Football communities in Queensland are frustrated as governing bodies fight to control the game.
- Soccer’s governing body Football Queensland will manage games in Brisbane for the rest of the season after it made new zones
- Football Brisbane has been split into two zones — Metro North and Metro South
- Football Queensland has assured participants that training and games in Brisbane will go ahead
Proposed reforms, a heated AGM, and the rezoning of football by the state’s governing authority, Football Queensland (FQ) have inflamed tensions in the sport.
Football Queensland is the governing body of football in the state and was made up of 10 local zones that administered the local games.
Football Brisbane is one of the zones now redrawn and no longer a member of Football Queensland — with the governing body now administering the rest of the season, which ends in September.
The clash has left members of the soccer community reeling with some commenting on social media that, ultimately, it was the game and the community caught in the crosshairs, suggesting it should have been held off until the end of the season.
At FQ’s annual general meeting on July 10, the governing body put forward a resolution that included eight constitutional changes.
The reforms included enforcing a six-month gap between holding an official position in football and being elected to the board, limiting board members’ terms, the ability to appoint a board chair instead of being elected, and establishing a conflict of interest register.
The other proposed changes were improving gender diversity on the board, performance evaluations for board members, and limiting a CEO from being able to transition to a board executive role within three years.
Regions vote down reforms
The resolution was voted against by a majority of local zones — Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Mackay and North zones — while the North West zone’s vote was split, according to a Football Queensland spokesperson.
Attempts to contact the North Queensland zone were unsuccessful.
Football Queensland board president Ben Richardson labelled the voting as “a political bloc led by certain individuals to vote down fundamental governance changes that included a motion to enshrine gender diversity on FQ’s Board”.
“The self-interest and political agenda from these few individuals reinforces the need for governance and administration changes in our game.”
Zones deny voting bloc
Brisbane, Gold Coast, North West, Sunshine Coast and Mackay zones strongly denied they were part of any voting bloc and had voted independently based on their respective boards’ and members’ views.
A director of Football Brisbane’s board, Rabieh Krayem, said any suggestion of a bloc was false.
Zones said they had agreed to most of the changes but voted down the resolution because they could not agree to some of the reforms and could not vote individually on each item.
The zones said they had agreed to reforms on gender diversity and many of the others improving governance but they did not confirm all of the items they disagreed with.
In a letter to members following the AGM, Football Brisbane said they had voted against a board that had “tried to bulldoze through a reform agenda without real consultation from zones and clubs”.
“It was unfortunate we had to do this as the majority of the changes in this resolution were about better governance, which we wholeheartedly support and want to see,” the letter said.
“However, one or two changes to the constitution in this resolution were items that we and other zones were unwilling to bend on without consultation and negotiation.
Football Queensland on Thursday said the reforms were a result of 14 months of consultation and would deliver a more affordable game, reducing costs for participants by removing layers of governance and streamlining its administration.
“Clubs and zones have been calling for zone representation to better reflect our growing participation base, which has changed dramatically over the past 20 years,” a statement said.
At the AGM, former Matilda Amy Chapman was not re-elected to her position on Football Queensland’s board while Nigel Fanning and Peter Brine were elected. Chapman declined to comment.
Mr Cavallucci said, “disappointingly, Amy was a casualty of that process, where we could have been focusing on the critical issues of our game instead of focusing on ourselves”.
“There’s always a place for immensely capable and amazing women in our game and Amy is obviously one of those and I’d love nothing more for her to be a part of football in Queensland or Football Queensland.
“It’s a decision for Amy at the end of the day.”
Zones said there was not a coordinated effort to ensure Chapman was not re-elected and praised her previous work as part of Football Queensland.
FQ board votes to redraw zones
Following the AGM, Football Queensland’s new board voted unanimously to adopt a by-law defining the new zone boundaries, according to a Football Queensland statement.
Football Queensland informed zones they would be redrawn on Monday, July 12.
Football Brisbane was advised there was no longer a Brisbane zone and, instead, there would be two new zones — Football Queensland Metro North and Football Queensland Metro South.
Brisbane clubs were invited to join the new zones with new councils to be elected in August.
The North West and North zones were also redrawn into a Far North & Gulf zone, with clubs within the boundary invited to join.
Insurance dispute leads to community confusion
Football Brisbane board director Rabieh Krayem told ABC Radio Brisbane they had received notification on Wednesday afternoon that Football Queensland had removed their membership.
Football Brisbane then issued a statement to members on Wednesday evening that said they would have to suspend all games immediately because they were no longer covered by insurance.
“The legal advice is that it leaves Football Brisbane, the clubs, and players at risk from an insurance perspective as the existing policy is held by Football Queensland,” the statement said.
The statement prompted many cancellations of training and matches and confusion among the soccer community about whether the rest of the season would continue.
But Football Queensland then issued a statement on Wednesday reassuring players the insurance policy was still intact, that all players were covered by a national insurance scheme, and that training and games could go ahead.
“This has not changed despite the conflicting information provided by Brisbane today.”
Football Queensland said it had provided advice to Brisbane directors on Tuesday, the day before the cancellations, that all participants and clubs remained insured as per the National Insurance Scheme and provided through Football Queensland.
The conflicting reports left some parents and players still uncertain about whether training and matches for the rest of the week would continue.
Football training and fixtures to continue under FQ management
In another statement issued to metro clubs on Thursday, Mr Cavallucci acknowledged the confusion and concern Brisbane clubs may have experienced over the disruption to football fixtures, training, and activities.
“At this stage, it is critical for Football Queensland to assure you and your members that football will continue uninterrupted for the remainder of the regular season, despite the challenges of recent days,” the statement said.
“As per communication from FQ last night and earlier this week, all junior and senior games and competitions in which your club participates will continue as scheduled for the remainder of the year.”
The statement said Football Queensland was “appropriately resourced and prepared to ensure competitions will continue to be facilitated” including organising games, referees, publishing results and match sheets.
The statement said there would be no disruption to the already scheduled fixtures, with only catch-up fixtures to be rescheduled.
The statement again said insurance coverage for clubs and participants had never been removed.
Football Brisbane insists players are the priority
Mr Krayem maintained on Thursday that the actions by FQ had removed the insurance of Football Brisbane to administer the competition.
“In this instance, players are insured, clubs are insured but the body that was organising the competition is not insured so, therefore, if you play in a competition that is not insured and is not sanctioned, you can’t do that, you put everyone in jeopardy,” he said.
“I think … the issue of removing the membership yesterday is the key thing. Why? On what basis, why was it done?”
Now that FQ is administering the season, Mr Krayem said Football Brisbane as an organisation was still determining what it would do.
“Our number-one focus is our football family, which is the kids, the players,” he said.
“All the clubs and volunteers, their focus is purely the only reason we volunteer [which] is for football and that hasn’t changed.”