Capital Football CEO Phil Brown: “The facilities don’t reflect the change in participation by women and girls”

Phil Brown has had a career in football administration that has spanned the Asian continent. Now the CEO of Capital Football, he spoke to Soccerscene about helping bring the Asian Cup to Australia, the changing demographics of football, and the opportunities football can create.

Phil Brown has had a career in football administration that has spanned the Asian continent. Now the CEO of Capital Football, he spoke to Soccerscene about helping bring the Asian Cup to Australia, the changing demographics of football, and the opportunities football can create.

Q: How did you become involved in football?

Phil Brown: I started playing football when it used to be known as soccer when I was seven. I played for my local club Epping Football Club, known as Epping YMCA back in the day. I began volunteering on the committee there when I was still playing, with my dad when I was 15. I helped him set up the nets, set up the barbecue, and helped my mum in the canteen when I was still playing at the club. It was during that time, being involved with my family and local community, that I fell in love with the game. My first job was running a local futsal competition at the Epping YMCA centre. I got some coaching jobs with YMCA doing school programs, doing holiday clinics with Northern Spirit, running a development program for them out of Macquarie centre. I went to university and did a human movement degree, and out of that, I got my first paid professional role in the game with New South Wales football as an events manager. I did that for a while and got promoted to competitions manager. I then moved over to Malaysia, to take an events management role in the competitions department at the Asian Football confederation.

After a few years I came back and I was able to take my experience with football in Asia to help Football Australia, the Mariners, and the Jets, who were negotiating the early days of the Asian Champions League. Nobody was that familiar with it at the time, but I was able to bring my learnings across to help. After that, I got a job on the committee organising the Asian Cup in Australia and did that for four years when we got the rights for the Asian Cup in 2015. I then headed over to Qatar in 2011 to help run a venue Qatar sports club during Asian Cup 2011. I came back, stayed on the local organising committee for a while, before an opportunity came up at Football New South Wales as head of football, to put a football department together. I did that for four years before the opportunity arose to head over to the ACT to be CEO of Capital Football arose, where I’ve been for five years now.

Q: What Challenges has ACT football faced in recent times?

Phil Brown: It’s the same challenges that football has faced across the country for a number of years. Facilities are a big challenge for everyone, but facilities that we all use are predominantly built during the 50s and 60s, in a time when community sports – especially the round ball sport – was played by men. It’s completely different now and rightfully so, it’s a great thing. But the facilities don’t reflect the change in participation by women and girls. The facilities are dated and the grounds we play on don’t have great drainage or lighting, and it doesn’t enable us to maximise participation and accommodate everyone who wants to play. Especially when you think about when they want to play and when they’ll be able to. Traditionally, football has always been a Saturday afternoon activity, but as society changes and people’s free time changes, it would be good to have facilities that allow us to maximise their time after hours on good surfaces, with good floodlighting that allows them to play and train.

Refereeing is a key challenge. Getting enough people that are willing and interested to cover all the games we want will make the games much better. To recruit and retain enough referees to cover all the matches is a challenge. We need to have enough quality coaches that have taken courses to ensure that when kids do turn up to train they are not only taught something, but they also have a good time. At the end of the day, we all play football because it is a fun thing to do, so having a coach that understands that and makes sure players enjoy themselves and fall in love with the game is important. 

Q: Football Tasmania CEO Matt Bulkeley recently said that state funding has been easier to engage with in recent times, has this been the same in the ACT?

Phil Brown: It’s a bit different with the structures here, we deal directly with the territory. In the other states, which have layers of councils that sit below the state government it can be a bit more challenging. We don’t have that same challenge here. There is a finite amount of money for governments to invest in facilities, infrastructure, and schools, and we understand that. We’ve been relatively lucky here that the government has been willing to reinvest some of the surpluses that were made through the Asian Cup 2015 – into community projects for football in 2016 – which was great. We are partnering with the government at the moment on the development of a home of football in the north of the ACT, which will make a great difference for access to playing surfaces in the ACT.

Q: Does Capital Football have ambitions to see a professional team in Canberra?

Phil Brown: Capital Football the company doesn’t have ambitions to manage an A-League team, however, we absolutely support seeing an A-League team in the ACT, sitting alongside the very successful W-League team in Canberra United that has been there since year one. It would be great for young boys in our part of the world to pursue their dreams to become professional footballers without having to move to Sydney or Melbourne to access an A-League opportunity, similar to what our young girls can do here. They can stay in school without moving away from their families, develop as players at the Canberra United academy, and then step up to the W-League. We’ve seen how successful that has been with young players like Karly Roestbakken, Grace Maher, Nicki Flannery, Laura Hughes, and Hayley Taylor-Young, who have come through the academy at a young age while still being at school, and still be able to become professional footballers through Canberra United in the W-League and then onto the national team.

Q: What will be the biggest challenge for the rest of the year for football in the ACT?

Phil Brown: The biggest challenge for the rest of the year is getting through this season without being impacted by COVID. It’s already had a huge impact on all community sport last year, and we were relatively lucky in comparison to other jurisdictions in that we got to play half a season. We’ve been relatively lucky again this year that our games haven’t been impacted. You look at what is happening in Sydney at the moment, and the impact that has had on community football, and that is a big challenge for us. It impacted our Kanga Cup, 300 plus teams from around Australia, and in previous years from overseas but COVID has impacted that as well – that is meant to be on for the first week of July but we’ve pushed back into September. The ongoing impact of COVID on community sport and travel between states then risks that competition going ahead, that would be a huge impact on us.

We are proud of the power chair football, through the support of the local community – particularly rotary and muscular dystrophy – that we have been able to purchase some strike force power chairs and build a program up from scratch, with two teams who play regularly, and potentially enter a state team in the national championship. Being able to engage and grow those opportunities is inroads for everyone in football – while we were talking about challenges, it’s important to talk about opportunities, and this is one of those.

Melbourne Knights to kick-start NordVPN’s ventures in the Australian football market

Melbourne Knights FC have announced their latest partnership with one of the world’s leading VPN providers, NordVPN.

Established in 2012, NordVPN is a Lithuanian VPN service that aims to provide secure and private access to the internet. It works by enveloping all of your online activities in a layer of encryption and hiding information about your virtual location.

This enables users to stay invisible to hackers, your internet service provider (ISP), governmental agencies and others from looking while you’re browsing the net. NordVPN also protects data such as bank details from potential attacks.

NordVPN has partnered with many clubs in Europe – such as Rangers, Atlético Madrid and Barnsley – and now they are venturing out to clubs around Australia.

Speaking with Soccerscene, Head of Commercial Operations at Melbourne Knights FC, Ange Hrastov, and NordVPN Country Manager for Australia and New Zealand, Ian Wheller, discuss the early discussions between them, the main outcomes from this partnership and potential collaborations between the pair in the future.

What were the early discussions like between NordVPN and the Melbourne Knights?

Ange Hrastov: NordVPN reached out to us and sent the Club an email, just asking whether we were interested in partnership opportunities with NordVPN.

It was right in the middle of all our other sponsors and at the time we were doing our season launch. We got back to NordVPN and said we’re always open to partnership opportunities as we’ve done with others.

We also asked them for a little bit of clarity on what they wanted and what the opportunity represented.

So that’s when I got a hold of Ian and both of us had a chat and he explained a couple of ways you can go; you can get a percentage of each subscription that they get, or we can get a flat fee. So, we chose the flat fee with them and that’s how it was.

As a Club, we’re just looking for opportunities to expand our network and our business partner base. We also saw it as an opportunity to be able to offer to our members, particularly our younger ones, who are more tech savvy and something that could benefit them in conjunction with being associated with the Club.

Ian Wheller: NordVPN reached out directly to Melbourne Knights. Australia is a relatively mature market for NordVPN, but local sports clubs are an area where we’ve seen great success in European markets that we want to try and replicate here.

We’ve had success with top-tier clubs such as Rangers FC and Barnsley FC, all the way down to the lower leagues, showcasing growth opportunities.

What were the main outcomes for both parties in this partnership?

Ange Hrastov: From our perspective at Melbourne Knights, our sponsor base and our business partner base have been pretty much the same businesses, and that’s been the case for many years now.

I came into it saying that we actually do need to start to expand our business partner network. We were looking for business partners that could also contribute in terms of their business experience, knowledge and acumen towards the future success of our club as much as any financial benefit we obtain from such partnerships.

It’s not just about the dollars, we wanted to see how the two businesses could coexist and work together. One of the things that they did before we made any decisions to partner with NordVPN is they pointed us in the direction of what they’ve been doing in the UK with football clubs.

It was Ipswich Town that they have a partnership with over in the UK in the Championship, and I looked at the website and it appeared a good fit. They seem to have a healthy partnership and relationship with Ipswich Town, and we thought why not give it a crack?

This is an opportunity that takes us into areas that we haven’t worked with before and to partner with someone where we give back to our members, it is a partnership where our members can tangibly gain from it.

Ian Wheller: Due to our successful partnerships in Europe with football teams, we’ve decided to follow a similar trend in Australia due to the closely aligned love for the game. Bringing it back to Melbourne Knights specifically, we purposely targeted the lower leagues to begin with to understand growth appetite and partnering with the Melbourne Knights is a great way for us to support the local community.

We are looking to grow brand awareness and subsequent customer subscriptions off the back of the Melbourne Knights sponsorship and the plan is to roll this out nationally to clubs that we see are a good fit.

Are there any future collaborations being discussed after the agreement of this partnership such as jersey and pitch sponsorships?

Ange Hrastov: At the moment, there have been very limited discussions and we’re at very early stages. We will need to see how it goes for both them and us in terms of what kind of return they get for what they’re doing.

Let’s show them what the outcome can be and how successful it can be and from that point, then we can start talking about further opportunities that we can look at with NordVPN.

Let’s walk first, then once we’ve established a relationship, we’ll start running later.

Ian Wheller: We are starting light when it comes to sponsorships across Australia. Both pitch and jersey sponsorship are positive for the future, our current approach will allow us to test different strategies.

Due to this partnership between the Melbourne Knights and NordVPN, fans have been given an exclusive offer when they sign up with NordVPN. The offer is a 72% discount off monthly plans and a Saily eSim for those who are planning to go overseas.

For more information, visit the article about the partnership on the Melbourne Knights website.

Football Queensland appoints women into key leadership positions with 50/50 gender parity goals

Following the recent surges nationwide in female participation, Football Queensland (FQ) has also proven they are making important strides in their 50/50 gender parity plan, with FQ appointing women to higher positions in the sports hierarchy.

Throughout the state, FQ is committed to achieving 50/50 gender parity in participants, referees, committees and club officials by 2027.

FQ has announced that of 10 FQ members, five have been women, hitting an impressive 50/50 representation.

These representatives are chosen from their local communities, proving that the push for change in equity comes from the members of the community.

These members include Sarah Jones (Far North & Gulf), Roslyn Minnikin (Metro South Chair), Azra Rantucci (Northern), Jodie Dickens (South Coast) and Rebecca Whisker (Sunshine Coast).

In conjunction with these appointments, Football Queensland also announced the re-election of Board Director Amy Chapman following the recent Annual General Meeting as the FQ Board of Directors.

FQ President Paula Robinson commented:

“Following a huge 2023 that saw the game reach new audiences and engagement levels like never before and after FQ recorded an incredible 44% increase in outdoor female players in the first quarter of 2024, we are excited to further consolidate the growth of female representation on the pitch with similar progress off the pitch in vital governance roles,” she said.

These appointments are a key part of the Football Queensland 2024-2026 Women’s & Girls Strategy and show the effort made to deliver on this mission.

In Pillar One: Participants & Clubs: A main goal is for 100% of Queensland club boards, committees and FQ members to meet the 40/40/20 gender representation by 2027.

These appointments prove that FQ is well on the way to this goal not just in leadership but also state-wide through all the different footballing communities.

FQ President Paula Robinson also commented, “Having such a diverse group of esteemed members within football’s governance ranks helping to design an inclusive future for the game in Queensland will ensure that more participants, particularly women and girls, can get involved in the game earlier and remain engaged for life.”

Retaining participants and early involvement in the game is another goal within Pillar One of the 2024-2026 Strategy.

Also in Pillar 2: Advanced Pathways one of the strategies includes:

Increase the awareness of the 50/50 gender parity initiative through storytelling and regular representation of achievements in all our published collateral and marketing promotions.

This news post is a prime example of the media and storytelling strategies towards the equity goal of 2027.

The announcement shows dedication to the ambitious plans of Football Queensland for the Women’s 2024-2026 strategy.

In this process, FQ will be making the football scene a more accurate industry of Australian’s diverse sporting community.

Most Popular Topics

Editor Picks

Send this to a friend