Liverpool legend Craig Johnston has called on Football Federation Australia [FFA] to give young people a credit for free registration next season to compensate for the technological failure that led to the Newcastle Jets losing the grand final.
Johnston, a passionate Novocastrian who grew up in Speers Point, has written a letter to the FFA saying it should give a registration credit to Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Hunter juniors for the 2019 season.
Registration usually costs about $150 to $200 a season.
Another option was for Jets members to get a credit for membership next season.
“This credit can come directly from the ticket money paid on the night of the FFA and VAR [video assistant referee] mess up,” said Johnston, who was part of the Liverpool team of the 1980s – one of the greatest soccer sides in history.
“24,000 Novocastrians paid their hard-earned money for an unfair and sad end to a potentially glorious 2018 fairytale season.”
He said the FFA has a chance to show some leadership with a “sincere and respectful gesture” that proves it cares about “the mistakes it made”.
Federal Shortland MP Pat Conroy backed Johnston’s comments, saying: “A genuine and concrete gesture of apology and restitution by the FFA is essential”.
Johnston said the people of Newcastle understand that “mistakes do happen”.
“But the real issue here is when the administrators at the top avoid taking the responsibility for their mistakes, and don’t apologise to the affected people in the right spirit and don’t even bother or attempt to put things right in some small way.”
He said the FFA’s decision for A-League head Greg O’Rourke to make a statement on the technical failure and say sorry, while blaming the VAR technology, was “not washing with us Novocastrians”.
Earlier in the week, SBS chief football analyst Craig Foster said FFA chairman Steven Lowy or FFA chief executive David Gallop should have made a statement on the matter.
“When there’s good news the big guns come out. This is the integrity of the grand final,” Foster said on The World Game podcast.
Mr Conroy said in a speech to Parliament on Tuesday that he was dissatisfied with the statement from the FFA after the grand final.
“They put out a statement admitting that they had got it wrong and that they had robbed the Newcastle Jets. They talked about the disappointment and frustration of Newcastle fans. Well, they're wrong – it’s red-hot anger,” Mr Conroy said.
“This clear incompetence changed the game and altered the result. Heads must roll.”
Johnston agreed that the FFA “got it horribly wrong”.
He said the refereeing system “failed spectacularly” and there was no back-up plan.
“This administrative error created an uneven playing field and an unfair contest for the grand final showcase in Newcastle,” he said.
An FFA spokesperson said it had “previously explained a technical failure affected the VAR performance during the grand final”.
“FFA regrets that the technical failure occurred and is working with its suppliers to understand exactly what went wrong in order that changes can be made to prevent a recurrence in the Hyundai A-League or anywhere else around the world.
“FFA believes that is the most meaningful response to the disappointment felt by Newcastle fans and all fans of the league.”