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Stop the buck passing

by Robbie Slater for The Sunday Telegraph

Hysteria and knee-jerk reactions have always been big in Australian football.

Some people need to take an aspirin and have a good lie down.

Since missing out on the 2022 World Cup, we've had calls to sack Ben Buckley, shoulder Frank Lowy aside and tear down the entire Football Federation Australia edifice and start again.

A-League started?

The most ludicrous push came from a certain columnist in a rival paper for Lowy to move into a mentoring role at FFA. The comment was not only stupid but disrespectful to the man who saved our game.

I might be flying in the face of public opinion here, but it's the right move to keep Ben Buckley as FFA chief executive as well. Why would you throw away all the experience and knowledge he has gained during the World Cup bidding process?

He came over from the AFL as an experienced sporting administrator but may be a little naive in the ways of world soccer. He has had his eyes opened by what has happened and is now in a better position to take our game forward.

The machinations and back-room dealings at FIFA are different and on a completely different scale to anything in Australian sport. We've seen over the past few months just how grubby it can be. Buckley has been exposed to that now and is much more football savvy.

We were never going to get the World Cup because deals were already done, so why look for scapegoats? Playing the blame game after the event is the commentator's equivalent of a cheap shot.

Not everything is rosy in the garden of Aussie football, but our backyard isn't overrun by weeds either. We have been given the perfect opportunity to grow the game here at home, from the grassroots right through to the A-League.

Frank Lowy is not stupid and he believes Buckley is the man to take us forward - and I back Frank Lowy's judgment.

It has been a tough job for Buckley trying to manage a World Cup bid and sustaining the game back home. Now he can focus entirely on regenerating the A-League.

If I have had a criticism of Buckley and the FFA it has been their reluctance to sell the A-League, which is the best competition we've ever had.

Buckley has to get on the front and tackle the big issues: Western Sydney, the future of North Queensland Fury and the Gold Coast, dwindling crowds, lack of exposure and the financial bleeding facing all our clubs.

The quality of the A-League has been stunning, especially Brisbane Roar, so get out there and sell it, Ben.

I'm all for bringing football people into the game, but they have to be in the right positions. Our history and heritage are important and we undersold that as part of our bid, but I would never suggest that Mark Viduka should be the head of Australian football.

Nathan Tinkler isn't a football person, but he understands business and community and what he has done with the Newcastle Jets should be the blueprint for every private owner in Australian sport.

Holger Osieck also becomes an even more important figure for Australian football now.

We simply can't afford to miss the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, so rebuilding an ageing Socceroos team is paramount.

If we had got the 2022 tournament, and the guaranteed sponsorship and euphoria that came with it, we could have maybe missed a World Cup - but not anymore.

The resurgence in Australian football came with us qualifying for Germany in 2006, and the A-League rode that wave with Dwight Yorke and Sydney FC in its inaugural year. Our code will always rise with the ebb and tide of the Socceroos, never more so than in the next few years.

The one mindset that must change is this belief we can ride Frank Lowy's wallet into a golden future. It's unsustainable and unrealistic.

There are some people within the game who think the answer to every ill in Australian football is Frank Lowy's cheque book.

They say Lowy should be throwing money at a club in western Sydney, propping up North Queensland, paying for the A-League marquee players. Maybe Frank should buy us all Christmas presents while he's at it.

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