THE future of Australian football lies in the hands of FIFA after talks to resolve the future leadership of the game ended in vitriolic failure.
Football Federation Australia chairman Steven Lowy was accused by the A-League clubs of intervening twice to "obstruct" agreements struck over the future power structure of the game.
The clubs, who twice thought they had reached agreement with the state federations over the balance of power in FFA's Congress, denounced Lowy as FIFA's visiting delegation flew out with no deal struck.
Now the world governing body may be forced to appoint its own leadership for the game in Australia after seeing the stark divisions between the FFA board, the clubs and the states.
During 24 hours of unremitting drama, twice it seemed that a deal had been agreed over how the votes would be distributed in the Congress - the body that elects FFA's board. But as the parties exited FFA headquarters late on Thursday, it was clear gridlock continues ahead of a deadline set by FIFA of November.
"We are bitterly disappointed at not having reached consensus with our fellow stakeholders," said Greg Griffin, chairman of the Australian Professional Football Clubs Association.
"We are equally disappointed at the obstruction of this process by the FFA board."
After lengthy talks between the A-League clubs and the state federations on Wednesday evening, Lowy called a snap meeting of the state officials just before 10pm - and, it was claimed, pressured them to accept a model giving the clubs far less influence.
As all of the game's major stakeholders then convened for the first time early on Thursday - including Lowy and his executives, the owners of the A-League clubs, the leaders of the various state federations and the players' union, along with the delegation from FIFA - it became clear the deal agreed the night before was off.
As the angry clubs contested Lowy's right to "undermine" a deal agreed by the voters in the FFA Congress, as one senior figure put it, talks described as unprecedentedly heated continued until a lunchtime adjournment.
For 90 minutes the clubs and state federations retreated to a conference room at the Pullman Hotel next to Hyde Park and agreed another blueprint for reform - believed to centre around an interim structure of nine votes for the states, five for the clubs and one for the players, until an independent A-League is established.
But it was claimed that again Lowy then sought a private meeting with the state presidents, that went on for nearly two hours, leaving club owners and FIFA's delegation sidelined, and the second deal was cancelled.
Now, with no deal agreed, FIFA has the option of sacking the FFA board and installing a so-called "normalisation committee" to run the game. The clubs now seem certain push for this, with all trust between them and the FFA having evaporated.
So far Lowy's proposed reform, of nine votes for the states, the clubs getting an increase from one to three and the players' union getting one vote for the first time - has been rejected by FIFA as not democratic enough.
"A wide range of options has been robustly discussed over the past 48 hours," a statement from Lowy read.
"Everyone, including the FFA board, A-League club owners, member dederations and the PFA have shown willingness to move from their original positions and this has been noted by the FIFA/AFC delegation.
"FFA and the FIFA/AFC delegation have agreed not to make public comment on the details of these proposals while discussions continue. FFA is hopeful that an agreement can be reached to enable the necessary procedural changes to achieve an expanded Congress by the end of November."
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