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.”