country’s FIFA membership and its Asian Cup title defence.

The FFA board led by chairman Steven Lowy had fought bitterly against the FIFA-backed reforms, saying they would rob the board of its independence and transfer resources from the grassroots to the more powerful professional clubs.

However, the reforms were passed 8-2, paving the way for an expanded Congress to vote in new board directors.

Lowy, who succeeded his billionaire father Frank as chairman three years ago, confirmed that he would not seek re-election at an annual general meeting next month and said he held grave fears for the game’s future in Australia.

“I hope for the best for the game clearly, I certainly fear for the worst,” he told reporters at a media conference in Sydney.

“Our game today has crossed a red line from a corporate governance model for football to one where stakeholders with vested interests will compete for power and resources as opposed to these being decided by independent members of a board.”

The reforms, hammered out by a working group of FFA, FIFA and Asian Football Confederation delegates months ago, will expand the Congress from its current 10 members to 29, offering more representation to clubs, players and women.

“We are relieved that this issue has been resolved and a unified decision has been made,” players’ union boss John Didulica said in a statement.

A failure to pass the reforms could have paved the way for FIFA to take over administration of Australian soccer and suspend the nation from international tournaments, including the Asian Cup.

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