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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.”

 

 

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.

Carlos Salvachúa: “Playing without promotion and relegation is a big problem”

Carlos Salvachúa was Victory assistant coach under Kevin Muscat, before taking over as caretaker manager. He has coached professionally in Spain and Belgium, including six years at the Real Madrid academy, overseeing the development of the club’s rising stars.

He spoke to Soccerscene from Spain about his impressions of the A-League, where it could be improved, and how Australian youth need to play more football to reach their potential.

What were your first impressions of the A-League?

Salvachúa: Sometimes the big issue is knowing if it’s a professional league or not – and definitely the A-League was professional. I’m talking about games, organisation, talking about flights or hotels, and training. I was lucky to arrive to Melbourne Victory – one of the biggest clubs there is – and everything in the club was like in Europe and in Spain. Good facilities, good organisation, and a lots of staff in the office. For me the first impression was really professional.

What was the level of professionalism like compared to other leagues you have coached in?

Salvachúa: Belgium is a hard competition. I’m talking about the games, not about organisation – it’s similar to the A-League or in Spain in the La Liga. The competition is tough in Belgium if we compare the level of the players, the games and the competition.

After leaving Melbourne Victory, Salvachúa was Muscat’s assistant coach at Sint-Truidense V.V. in Belgium.

What were the biggest challenges you faced while coaching in Australia?

Salvachúa: One of the biggest for me was the distance to play a game. It was funny because here with Atlético versus Real Madrid they travel 15 minutes to go to sleep at home, and for Victory we spend three days away to play a game, for me this was really hard. In the Champions League we spent five days away to play a game in China or in Japan. For me and and European players as well this was hard, because it was not easy. I remember the long pre-season because the schedule of FFA Cup was really hard for us. We trained two to three months before the first game in the A-League, just to play one round in the FFA Cup.

How do you think the league could be improved?

Salvachúa: For me, playing without promotion and relegation, is a problem, a big one in my opinion for the league. You need to improve the league from the basement – you cannot start the building of the house from the roof, you must start building the house from the ground up. I’m talking about the NPL. They are tough competitions, and you need to give promotion to the A-League, and I think that the competition will be better with this system like in Europe. I think a competition without promotion and relegation is only working with the MLS in USA. In Australia I think that it would be great to create another kind of competition to improve the league.

Another thing for me that is one of the biggest issues was that sometimes the players were receptive – they are professionals about training and have a good attitude to learn, but for me as a coach sometimes the players don’t know how important it is to win – compared to a draw or a loss. Without promotion and relegation, in some games as a coach, in the second half the players don’t understand how important it is to get a win over one point. I think that is probably one of the solutions to change the model of the competition.

How would you rate the level of young talent being developed in Australia?

Salvachúa: Like in other countries, you have good players with talent at 14, 15, and 16 years of age, but in my opinion they need more games. Some players arrive to A-League at 19 years old – playing 18 to 25 games – and it’s not easiest time for the coaches to start these young players in the first 11. If they are not playing every Sunday, they need another tough competition. You need competitive games with a second team like here in Spain or with the under 18s or under 19s – it depends. I think that they need more games here. A 14 or 15 year old kid normally finishes the competition in Spain with 45 official games. 45 games is more than the professionals in the A-League. I think one of the big issues is they do not have enough games and training sessions to develop the players. But the talent is there like in other countries.

National Futsal Championships to return in 2022

Football Australia has announced today the return of the National Futsal Championships (NFC) in 2022.

Football Queensland (FQ) will host the 2022 championship, followed by Football Victoria (FV) for the 2023 edition.

Football Australia CEO James Johnson looks forward to growing futsal’s footprint in Australia after outlining a vision for a national program.

“As part of our clear strategic agenda, we outlined a vision to create a national program for futsal and beach soccer by working closely with our Member Federations in a unified, inclusive and collaborative manner,” Johnson said.

“With the culmination of this process, we are delighted that Football Queensland and Football Victoria will be hosting the National Futsal Championships in 2022 and 2023 respectively.

“There is a clear appetite throughout Australia for football to increase its imprint through futsal and beach soccer. Queensland and Victoria now have the opportunity to showcase this and bring it to life over the next two years, in a way never seen before.”

By granting the hosting rights to different cities, Football Australia believes the NFC will be a national tournament.

The Gold Coast Sports and Leisure Centre will host the relaunched tournament on the 5th-9th of January 2022.

“The National Futsal Championships are a highlight of the Australian football calendar, and we are excited to stage next year’s event at the state-of-the-art Gold Coast Sports and Leisure Centre,” FQ CEO Robert Cavallucci said.

Anthony Grima, Football Victoria’s Head of Futsal, believes the announcement was a step towards achieving FV’s futsal strategy.

“This is a huge win for Futsal in Victoria and one for me that should be dedicated to the many amazing individuals who are at the heart of the Futsal community here in Victoria,” Grima said.

“Hosting the NFC will leave a lasting legacy for Futsal and football in Victoria and inspire and enable more people to take up this amazing sport.”

The recently announced Home of the Matildas features a international sized futsal pitch, and it could host the championship.

Kimon Taliadoros, CEO of FV, said this news ensures that Victoria remains the home of sport.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for the people of Victoria. By hosting the National Futsal Championships, we will further enhance the state’s ability to host events and tournaments and support the Victorian economy by bringing interstate visitors back to Melbourne to experience the wide range of products, services and experiences that this great state has to offer,” Taliadoros said.

“Futsal has been on the national agenda for some time now, with Football Australia recently having released the ‘XI Principles – for the future of Australian football.’”

The return of the NFC will allow a pathway for players to compete against the best talent Australia has to offer.

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