Each association has been graded across ten different areas to arrive at a score out of 500.
Unsurprisingly, Japan has the highest scoring association in Asia, with a score of 470.1 and the best score in every category except for the "technical standard" of its football (scoring 82.4 out of 100). Here, the Korea Republic triumphs (scoring 94.8).
Australia fares quite poorly in the assessment, scoring 306.0.
Compared with the top three (Japan, the Korea Republic and China), Australia is left behind in terms of its organisation, technical standard, governance/soundness, business scale and media. Business scale, especially, is a category where Australia loses out quite significantly in comparison to the big three in East Asia. Presumably this has something to do with the smaller size of our national population and the relatively tiny Australian diaspora, factors that restrict the potential amount of earnings from TV rights, sponsorship and merchandise. (On the other hand, match attendance is an assessment category in which Australia scores quite well.)
The low organisation score for Australia is a factor of the A-League's new beginning. With only eight teams in the league and no promotion and relegation structure in place, there is room to improve this score steadily over the coming years.
For Australia to score just 12.5 out of 50 in governance/soundness is rather provocative and suggestive of the level of esteem that our corporate structure is held within the Confederation. Only Singapore scores lower than Australia in this category, while Hong Kong, India, Uzbekistan, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Syria and Jordan all share an identical score.
A supporting document spells out the problem areas for Australia within the governance category. As listed below, most of the criteria are concerned with the absence of clear legal separation between the activities of the country's professional league (i.e. the A-League) and it's governing body (the FFA):
- The league governing body must be a legal entity owned governed by its football association
- The league governing body must have a management structure that controls competition, marketing, media and finance
- The executive committee of the league must contain representatives from (a) the clubs, (b) the football association and (c) league management
- The league CEO must be engaged full-time
- The league must have an audited profit & loss statement and balance sheet
- The league must have an auditor
The signal is quite clear: independence, transparency and accountability are very important to the AFC.
While it's hard to see how we can improve our business scale score, gains in our organisation and governance scores may provide the few extra points we need to obtain an extra team or two in the Asian Champions League and additional leverage in any other sense, presuming the AFC's assessment methodology becomes a standardised instrument for decision making.
But the gains in other categories could be doubled if we can improve the perception of Australian football's technical standard. Scoring just 51.3 out of 100 we are a long way behind our major competitors. To put the score in perspective, here's the hierarchy as it currently stands:
Korea Republic - 94.8
Japan - 82.4
Saudi Arabia - 78.8
Iran - 69.6
China - 61.5
Uzbekistan - 59.5
United Arab Emirates - 53.7
Australia - 51.3
Jordan - 51.2
Syria - 49.1
Qatar - 46.4
Bahrain - 46.4
Oman - 42.1
Singapore - 40.5
Kuwait - 34.6
Thailand - 33.0
Hong Kong - 30.9
Vietnam - 26.9
Indonesia - 24.4
India - 23.1
Malaysia - 19.4
It's both a little bit alarming and kind of hard to argue with. My only gripe: for all the AFC's ambitions to be more transparent, I haven't found any evidence of how these technical standard scores were arrived at. While they might seem 'about right', I have no idea what they're based on and it would be very interesting to be privy to any studies, statistics or whatever else went into their fabrication.