GRIFFITH clubs could be effectively barred from entering the long-awaited FFA Cup next year unless a change is made to New South Wales’ premier knockout tournament, the Waratah Cup.
After months of speculation, FFA chief executive David Gallop last week announced a national cup competition – tentatively named the FFA Cup – will finally become a reality in 2014.
Intended as Australia’s answer to the English FA Cup, the knockout tournament will pit A-League clubs against semi-pro and amateur teams from state and grassroots leagues and is seen as an opportunity to tie together the sport at all levels.
In a press release last week, the FFA said the structure of the FFA Cup – which is still being finalised –will allow “existing State and Territory-based cup competitions to remain in place as feeder competitions to the national cup.”
The Area News understands the Waratah Cup – not the State Cup, in which local powerhouse Hanwood FC was a finalist this year – will act as the sole feeder competition for NSW teams to qualify for the FFA Cup.
Since all rounds except the final of the Waratah Cup were played on Wednesday nights this year, this looms as a barrier to entry for amateur clubs from regional areas such as Griffith, who must contend with a prohibitive traveling distance on top of work and family commitments.
Only a handful of clubs from outside the Sydney metropolitan area entered the 2013 Waratah Cup, which was won by APIA Leichardt.
Griffith District Football Association president Matthew Curran said he will appeal to Football NSW if local clubs are denied a pathway of some form into the FFA Cup, which he said is supposed to be an “all-inclusive” tournament.
“We very much want to be part of it but we can’t if it’s midweek. It’s unachievable. There’s just no way,” he said.
“At the end of the day, we pay as much money as anyone else who plays the game in NSW and we should be entitled to the same things as everyone else.
“Midweek, everyone works, and out here it’s just unrealistic. On a weekend, I think everyone could come together for the betterment of the game here and stick it to them.”
Football NSW media manager Mark Stavroulakis gave little away in a statement to The Area News when asked about the conundrum.
“We are working closely with the FFA with the procedures, protocols, rules and regulations of the FFA Cup for the new year,” he said.
“It is in its early stages at the present moment but we are all working towards making this Cup a memorable inaugural season for all clubs and participants involved with the FFA Cup in 2014.”
Earlier this year, the GDFA unveiled plans to establish a representative side to enter next year’s Waratah Cup, but abandoned the move after learning matches were played midweek.
Curran said unless Waratah Cup games are moved to weekends next year, he would not expect any Griffith teams to enter the competition.
It is unclear if representative sides from associations would be allowed to enter the FFA Cup, or if the tournament will be open to established clubs only.
Hanwood FC president Simon Quarisa said his club could not enter the Waratah Cup, and thus the FFA Cup, in its current format.
“It’s not feasible – not with the player roster we have,” he said.
“We’re 5000km across. You’re going to need a lot of money for flights and if it’s midweek, how do they get time off work?
“We like to enter as many competitions as we can but we play for fun and for love. There’s no way we could go to Sydney on a Wednesday.
“The State Cup took enough of a toll on us. For it to be possible for any Griffith team to play in the FFA Cup at some stage, it needs to be on a weekend.”
Gallop warned last week the FFA would be “prudent” as it moves to finalise the structure of the national knockout cup.
“The idea of the FFA Cup has captured the imagination of the football community and there’s a huge groundswell of support,” he said.
“Everyone in the game is keen for this concept to come to life, but the prudent way forward is to ensure the right commercial and organisational foundations are in place.”