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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 9 February 2019
28 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 9 FEBRUARY 2019 SPORT CON STAMACOSTAS Greek Australian Nikou was elected as FFA Chairman on November 20 last year after a push from various stakeholders to bring a fresh approach to football governance after 15 years of the Lowy era. After ending his football career in the Victorian State League he held positions at Football Federation of Victoria, Melbourne Victory and was part of the organising committee for the 2015 Asian Cup. While he has been on the FFA Board for the previous four years, Nikou never expected he would be running Australian football. "I never thought of it in those terms," he told Neos Kosmos. "Football is the sport I grew up with. It's the sport I love. It's the sport my childhood and my friends that I have DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM ISSN 1321-1676 9 771321 167062 ‘I never thought I would be FFA Chairman’ up with and know. The people behind them are very passionate and that is the sort of thing we need in the football community. Ultimately you have to make a call as a director for what is in the best interest of the sport. But as I said on the announcement, it's not the end of the process." When former Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou was in Australia recently he said that football was waiting for the 'golden ticket' and looking for the new FFA Board to save the game. When instead the game should believe in in itself and be bold in its assertions and decisions. And Greek Australian Nikou believes that one of the biggest tasks the new board must commit to is rebuilding the relationships between the FFA, A-League clubs, Member Federations and fans. kept for decades. I have been in football administration for many years. I was encouraged by a number of other parties to continue to contribute and work with others to continue to move the sport forward. That's what people want." One of the biggest tasks Nikou believes the new board must commit to is rebuilding the relationships between the FFA, A-League clubs, Member Federations and fans which was strained during the last few years. CEO David Gallop (left) and FFA Chairman Chris Nikou address media in Sydney, Thursday, December 13, 2018. The A-League will expand to 12 teams in the next two seasons after FFA decided to award licences to new teams based in Western Melbourne and South West Sydney. (AAP IMAGE/DAN HIMBRECHTS) "It's been a fairly intense start," Nikou said about the first few months in the role. "It's been a chance to recalibrate and rebuild the relationships at different levels. We are really trying to re-connect with the various parts of our sport from the NPL clubs to the fans and the communities." Soon after Nikou came to power he and the board presided over the expansion of the A-League but unfortunately for South Melbourne fans they were not part of the two teams that were announced. Nikou himself is a former South Melbourne junior and he revealed the former NSL powerhouse club should not give up its ambition to join the A-League. "Like all the bids they had some nice features about them," he said. "Overall unfortunately for South they weren't the best bid in that pack at this point in time. That's not to say they won't be at some future point in time. South is a club I actually grew We are really trying to re- connect with the various parts of our sport... Chris Nikou Nikou was in full agreement. "We need to deliver some outcomes," he says. "We have done that with the A-League expansion, we want to do that with the upcoming community forums. That's an important part, we want to hear what the fans have to say. We want to work with the A-League clubs and by default the W-League offering. A second division is also important, the Women's World Cup bid is also a major initiative. Then there is Asian football Confederation (AFC) equation, we are part of the AFC and we want to be better citizens in that space." I don’t believe in Old Soccer vs New Football CON STAMACOSTAS The demise of the NSL and advent of the A-League saw Greek backed clubs like Heidelberg, Sydney Olympic, West Adelaide and South Melbourne spend almost 15 years in the football wilderness. With the election of Chris Nikou as FFA Chairman bringing an end to the Lowy era, there is new hope for many of those proud migrant clubs. Born in Melbourne, to Greek parents who migrated to Australia in the 1950's from a Greek village eight kilometres from Grevena, Nikou grew up in Malvern and played youth football for South Melbourne. "I have lived and breathed both generations," he says. "I grew up in the NSL. My koumbaro is Nick Deligiannis and he played for Heidelberg and he was the first kid I met in primary school. Ange Postecoglou is my other koumbaro. I used to go to the old Middle Park where the souvlaki was on the left hand side where you used to queue up." The new FFA Chair feels his history in the game from the NSL to current day can help football fulfil its potential. "What I get from that is a greater sense of community," he says "To the extent that people feel a disconnect it's up to the board to try to unify them. There is no old soccer or new football. It might be a different chapter of our sport but it's our sport and our sport goes back almost a 100 years." Nikou believes that the first step to uniting all the football tribes is the creation of a national second division. "That is an important nar- rative that we are keen to explore," he says. "We need to make sure that it's sustainable and we can deliver it long term. I see that as a way for the next generation of youth players to get that chance to get into the shop window and build professional careers." Crucially for former NSL clubs Nikou feels promotion and relegation is a step that Australian football must also aspire to. "That's the ultimate goal," he says. "The reality in practical terms is that we develop a stand-alone A-League model that is sustainable for the clubs. Part of that evolution is promotion and relegation, you could certainly see it as part of a second division fairly quickly. If we could get that up and running then ultimately it would be introduced into the A-League. The second division dialogue and expansion is important. I would hate to see a player out there and just because the sheer weight of numbers they don't get an opportunity. That would be pretty disappointing in my view."
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