By Jesse Fink
The recruitment of David Gallop as the new chief executive of Football Federation Australia is just about the shrewdest move Frank Lowy has ever made as chairman.
In Gallop, who steered the National Rugby League for a decade, he has found an individual respected by the public, an experienced administrator, a no-nonsense negotiator, a man of principle and conviction who, unlike the outgoing CEO, Ben Buckley, you instinctively sense has the charisma and connections to restore some confidence to the ailing code.
All hail the chairman. Well, actually, let's not.
Let's remember it was Lowy who immediately reappointed the wooden Buckley after the 2022 World Cup bid ended in ignominious failure.
A catastrophic, taxpayer-funded bid steered by expensive foreign consultants that Lowy himself approved. One of them, Peter Hargitay, was recommended by Les Murray, a small-time vocalist for an obscure '70s covers band who over subsequent decades restyled himself as a font of football wisdom.
For their $45.6 million and Murray's dubious advice, Australians got one vote and football made sure a federal government would never wholly fund a World Cup bid ever again.
It was Lowy, the avowed expansionist (he once predicted 14 teams and a second division), who agreed as chairman to terminate the licences for North Queensland Fury, Gold Coast United and Sydney Rovers. Three out of four expansion teams (Melbourne Heart ploughs on). All smoking ruins. A fifth, Western Sydney Wanderers, was hastily cobbled together to act as leverage when it came time to sit down and nut out TV rights.
It was Lowy who welcomed with open arms corpulent billionaires Clive Palmer and Nathan Tinkler and was happy to take their money (despite not bankrolling any part of the A-League with his own), then seemed to be personally affronted when they had the temerity to question how things were run at the FFA.
Con Constantine, the straight-shooting Newcastle Jets owner who had his licence stripped from him in favour of Tinkler, didn't mince words about his treatment: "If I have any opportunity in the future to have a say, I will move a vote of no confidence in Frank Lowy, Ben Buckley and the board because they are not competent enough to know what is going on."
It was Lowy who didn't step in and stop perhaps his most knowledgeable and adroit executive, Bonita Mersiades, leaving the FFA when she had the selflessness, professionalism and integrity to question some of the decisions that were being made during the 2022 World Cup bid campaign - such as the appointment of those expensive foreign consultants. History has proven her right.
Yes, he's done some good things. It was Lowy who, as a much-trumpeted "white knight", was invited by the federal government to reload the national game. Who got the A-League going. Who got Australia "into Asia". Who made the big call to dump national coach Frank Farina and hire Guus Hiddink. Two Socceroos teams have made the World Cup under his watch.
As a business figure, he's one of Australia's greatest: a true titan. He's earned the right to walk with a bit of swagger. To sail Sydney Harbour in his floating gin palace. Westfield shopping centres, his cash cows, have remade the Australian urban landscape. Hubris is one of his strong suits.
But humility isn't. If Lowy had more of it, he might realise his time, like Buckley's, is well and truly up. Too many mistakes have been made. The game isn't where it should be. When it comes to football, his famous Midas touch has been deserting him more often than he would like.
Gallop's arrival will help revive what one former A-League media manager this week described as "the excitement of the first couple of A-League seasons. I can still smell it, feel it... it still sends shivers down my spine."
For that, Lowy warrants our praise and thanks.
Not suspension of criticism. Or, worse yet, amnesia. But money and power has a habit of making people forget, doesn't it?