FIFA to work with Football Federation Australia on congress review
Steven Lowy will still be around, but FIFA will be the ones in charge when it returns to Australia to lead bitterly divided stakeholders through more negotiations.
A complete FIFA takeover is off the table for now, but the fate of the Football Federation Australia chairman -- who has mentioned legal action if FIFA takes over -- remains in the balance.
Football's world governing body says it will "define the terms of reference" for a new congress review working group seeking to broker a compromise on the future of the local game.
Australia's opposing factions had been waiting nervously for FIFA's expected takeover following last week's failure to achieve consensus on an expanded congress.
The body, which elects FFA's board, has long been deemed undemocratic by FIFA.
The A-League clubs, players' union and the women's game have all been campaigning for a bigger voice. Three days after FIFA discussed the protracted affair at its member associations committee meeting in Zurich, FFA received a letter from deputy secretary general Zvonimir Boban containing no mention of direct intervention via a normalisation committee.
But it made clear intervention will still occur, albeit of a softer nature.
Boban stated FIFA had decided to allow for a congress review working group to be established "provided that FIFA and AFC are fully involved in the process and that a clear roadmap ensuring a timely conclusion with the adoption of a more inclusive and representative membership model is established".
To that end, FIFA and AFC officials will return to Sydney in the new year -- six months after August's delegation witnessed an embarrassing show of the domestic game's governance -- to try and force a compromise from the deeply opposed parties over the makeup of the congress votes.
The FIFA and AFC officials will first meet with the stakeholders, which the letter again explicitly named as the member federations, A-League clubs and Professional Footballers Australia.
It will also meet with the Association of Australian Football Clubs, the body that represents the NPL and has been vying for a seat at the table on the congress.
Based on that feedback, the delegation will then "define the terms of reference of the congress review working group, which include its objective, composition, mandate and timeline."
An FFA release on Thursday painted the picture rather more like a win for the under-fire Lowy, implying that FFA would be establishing the working group itself.
"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 wider sense, this process will enable all Australian stakeholders to work together on a shared vision for our game at every level."