Australia agrees to meet Fifa deadline on broader Congress

The FFA has been under pressure from Fifa to expand membership of its 10-member Congress.

Fifa's headquarters in Zurich. Picture: AFP.

SYDNEY – Football Federation Australia will hold an Extraordinary General Meeting to expand its Congress ahead of the Fifa-imposed deadline of March 31 after talks with the president of soccer’s world governing body in Zurich this week.

The FFA has been under pressure from Fifa to expand membership of its 10-member Congress, which has representatives of the country’s nine states and territories but just one delegate for all 10 professional A-League clubs.

The clubs, represented by the Australian Professional Football Clubs Association (APFCA), warned this week against any attempts by the FFA to delay or circumvent the “long-overdue” reforms during the meeting with Fifa chief Gianni Infantino.

In a statement released on Friday, the FFA said chairman Steven Lowy had held “constructive discussions regarding the process of expanding the membership of its Congress which would allow for a broader representation of stakeholders.

“FFA indicated its intention to hold further discussions with stakeholders ... in coming weeks with a view to implementing membership changes through an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) of its members by the end of March,” it added.

The Congress elects the FFA board and the A-League clubs, who say the professional game is responsible for up to 80 percent of FFA revenue, are keen for broader representation to be in place before the election of two new members.

In the last major reconfiguration of the nine-member FFA board in 2015, Lowy was elected unopposed to replace his father Frank as chairman while three other directors, a lawyer and two bankers, were handed three-year terms.

Shopping centre billionaire Frank Lowy dominated football in Australia for more than a decade, centralising control as he helped drag the game from its position as the poor relation of winter ball sports to its current strength.

Football is now the nation’s most popular team sport in terms of participants, although its share of broadcast revenues and gate receipts remains trifling next to the dominant codes of Australian Rules and rugby league.

The FFA announced a six-year television deal worth A$346 million in December, by far the biggest sum ever negotiated for the broadcast of A-League matches and men’s and women’s internationals.

Steven Lowy said the meeting with Fifa chiefs was “a further reminder of the goodwill and respect that exists between Fifa and FFA” and that Infantino had agreed to visit Australia this year.

“We came away confident that we will be able to move quickly to put in place some changes to our structure that will set the game up for further success in the years ahead,” he said.