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AAFC Chairman Nick Galatas: “We want the best possible national second division”

AAFC Chairman Nick Galatas has outlined his plans for the organisation for 2021, with the continued pursuit of the introduction of a national second division at the top of his list.

Speaking with Soccerscene, Galatas explained that at the core of the organisation’s work on a national second tier, is the importance of producing the best outcomes for the sport.

“It’s about having the best possible national second division,” he said.

“That is front and centre of what we have put forward. What we’ve asked our clubs to put forward is not the minimum they can do, but the maximum they can do. Yes, we can always do less than the best, work below our capacity and set low targets that we can achieve.

“But we think we can do better than that.

“The clubs are assuming the risk, they are putting up the money and their resources, they think they can make it work from within their capability. Let’s use it, why wouldn’t we tap into that resource?”

FA CEO James Johnson recently spoke with Simon Hill on the Shim, Spider and So Much Moore podcast, praising the AAFC’s model and philosophically agreeing with the concept of a national second division with 12-16 teams.

However, Johnson believes that a more pragmatic model is a two-phase system where clubs will play out their local NPL season, with the best sides to then progress into a national-based “Champions League” group stage competition at the back-end of the year.

Galatas believes it is up to AAFC to convince Football Australia that the research they have conducted, in their feasibility progress report, will ultimately show that their model for a national second division is the appropriate way forward for the sport.

“Our job is to show Football Australia what they philosophically think is better, is in fact better and does in fact work,” he stated.

“We are not rejecting the outline of what James put out the other day, it may turn out to be better. We will explore that further and try and look at that and imagine it to its best level and work on that in good faith. If it looks good, and the risk associated with that is so much lower to make it more viable, then great.

“But, our work to date shows that it is not the case.

“The cost to the revenue side of a more limited model and the difficulty our member clubs will have in selling that to their own people, in terms of generating the relevant interest, isn’t worth it, as the savings it involves doesn’t compensate for the forgone revenue and interest. We look forward to seeing the FA model James mentioned in more detail when it’s ready, but we have anticipated such a model in our progress report before settling on our preferred model.”

AAFC hopes to complete its final report on its national second division plans by April, with Galatas anticipating a lot of the year to be occupied by Football Australia’s modelling of the second tier, something the organisation expects to play a notable role in.

Alongside this, they will look to navigate through all the changes to the game that directly affect the NPL clubs they are representing.

The organisation intends to conduct some work on advancing the women’s game in the country in the build-up to the 2023 Women’s World Cup, whilst also keeping abreast with recent announcements from the governing body.

“Going on to the domestic transfer system and the white paper FA has introduced, we are definitely looking at that. We’re preparing our position and contribution to that,” Galatas said.

“Football Australia also recently put out its domestic football calendar, so we are getting our heads around that as well and where we fit in.”

Possible reforms are also set to occur to NPL competition structures across Australia.

“We’ll be working with the member federations and with Football Australia in continuing to evolve that,” he said.

“There have been reviews into structures in Victoria, NSW and one now happening in Queensland, so we are constantly working on that part of it because most of our member clubs are involved in that.”

Galatas, based in Melbourne, believes on the back of the enthusiasm and movement on the second division front, strong crowds should turn out for the NPL season in Victoria.

“A lot of people want to see their teams play, practice match crowds are up from what I’ve heard and hopefully there are bumper crowds for the season.”

Philip Panas is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

Is Australia ready for a two-year World Cup cycle?

Battle lines are being drawn between FIFA and key stakeholders, as it remains to be seen whether Australia will support the push for a two-year World Cup cycle.

FIFA’s minutes from the 71st Congress, where Saudi Arabia put forward the motion to study the viability of a two-year cycle, doesn’t include what member federations voted for in the motion.

Football Australia hasn’t stated publicly whether they were one of the 166 nations who voted for the motion, or whether they support the plans.

Football Australia is instead adopting a wait-and-see approach, to avoid taking a position before any proposal for changes are put forward after the viability study is completed.

Two-time A-League Coach of the Year Ernie Merrick believes the push from FIFA for a two-year World Cup cycle is because of business and money.

“It’s about profit and loss. It’s not about the people in the sport really, and FIFA are always competing with their confederations, of which there are six, and FIFA only have one event where they make substantial money from revenue and that’s every four years,” Merrick said.

“So in effect FIFA loses money for three years, and then the fourth year and makes massive profits mainly from broadcast, ticket sales, and sponsorship from a World Cup.”

The majority of FIFA’s $8.7 billion in revenue between 2015-2018 came from the 2018 Men’s tournament.

The commercial value of another World Cup every four years is incredibly attractive to the governing body as a way to boost its already full coffers.

Australian football will struggle to keep up with other countries if the World Cup is hosted every two years, according to Merrick.

“At the same time a lot of countries, including Asian countries, are spending an enormous amount of money on facilities and preparation setups for national competition. We all know of England’s setup, which is huge at St George’s Park, and here we don’t have a designated specific setup to prepare national teams,” he said.

“There’s a lot of infrastructure that will have to change to give Australia a chance to qualify on a regular basis. We certainly have good players and good coaches and we can compete with anyone regarding players, coaching and strategy but when it comes to the sort of money involved in preparing a national team, friendly games, and the amount of travel involved, Australia is really going to suffer.”

Michael Valkanis – former A-League coach, player and current Greece assistant coach – believes that without aligning with FIFA international dates, it means the A-League will struggle to adapt to a two-year World Cup cycle.

“We saw the effects of the Socceroos going away to play, and it always makes it difficult on A-League coaches and teams to support that.” Valkanis said.

“You can see the effects it can have on finals games, and we’ve been crying out for a long time that we become parallel with the rest of the world with international dates.”

Some of Australia’s biggest competitors in the AFC are showing ambivalence towards the concept.

“It would depend on how it would all be organised,” a Korean FA official told Deutsche Welle.

“If we want to have consistent success then we need to play as many competitive games against South American and European teams as possible. At the moment, we play one or two games every four years if we qualify. It’s not enough.”

While the viability of a two-year World Cup cycle is being studied, it is unclear how determined FIFA is to implement such a radical change to the football calendar against intense opposition from some of its members.

Merrick believes the end result could be FIFA demanding a portion of the confederation’s revenue.

“I think four years is probably a better situation at the moment – maybe three years down the track – but I think confederations will have to come to an arrangement with FIFA, and FIFA will want to take some of their revenue somehow through licensing,” Merrick said.

Those involved in international football already believe that the best model is the one we have currently, something that Valkanis is a strong fan of.

“I am a traditionalist. I think the World Cup is something special that stands out from any other competition in the world,” he said.

“The only other event that comes close is the Olympic Games, and to change the format so we see it every two years instead of four, I don’t think it leaves it the same. It is special the way it is.”

Football Australia CEO James Johnson will have a challenge on his hands navigating what a change in the World Cup’s schedule means for Australian football, as FIFA continues to push for increased revenue from the game.

Football Coaches Australia welcomes Sports Integrity Australia independent investigation

FCA

Football Coaches Australia (FCA) welcomed the broad independent investigative mandate provided by Football Australia to Sport Integrity Australia, encompassing four different areas – harassment, bullying, intimidation and discrimination.

FCA encourages current and former players, administrators, referees and coaches, as well as parents and others involved in football in Australia to come forward through this process to enhance the positive cultural development in our sport.

FCA President Phil Moss stated: “As an organisation we have sought transparency, due process and procedural fairness from day one, so we fully support an independent and wide-ranging investigation into the culture of football in Australia.

“We must, as a game, hold ourselves to the highest of standards.

“The culture we live every day, how we treat each other and ensuring we are setting up the next generation to enjoy our great game is of paramount importance and entirely non-negotiable.”

Newly elected FCA Vice President Sarah West endorsed Phil’s statement:

“Everyone in our sport, from professional players, coaches, referees, administrators and staff through to those involved at the grass roots, has the right to participate in a positive and safe environment and to be treated with respect and fairness.

“There is no place in our game for abuse or harassment of any kind. This unacceptable behaviour harms people and diminishes the game.

“As coaches we have a duty of care to those we are entrusted to work with and must endeavour to always create environments which provide safety, trust and inclusivity so that everyone can enjoy the beautiful game on and off the pitch.”

Media inquiries can be directed to FCA Chief Executive Officer, Glenn Warry, on +61 417 346 312

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