Cavallucci spearheads reform for football in Queensland

Football Queensland (FQ) have made it their mission to work through a wide range of reforms for the game in the sunshine state, with CEO Robert Cavallucci a central figure overseeing the governing body’s progress.

In a wide-ranging interview with Soccerscene, Cavallucci emphasised the importance of delivering important objectives for the game, which include executing crucial competition reforms for overall player development, encouraging and providing appropriate support strategies for coaches and referees, lifting the profile of futsal in the state and taking the women’s game to the next level.

The FQ CEO explained some of the changes they are implementing to competition structures across Queensland and how critical it is to link the state’s football pyramid.

“Strategically, it’s very important, Football Queensland takes all possible steps in regards to connecting and linking the football pyramid where it can to benefit the game,” he said.

“In the advanced pathway, we need to make sure there’s a clear, transparent and accessible opportunity for aspirational clubs and players to find the right place for them in the football ecosystem.

“What we’ve done is divided the state up into three competition conferences – South East Queensland, Central Coast and North Queensland.

“In South East Queensland obviously it’s a lot more mature in terms of the advanced pathway, the NPL itself has been around for some time. But it’s now about linking it with the other elements of the advanced pathway, so there’s a clear passage for clubs to transition to the right framework for them that aligns with their strategic objectives. That’s what we are doing in South East Queensland and from a football point of view, having a connected pyramid with promotion and relegation is the most preferred position to be in.”

The South East Queensland competition reforms are set to have as many as 6 divisions of the Football Queensland Premier League (FQPL), with clubs in those leagues able to strive to reach the top tier in the National Premier Leagues (NPL) Queensland.

In the Central Coast and North Queensland conferences, the system will be similar, however some adjustments will need to be made.

“We will be transitioning the Premier League clubs in those environments into the FQPL environment (which is the same licensing and competition framework as South East Queensland).

“We will then work those clubs over the next 3 years or so to build their capacity and help them transition from a community club environment into the advanced pathways.”

The idea is that over the next few years the FQPL in Cairns for example, will be as close to the same thing as the FQPL in Brisbane.

“It’s a 3-5 year journey, but it’s something we are ambitious in doing because we have a firm belief that kids in regional Queensland should have the same opportunity as kids in South East Queensland,” Cavallucci said.

Alongside the focus on the development of players through these revamped competition structures, improving coaching and referee standards have been two major pillars that are an integral part of FQ’s overall growth strategy.

“We’ve had a massive investment in coaching education in Queensland, significantly growing the number of coach educators and significantly growing the amount of courses being delivered,” he said.

“We’ve been able to substantially grow the number of registered coaches across the state; we are up nearly 35% this year, which is huge.

“That reflects investment in the key parts of our game that have been neglected from a coach education point of view.

“Equally in referees, we have conducted significant reform in that space and have worked to fix the culture across the state.

“Under the number of strategies and programs we’ve implemented, referee numbers are also up over 20% this year. After 7 years of decline we’ve been able to turn it around, so these are really good outcomes for the game.”

Futsal referee courses have also been delivered by the governing body, which in the past were never prevalent.

A strategy for the small-sided game in the state was released late last year, which has gone a long way to uniting the Queensland futsal community.

“We released our futsal strategy not that long ago, and now we are quite ambitious in our efforts to promote and grow the game,” Cavallucci said.

“We are absolutely investing in the right places to try and bring futsal to life and intend to heavily promote it as much as we can. It’s that fast, active, intense social product of our game, where there is a whole market for it in itself.”

Another market which continues to grow at a rapid pace is women’s football and with games to be played in Queensland at a home Women’s World Cup in 2023, Cavallucci sees huge potential for the tournament to instigate generational change.

“It’s the ultimate opportunity,” he said.

“There’s strong ambitions to have 50/50 participation by 2025. It’s an incredible ambition and target to get to, but that’s ultimately where we want to be and we will strive to deliver that.

“The opportunity for our game with having more women involved, more women in leadership positions, more women as referees and coaches, our game is ready to embrace these changes and the direction we are heading in.”

Cavallucci believes the game in Queensland will reap the rewards of the World Cup in the future, through a tangible lasting legacy.

“We will certainly benefit from it,” he said.

We launched our women’s football strategy a couple months ago at parliament, which was all about unlocking the infrastructure legacy of the Women’s World Cup.

“Whether it’s a centre of women’s football, whether it’s female friendly facilities or changerooms, it’s critical for accommodating the growth we are experiencing as a game overall.

“It’s incumbent on all of us in leadership positions to ensure we deliver what’s best for our game.”

 

 

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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.

Football Queensland gearing up for 2024 season with State Referee Conference

Football Queensland 2023 State Referee Conference

Football Queensland’s 2024 State Referee Conference will be held Saturday, January 20 and Sunday, January 21.

The conference will be available in a hybrid format as it was in 2023, with attendees able to join the in-person event at St Joseph’s College, Gregory Terrace or access the sessions from regional hubs in an online platform.

The State Referee Conference is an annual get-together before the upcoming season as Queensland-based referees learn from special guest speakers, get to know their peers and build relationships with fellow match officials.

The two-day format of the conference will first be open to all referees on day one, before more in-depth practical sessions on the second day exploring specific referee concepts for NPL Queensland, FQPL and FQ Referee Academy match officials.

At the time of confirmed conference dates, Football Queensland CEO Robert Cavallucci expressed why the State Referee Conference is an essential part of the football calendar.

“The annual State Referee Conference provides an important opportunity for Queensland referees to come together ahead of the new season to learn from special guest speakers, get to know their peers and build relationships with fellow match officials,” Cavallucci said in a statement.

“After the success of the hybrid event format in 2023, we’re excited to again deliver the 2024 State Referee Conference both in person and online, accommodating match officials at every level of the game from every region.

“Metro based referees are encouraged to register early to attend the in-person event at St Joseph’s College, Gregory Terrace with only 250 spaces available, while FQ will also host in-person events in regional parts of the state for referees located across Queensland.”

Register here to attend the in-person event at St Joseph’s College, Gregory Terrace.

Register here to view the conference online from a regional hub or from home.

Lawrie McKinna: A true survivor

Since 1986, when he first appeared for Heidelberg United in the NSL, Lawrie McKinna, the current Sydney Olympic CEO, has seen it all in Australian football.

After playing stints with Apia and Blacktown City, he eventually teamed up with David Mitchell at Sydney United and Parramatta Power in coaching roles, followed by Northern Spirit in his own right.

When the A-League commenced in 2005, Mckinna was involved at Central Coast Mariners and eventually became mayor of Gosford.

In recent times, he was CEO at the Newcastle Jets until the opportunity arose two years ago to take the helm at Sydney Olympic.

It is no coincidence that Lawrie McKinna faces one of the greatest challenges of his career in preparing the club to be ready for the start of the National Second Division in the winter of 2025.

Fittingly, on Saturday January 13th, a challenge match commemorated the first NSL  match between Sydney Olympic and South Melbourne which was played on April 2nd, 1977 at the Sydney Sportsground.

It was a unique day for football as it was the first code in Australia to form a national competition.

Lawrie McKinna is well aware of the famous players who appeared on that day, notably Gary Meier and Joe Senkalski for Sydney Olympic and former Socceroos, Jack Reilly, Billy Rogers, Duncan Cummings, Jimmy Mackay and Peter Ollerton for South Melbourne.

In fact, it was Peter Ollerton who scored the two goals for South Melbourne to secure his team’s victory.

In this interview with Roger Sleeman, Lawrie McKinna discusses the current state of Australian football, his vision for the success of the National Second Division and the significance of the Sydney Olympic v South Melbourne clash.

ROGER SLEEMAN

Looking back over all those years you’ve been involved in the Australian game, how do you see its current state?

LAWRIE McKINNA

When I first played at Heidelberg in the NSL, there were big crowds but we played at poor stadiums like Connor Reserve and Sunshine Reserve in the winter. Furthermore, we played in ankles of mud which was very much like playing in Scotland.

The current A-League stadiums are top notch with good surfaces and part of the criteria for the B-League will be for this to be replicated.

One of the glaring weaknesses of the A-League is the lack of media as the other codes receive blanket coverage.

If the game is trying to entice more support there is no incentive for the general sporting fan to follow it so this must be addressed.

However, the success of the Matildas is well known and the Socceroos popularity has never been greater so these strengths have to be built on.

R.S.

Do you think the right people are running the game?

L.M.

I don’t even know who is running the game since Danny Townsend left the APL.

I’ve never seen Nick Garcia, the new APL CEO, because he’s never appeared on television.

There are very large staff numbers at the APL but they’re invisible people.

James Johnson, the FA CEO, is their spokesperson and at least people recognise him but there still isn’t enough exposure of the FA Management to the supporters.

R.S.

Newcastle Jets, Perth Glory, Western United and Brisbane Roar are in survival mode.

Is this a satisfactory situation?

L.M.

This is not the only country in the world with financial problems so it’s a matter of getting the right owners who will commit for the long term.

However, it’s not a bottomless pit so better broadcast deals are required to bring money into the game.

R.S.

What do you see as the vision for the National Second Division and how can it integrate with the A-League?

L.M.

The admission of the first eight clubs is positive but a 12-club League is desirable.

We also need Adelaide, Brisbane and Tasmania to be represented to make it a truly national competition.

At the moment, a new television deal is being worked on to encompass the Matildas, Socceroos, Asian Cup and National Second Division and this was the major reason the new League was postponed until 2025.

R.S.

Will there be promotion from the B-League to the A-League?

L.M.

There won’t be for a number of years and the only way it could happen is if there is a bid for an A-League licence which would be in the vicinity of $10 million.

Eventually, there will be relegation from the B-League to the NPL and promotion upwards.

R.S.

Why should the B-League be more successful than the NPL?

L.M.

Simply, of the eight teams accepted for the B-League, seven of them were former, large NSL clubs who have strong community support and financial backing.

There’ll be more money spent to get better players into the League and also compensation will be provided to the clubs if an A-League club signs a player.

At the moment, there is virtually no compensation for the sale of NPL players to the A- League and if a player moves overseas , there’s usually a free transfer clause in their contract.

Also, contracts in the B-League will be for 2-3 years while in the current NPL they’re usually only for one year.

There’ll be more movement between NPL and the B-League with the aim to provide players with more games and opportunity which is one of the weaknesses of the current system.

R.S.

What is the main purpose of the match between Sydney Olympic and South Melbourne?

L.M.

Apart from recognising the famous match of April 2nd, 1977, we are attempting to reconnect the Olympic fans who haven’t identified with the game and the club since the end of the NSL.

At the Greek festival, I attended last weekend there was a lot of interest expressed about the B-League which resulted in some promising ticket sales for the match.

The venue at Netstrata Stadium is ideal and we intend to play our home matches there in 2025.

We also hope those former fans will bring their children to the games and create a new generation of supporters.

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