FIFA has given Football Federation Australia and its chairman Steven Lowy a stay of execution by not recommending to disband the FFA board as part of their intervention in the governance of the Australian game.
The governing body of world football and the Asian Football Confederation will travel to Sydney early next year to mediate a last ditch attempt to break the bitter impasse locking Australian football politics, announcing they will oversee reforms but only on their terms.
In responding to the FFA's inability to gain consensus for an expanded and more representative congress by the November 30 deadline, FIFA went short of recommending the removal of the current leadership to be replaced by a Normalisation Committee that would temporarily administer the Australian game until agreement could be reached for a new membership tier.
Instead, FIFA sought a potentially smoother option to achieve that same outcome by establishing a Congress Review Working Group that will see the governing body's joint mission with the AFC hold court in one last attempt at peace talks. In a letter sent to the FFA and Australian stakeholders, FIFA deputy secretary general, Zvonomir Boban, announced the clear objectives of the joint mission and those they consider stakeholders to be involved in the last process for reform. FIFA declared they will be "fully involved in the process" that identified stakeholders to be included, but did not list list the FFA.
"???To meet with the stakeholders (Member Federations, A-League clubs, PFA) and any other relevant interlocutors, such as the Association of Australian Football Clubs (AAFC), that have been established in the meantime," Boban said in a letter.
"Based on the feedback received, to define the terms of reference of the Congress review working group, which includes its objective, composition, mandate and timeline."
Despite the ominous message from FIFA that could sideline the FFA board from the working group, an FFA spokesman informed Fairfax Media they still hope to be involved in the final negotiations having written to request assistance from Zurich, rather than face a normalisation committee.
"FIFA's ruling gives all of us a chance to take a fresh look at how the congress can best represent the Australian football community, with the direct involvement of FIFA and AFC officials in that process," Lowy said in a statement.
"In a wider sense, this process will enable all Australian stakeholders to work together on a shared vision for our game at every level."
The A-League clubs association (APFCA) welcomed the impending arrival of the FIFA and AFC mission and lashed-out at the FFA board, accusing them of gerrymandering the process.
"The FFA Board needs to be accountable for their mishandling of this matter over the last 14 months and the way that our game has suffered as a result," APFCA chairman Greg Griffin said. "It is now glaringly obvious to all that the Gerrymander present within the FFA Board must be ended and for the sake of the whole of the Australian football family a new democratic dynamic be installed so that the whole game can grow through a new era of collaboration among all stakeholders and an FFA Board without self-interest."
The reprieve offered by the working group gives Lowy an opportunity to survive the toxic civil war within Australian football politics but he still faces an uncertain future as chairman. For the first time during the drawn-out saga, FIFA have welcomed the inclusion of other stakeholder groups to be included in an expanded congress, including more potential opponents of the FFA board. An organisation representing the semi-professional and former National Soccer League teams, The Association of Australian Football Clubs (AAFC) are set to be invited by FIFA to the talks for a new congress. They will join the nine state member federations, the A-League clubs and the Australian players' union (The PFA) in the talks.