By Jesse Fink
The Asian Football Confederation is in dire straits organisationally: a president being kept away from returning to his office seemingly at any cost; investigators dredging up whatever they can find on selected individuals; confidential reports and office gossip leaking left, right and centre; a key commercial partner locking journalists in their sights; low morale; backstabbing; you name it.
It's nest of vipers.
Yet the same AFC is, according to press reports, lecturing Australia on how it should be running its national competition, the A-League. Without a promotion-relegation system in place, the Aussies can forget ever getting more than two places in the Asian Champions League, Asia's premier club tournament.
This has been an injustice for a long time and the AFC should get its own house in order before admonishing member federations, but no matter: what the AFC says, Football Federation Australia must obsequiously heed.
So Australian fans digested news stories this week that a state/region-sourced second division is planned to be up and running by 2022, with promotion to the A-League the prize.
No matter that the A-League has enough on its plate consolidating a 10-team competition; the newest team, Western Sydney Wanderers, only being cobbled together by the FFA a few months ago to even things up after the departure of Gold Coast United and put on its best face for broadcasting negotiations. The Aussies, thunders the AFC, must press ahead regardless.
FFA chairman Frank Lowy and outgoing CEO Ben Buckley might have stuffed up expansion of the A-League and wasted $45.6 million of Australian taxpayer funds on the 2022 World Cup bid, but they deserve to be cut some slack here.
Australian football has its own unique challenges: not least competing with three other strongly supported "football" codes. No other Asian country faces such a hurdle for sponsors' dollars and bums on seats.
In Major League Soccer - the league Australia is rightly starting to look towards for inspiration - there is no promotion or relegation. It doesn't work there. And, as it stands at the present time, it's not going to work in Australia.
It's a pressure all ten A-League clubs don't need.
As MLS commissioner Don Garber told The New York Times in March: "While I personally think promotion and relegation would be very exciting, the professional soccer landscape in the United States and Canada is not mature enough to support this type of system, and therefore it is not something we are contemplating."
And this is the MLS we are talking about. A league light years ahead of Australia's and significantly better resourced financially.
So the real issue here is the AFC's unrealistic demands and its complete inflexibility.
First, the criteria for extra places in the ACL must be reviewed.
Second, the AFC itself might be taken a bit more seriously if it could sort out its own problems before compounding those all its member federations face in this time of global austerity.
Australia has a lot to get right when it comes to football but it doesn't need to be fatally handicapped as well.