Australia football’s culture wars are set to continue after the withdrawal of Craig Foster from the race to lead the Football Federation Australia board.
Foster, a former Socceroo captain and head of the footballers union, was the popular choice to lead FFA after the resignation of Steven Lowy.
He published a lengthy manifesto and delighted long-suffering fans and board-watchers with promises of rejuvenation and reform.
But the 55-year-old withdrew late on Friday citing a lack of “necessary stakeholder support to succeed”.
Given his media platform for SBS, Foster is likely to remain hotly involved in the debates around the sport – akin to a scorned political leader sent to the backbench after a leadership battle defeat.
“Football does not need a protest vote or candidate, we need unity, which is why I’ve decided to step away,” he said in a statement on Twitter.
“The new Board will have my best wishes to deliver the promised reform. In a transparent manner, with oversight by our community, in the best interests of all.”
Foster failed to garner support outside the Professional Footballers Australia, alienating powerbrokers at both federations and clubs with his independence.
He pledged his support to fellow PFA-aligned candidate Heather Reid, who is now likely to find herself on the board.
The long-time Capital Football chief is one of two female candidates, along with Linda Norquist, in the reduced field of 10 running for four elected seats.
It’s unlikely that both would be elected, but one or both could be appointed to the top table after Monday’s AGM.
Chris Nikou looms as a likely compromise leadership choice given his ties to the Lowy era.
Joseph Carrozzi is his chief rival from those who have already nominated, with rumours circling that former Senator and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy could make a last-minute run.
Conroy is aligned with Melbourne City which has – though City Football Group executive Simon Pearce – worked feverishly behind the scenes on the reform process and board elections.
Nikou, Carrozzi, Conroy and Remo Nogarotto – along with Reid and Norquist – are considered to be the frontrunners for the board places.