Sydney FC to play hard ball with FFA if they want Arnold for Socceroos

Sydney FC expect Graham Arnold to honour the remainder of his contract as head coach of the club in spite of interest from Football Federation Australia and have not even started looking at potential replacements.

Arnold is among the front-runners to become the next coach of the Socceroos and lead Australia to the 2018 World Cup in Russia but Sydney FC chairman Scott Barlow is staunchly committed to keeping the coach at Moore Park. Sydney's double-winning coach is contracted at the club until June 2019 and the Sky Blues will unlikely allow him to leave freely, particularly to the FFA whom they are locked in a bitter political feud with.

Arnold is understood to be the leading domestic candidate for the Socceroos job but is yet to be approached by the FFA to take charge of the national team. Nevertheless, Sydney FC have already issued a "hands-off" warning to the governing body over a potential move for Arnold, reportedly sending a letter to Whitlam Square when news of the interest first emerged. On Monday afternoon, Barlow reaffirmed his expectation for Arnold to honour his contract with the Sky Blues until the end of next season.

"Graham is Sydney FC's coach and he's a contracted coach with our club, he's doing a fantastic job, we expect him to stay with us. Graham's said to me that if anything was to come up then I'd be the first person he would speak to. I've got a long and very positive relationship with Graham that's built on trust. I know when he says something like that to me it's the truth," Barlow said. "We've also made our position clear to the FFA and that's been reported on."

Despite the interest from the FFA and the lure for Arnold to coach at a World Cup, Sydney FC have not begun looking at any potential replacements in the event of his departure. The club's board has not discussed any contingency plans in such an event and remain committed to keeping Arnold at Sydney FC.

"We haven't, honestly. We haven't, certainly not working away in the background," Barlow said. "I've got a great relationship with Graham and it's one that's been built on trust and being up front with each other from day one. He certainly hasn't come to me and that's where we are. We're very happy with the job he's doing, he's contracted."

The FFA are in the process of identifying potential replacements for Ange Postecoglou as Socceroos coach and may not make an appointment until as late as February. A panel including former Socceroos greats began establishing the criteria for the coaching position last week but with no game until the March international window, the FFA are in no hurry to hire someone for the job.

Should Arnold emerge as their number one candidate and be offered the position, it's understood Sydney FC would not release him from his contract unless they receive a significant compensation fee from the FFA. The Sky Blues highly value the coach who's won three trophies with the club since he joined in 2014 and regard him as a valuable asset they won't give away freely.

A-League clubs are locked in a bitter feud with the FFA over three major issues - cash grants from the competition's revenue, a new A-League operating model and the ongoing crisis over the expansion of the FFA congress. It's understood the relationship between clubs and the FFA board is fractured potentially beyond the point of all repair.

This story Sydney FC to play hard ball with FFA if they want Arnold for Socceroos first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.