While Frank Lowy has deservedly received enormous praise for the way
he and John O’Neill have transformed soccer in Australia, it is worth
considering who else has played a key role.
Only a few thousand people would have been listening, but Australian
Sports Commission chairman Peter Bartels rang in to SEN on Sunday night
and spent about 20 minutes explaining the process as to how Lowy came
to be in charge.
It was Bartels who first approached Lowy asking him to rescue soccer in
Australia and Lowy then said he wanted to be asked directly
by the Prime Minister, so he knew there was complete support for the
estimated $14 million of taxpayer funds that were being offered as part
of the deal.
The PM duly obliged, so Lowy signed up for an initial two year term
was allowed to hand-pick a supportive board including Ron
Walker, John Singleton, Suzie Williams, wife of Crown Casino founder
Lloyd Williams, veteran Coalition staffer Ron Harvey, long-time Lowy
mate, property developer and ongoing soccer player Phillip Wolanski and
Brian Schwartz, the former CEO of Ernst &Young, the long-time
auditors of Westfield.
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Bartels deserves credit for his role, even though he has been largely shunned by corporate Australia since bowing out as
Coles Myer CEO in 1996-97. Instead, the gold medal cyclist from the 1962 Commonwealth Games has thrown himself into his sporting
duties and even had a public difference of opinion with Ron Walker
recently over whether he should participate in the Queen’s Baton Relay ahead of the Commonwealth Games.
The complete board and management structure of the FFA is laid out here,
although we’re still trying to get our hands on some sort of annual
report to understand the governance structure. CEO John O’Neill is
certainly getting plenty with a package worth $800,000 a year but he
has sensibly brought in plenty of former colleagues from the ARU to
hammer out broadcasting and sponsorship deals. A quick look at the FFA
website suggests they’ve now locked in loads of sponsors like
Qantas, NAB, Coca Cola Amatil, Hyundai and, of course, Westfield.
Frank Lowy initially signed up for two years but then extended by a
year until November 2006, after the World Cup is well and truly sorted.
By then he’ll be 76 and it will be time for someone else to take over.
While nepotism is not something that should normally be encouraged,
there are suggestions that Frank would like his soccer mad son David
Lowy to take over as chairman. What a splendid idea.
David is the only one of the three Lowy boys who has bowed out of
duties at the shopping centre giant. However, he’s done a Lachlan
Murdoch by staying on the board as deputy chairman, but would have the
time to devote to ensuring Australian soccer continues to grow.
David Lowy was a keen soccer player as a kid and used to tear around
park with fellow Rich Lister Phillip Wolanski, who sits on the FFA
board with his dad. This is vital as you can’t have a situation where
the FFA board is full of people whose first love is another sport. For
example, when John Singleton talks sport in public, it’s normally