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2020 Annual Report released by Football Queensland

FQ Annual Report

Following a momentous year of challenges and growth across the state, Football Queensland (FQ) has published their Annual Report for 2020.

In spite of the tumultuous impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, FQ were proud to have delivered a full season of National Premier Leagues football and to have been the only Member Federation to record an increase in participation across last year.

Improvement across four key areas – governance, administration, competitions and affordability – was at the forefront of FQ’s attention, and plenty was achieved despite the unprecedented obstacles the year presented.

Through their determination to inspire Queenslanders through football, FQ were successful in the following areas and initiatives:

  • The publishing of the Future of Football 2020+ document and Opportunities Paper which were produced in consultation with FQ’s stakeholders
  • The release of the 2020-2024 Strategic Infrastructure Plan in September which set out the organisation’s commitment to meeting the growing demands of the 127,627 participants across the state.
  • The establishment of a Regional High-Performance Centre in Townsville through a partnership with the North Queensland Cowboys
  • FQ launched NPL.TV, an industry-first over-the-top streaming service which broadcast all NPL Men’s, NPL Women’s and FQPL games live
  • FQ rolled out a suite of initiatives to support referees and foster ongoing growth in referee registrations including: the introduction of the pink armband for match officials aged under 18, new ‘sin bin’ rules, an e-learning platform, the inaugural FQ Referee Academy and the launch of the Futsal Referee Information Pack
  • FQ outlined its bold vision for futsal in the state with the release of the 2020-2022 Futsal Strategy, which has identified a clear focus over the next two years on growing participation, strengthening futsal clubs, improving access to infrastructure and building capability and capacity of administrators.

FQ President Ben Richardson acknowledged the immense work done by the game’s stakeholders through the challenges of 2020.

“Thank you to all our valued partners for supporting us to administer and grow the beautiful game here in Queensland.

“Thank you in particular to the Queensland Government for their ongoing support in providing funding to help us deliver the game across the state.

“Thank you to all the staff at FQ for their ongoing commitment to delivering the best outcomes for football in Queensland.

“Finally, thank you to all members of the football community across the state for your support throughout a year which was extremely challenging for us all.

“Despite its challenges, 2020 truly demonstrated football’s incredible ability to unite.”

Football Tasmania CEO Matt Bulkeley: “It isn’t a national competition without a Tasmanian team in it”

Football Tasmania CEO Matt Bulkeley has been in the job since August 2018, and has had plenty of work cut out for him during a turbulent time in Australian football. He spoke to Soccerscene about his involvement in football, Tasmania’s A-League ambitions, and the future of the game in Australia’s smallest state.

Q. How did you become involved in football?

Bulkeley: I’ve been involved in football all my life, I started playing when I was about six or seven in the Hills district in Sydney. I played football probably until I was about 35, and was involved as a volunteer coaching juniors and seniors. I studied a sports management degree when I finished school and worked for about 10 years in cricket. The opportunity came up for an opportunity with Football Federation Australia in around 2005, and I took that role on and was with the national body for almost eight years. I had some other roles in between before coming back into football in this role. 

Q. What challenges has Football Tasmania faced in recent years?

Bulkeley: We’ve had similar challenges to everyone else in relation to COVID, The interruption of the season, and the need to reconfigure what we had planned to do. We were able to get away a season that was roughly two-thirds of a normal season, we didn’t play all of the normal games. We did get most of our players who ended up playing after the break, which was a good thing. When we did return it was a pretty good season. What our clubs found was that they had good interest, good attendance on game days. People enjoyed themselves, and after that lockdown, it was in a sense even more important people had football to forward to and bring themselves together again. What it did impact was that the National Boy’s Championship didn’t go ahead, so that cohort of players didn’t have that opportunity last year, which was disappointing for them with a bit of gap in their development.

In terms of other challenges, one of our challenges that has been fairly well documented is around facilities. We are the biggest participation sport in Tasmania in terms of team sports, but our facilities have not kept up with that demand. They are dated, they are all a similar age and until recent times that haven’t provided suitable amenities for females in particular, both in terms of the number of change rooms as well as their design. We’ve spent a lot of time in the last couple of years working with all levels of government and our stakeholders to try and unlock more funding in football and had good success with that. There have been commitments of $30 million-plus, maybe closer to $40 million after this last state election, and we are starting to see the fruit from that – better facilities, and more across the state.

Q. Has engaging with state government and politicians been a challenge?

Bulkeley: It has been a challenge, and I think that is because we haven’t been as coordinated as we could have been in our approach, and being able to put forward a needs-based business case on why football needs better and more facilities. We are the biggest sport, we are bursting at the seams, and have facilities that aren’t fit for purpose. On one hand, it was challenging, but on the other the case sort of speaks for itself in terms of outcomes in recent years.

Q. Is a boutique rectangular stadium an aim for Football Tasmania?

Bulkeley: Absolutely, as far as I know, we are the only state capital that doesn’t have a rectangular stadium of any kind. When we have high-level games, including the Western United games, they’ve been played on ovals which as you know isn’t as good of a spectator experience for everyone. It’s really important for our ambitions for having our own A-League and W-League teams, which we are confident will happen. The Liberal state government has been very supportive in recent times under the leadership of premier Gutwein, in terms of supporting those ambitions, and has been very positive around a rectangular stadium. We know that would be very important in terms of that missing link for sport in this state. 

Q. How important would it be to become the first football code to launch a professional team in Tasmania?

Bulkeley: I think it’s just important full stop that we have that pathway opportunity. One of the big benefits we see having a team will provide for males and females in that opportunity locally to play at the highest level in this country without leaving the state. We’ve still got people as young as 14 and their families having to decide to relocate, with half of them staying and half of them going, so this provides a local opportunity for those more aspirational players. Then obviously being the biggest team participation sport it provides that local high-level football opportunity for people to go and watch to get behind. We think we have the football community to support it, but also think it adds value to our community by providing local heroes for our young people to look up to.

Q. What hurdles does Football Tasmania in launching an A-League team?

Bulkeley: It is tied to further expansion to the A-League, and from everything that has been communicated from the APL (Australian Professional Leagues), that will occur. Then it’s working on the infrastructure part of it, ensuring we have government support, and that we work with club owners and put the case for having a Tasmania team forward as a strong environment for a further team to be based. It would add a lot to the competition, and our view has always been that it isn’t a national competition if it doesn’t have a Tasmanian team in it. 

Q. What challenges does Football Tasmania face going forward?

Bulkeley: I think one thing we have worked hard on, in the last period of time, is collaboration. We have and are committed to working very closely with our clubs and associations on the aspirations of football. We know we can only do it together. We’ve made some really good inroads in the infrastructure area. We are working hard on other areas of the game, continuing to grow the game, the female side of the game. We have the highest proportion of female participation of anywhere in the country of almost 29%, which we are very proud of but want to keep building on that. We want to keep providing more opportunities around coach education and development, and similarly with refereeing. So there are lots of opportunities and challenges for us to embrace, but we know we need to work together with our clubs and associations to do that.

Manchester United commit to a renewable future

Renewable energy

With a shared mission of tackling climate change and creating a cleaner world, Manchester United have announced the renewal of their global partnership with Renewable Energy Group, Inc. – a leading producer of renewable fuels.

The partnership reinforces the Red Devil’s commitment to environmental sustainability through working together with Renewable Energy Group to raise awareness of the company’s biofuel products and to encourage positive environmental change among Manchester United’s global fanbase and beyond.

As one of the first football clubs in the world to launch a carbon reduction programme in 2008, Manchester United have reduced annual emissions from its operations by 2,700 tonnes since then. The club will be seeking to build on this record through its new partnership with Renewable Energy Group.

Manchester United Chief Operating Officer Collette Roche acknowledged the importance of Manchester United being a leader in environmental awareness and sustainability of the planet.

“As one of the most popular sports teams in the world, the club has a powerful platform to help raise awareness of how people can contribute towards a cleaner, more sustainable future for our planet,” she said.

“We are already an environmental leader among football clubs after 12 consecutive years of reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions. We will now work with Renewable Energy Group to explore ways of shrinking our carbon footprint further. Together, we can make a difference in the fight against climate change, and the goal of developing a greener, cleaner planet.”

Renewable Energy Group President and Chief Executive Officer Cynthia Warner spoke about the significance of enhancing awareness through the partnership with United.

“As a leading producer of cleaner, bio-based diesel, it’s a natural fit for Renewable Energy Group to partner with another sustainability-minded leader like Manchester United,” she said.

“Together, alongside Manchester United, we will amplify our simple-to-adopt opportunities for individuals and organisations to reduce carbon now.”

Australian Clem Morfuni becomes owner of Swindon Town FC

Swindon Town Morfuni

Australian Clem Morfuni has become the majority stakeholder in League Two side Swindon Town FC, with an ambition of bringing in a new era to the club.

The Robins, who were relegated from League One last season and have just nine senior players contracted – including Australian Jordan Lyden – will be backed by Morfuni for the foreseeable future with the upcoming League Two campaign less than three weeks away.

Morfuni, a previous minority stakeholder in the side, founded his plumbing business Axis Services Group in Australia in 1994. It is now a globally operating business with a financial turnover of $200 million each year.

The acquisition has also signalled the end of a lengthy ownership battle for the League Two club who have fought recent financial hardships. Moreover, the club’s fans have rejoiced across social media at the sight of Morfuni’s long-awaited arrival.

In a club statement, Morfuni acknowledged the importance of having a ‘fans first’ philosophy on and off the field.

“I want to tell the fans that you’ve got your club back, a football club should be the heartbeat of the town and the local community and should be something that the whole town and surrounding communities takes great pride in,” he said.

“Without fans you don’t have a club and I want to thank every supporter (many who I have got to know personally) who have fought for their club and helped me to gain control. I know I am indebted to you and will work hard to make this club a club all our fans can be proud of.

“Last season we came last in the football league in terms of fan engagement; this season I aim to come first.”

Morfuni’s takeover of the club has ushered in a new contingent of executive and technical staff, with arrivals including Swindon Town Supporters Trust board member Rob Angus as club CEO and Ben Chorley and Ben Garner as the club’s Director of Football and Head Coach respectively.

In addition, Morfuni spoke on the significance of building a youthful side, something which bodes well for young Australians seeking a pathway into European football.

“I want a young, forward thinking, vibrant club. I want the average age of the team to come down, that doesn’t mean every player will be young because you need a balance, but I want a young side that plays an exciting style of football and create a club where top young players want to join because of the environment, the opportunities they will be given,” he said.

Morfuni’s full statement can be read here.

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