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Do the Matildas need a female coach?

With the recent decision by former Matildas coach Ante Milicic to move into the head coaching role at A-League club Macarthur Bulls, the national team is now in need of a new mentor.

The 46-year-old Milicic did a commendable job with a group of women fast becoming Australia’s national team of choice. The 2019 World Cup in France did not quite bring the football glory for which the nation had hoped, with the women entering the event as a top ten ranked team, seemingly destined to navigate the group stage and compete in the knockout phase.

A Round of 16 loss to Norway torpedoed the Matildas from the competition when the dreaded penalty shootout denied them an opportunity to advance. Since, Milicic has continued in his role and after two warm up friendlies against Chile, led the team in a successful Olympic Qualifying campaign.

In truth, he had done little wrong and had he chosen to stay in the job, the likelihood is that he would have been afforded that opportunity. However, it appears the Sydney born ex-Socceroo had his eyes fixed on the top job in Sydney’s southwest and the chance to test his skills in the A-League.

That decision has opened up discussion around who his successor should be. Rumours circle that former USWNT coach Jill Ellis is high on the FFA hit list, others claim the popular Ross Aloisi is the clear favourite, whilst some believe Ante Juric or Arsenal coach Joe Montemurro would be ideal.

In recent weeks, it has been noted that Ellis appears to be a front runner for the position yet the only woman on the short list.

Internationally proven names such as Sarina Weigman and Carolina Morace have been thrown forward as female candidates for a position that many feel should be filled by a woman. There is a firm belief that the time is nigh and that the potential symbolism of such a move would be a powerful statement.

Personally, I would like to seek the best person selected for the attractive task of taking the Matildas to the Tokyo Olympics and forwards toward the 2023 Women’s World Cup on home shores, whichever sex they may be.

Getting the right professional fit will be vital for a team competing in the most speedily advancing women’s code on the planet, with the quality and depth seemingly improving at an exponential rate. Appointing a new coach for any reason other than them being the best suited to the role and a with proven record of being able to extract the absolute best from the players at his or her’s disposal would be folly.

Whilst I believe that the above is indeed a measured and logical argument, there is also a line of thinking that sees significant women in the Australian game determined to ensure that the role is indeed filled by a female; a view that is reportedly at odds with the sentiments of many players within the Matildas squad.

The last time a Matildas team was coached by a woman, things ended in disaster; perhaps informing the current players’ preference not to demand a female appointment and their contentment with the men who have led them in recent years, Milicic and former coach Alen Stajcic.

Certainly there is no suggestion that the appointment of a female coach would result in the same outcomes as 2014, however some players appear fearful of a ‘token’ female appointment; one based on a belief that a woman’s team should have a woman coach and not only on the quality of the candidate.

Personally, I would love to see the Matildas led by a woman, in the same way I would like to see the Socceroos led by a woman should she be the best person for the job.

Former Matilda Shelley Youman has been a strong advocate for a female coach of the national squad. In an interview with Australian website Women in Football contributor Janakan Seemampillai, Youman suggested the modern group of Matilda’s should “grow up” and accept the idea of a female coach.

She doubled down by stating that the importance of appointing a woman to the role was so paramount at this stage of the women’s game in Australia that “If we can’t find a woman, look harder.”

Many would bemoan such an appointment as one designed to suit an emotional and utopian aspiration for the Matildas. The alternative view presented by women previously or currently involved in the domestic game, would instead cite the lack of belief in and failure to identify and develop female coaches in the past.

Those holding that view believe in investing in a highly credentialed woman for the role now, rather than potentially recirculating another male from within the FFA system.

As the Matildas embark on a busy three years of important football, the appointment could well make or break their chances. Firstly, of a successful Olympic campaign and also the development of a squad capable of seriously competing for the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

The powers at be will need to determine;

a) Whether it is indeed time for a woman to take the reins of the Matildas.

b) The identity of the woman capable of doing so.

Should the answer to a) be no and/or the right candidate not found, the coach will, once again, most likely be male. That decision would infuriate the proud female pioneers of Australia’s football past, yet also be one with which the Matildas appear to have little problem.

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Sky Sports to broadcast Women’s Super League from 2021/22 Season

Sam Kerr WSL

Sky Sports have announced their agreement to show a minimum of 35 Women’s Super League games live and exclusive on their platform for the upcoming 2021/22 season.

Beginning in September 2021, the deal will cover a total of three seasons and will be included as a part of Sky Sports’ flagship offerings.

As one of the fastest growing football leagues around the world, with plenty of famous names and teams among its litany of talent, the Women’s Super League boasts a competitive and entertaining product for football fans to enjoy.

The decision to broadcast the Women’s Super League is a testament to Sky Sports’ commitment to growing the women’s game.

Rob Webster, Managing Director of Sky Sports, was enthusiastic about the opportunity to help grow women’s football not just in England, but across the world

“We are delighted to add the Barclays FA Women’s Super League to our expanding football portfolio. Our goal is to bring our customers more of what they love, and we are certain the WSL will be a success with our football-hungry viewers.” He said.

“We look forward to working with The FA and building a close partnership that helps grow the women’s game now and for future generations. With the addition of the Barclays FA Women’s Super League, Sky Sports truly is the home of football.

“This is a multi-million-pound commitment from Sky that is going to help push the women’s game on even further and support our ambition of having the best professional women’s sports league in the world.

“Sky’s vision for women’s football is very much aligned with our own, and that was made clear during the tender process where they outlined some very exciting plans for showcasing the Barclays Women’s Super League. We are really looking forward to working with them.”

Sky Sports will undergo an extensive recruitment process between now and September in order to assemble the strongest production team possible on and off-screen.

Furthermore, in an effort to align with their quality delivery of other leagues, Women’s Super League matches will receive the full Sky Sports treatment. This will include lengthy build-ups, reactions, discussions, analysis and daily news regarding the competition across Sky Sports News and Sky Sports’ digital platforms.

FA CEO James Johnson opens up on difficulties in the game and opportunities for the future

Speaking at Football Victoria’s Community in Business event on Friday, Football Australia CEO James Johnson reflected on his first 14 months in the top job of the sport, detailing the difficulties the organisation faced in 2020 and the opportunities it has in the coming years.

“I’d like to share with you what I walked into in January 2020,” Johnson told the audience in Melbourne.

“I walked into Football Australia and what I understood from the off was that the organisation had really lost a sense of unity. I believe the organisation had lost its connection with the community.”

Johnson criticised the focus of the governing body’s financial model, believing it was not looking after the best interests of the game overall.

“The business model was heavily centred on the A-League,” he said.

“That was what decision making evolved around, while other parts of the game, in my opinion, were neglected. The business model was disconnected, fractured and was inefficient. It was inefficient because of the duplication of administration. It wasn’t set up to foster growth for a thriving football ecosystem.

“The model denied the most significant part of our game, our identity, our community, our people, our stories, our diverse and multicultural base and our great national teams.

“In place of this identity, we’ve allowed a narrative to proliferate over the past 10-15 years that is divided, politicised, old soccer against new football, but this is not what our game is.”

Football Australia CEO James Johnson

The former Brisbane Strikers player admits that the game is far from perfect in this country and needs to address a range of issues.

“We have some really serious challenges ahead of us,” he said.

“We don’t own enough facilities for our growing base, we have too many players, we are turning children and families away from our code because we don’t have enough infrastructure around the country. This is a real issue.

“The performance gap that we released in 2020 tells us that the age group that plays the most minutes in our elite men’s competition (the A-League) is the age of 32. We are not giving enough opportunities for our players under 23. We also have challenges with our football pyramid, we must reconnect our pyramid so we can unleash this potential of an ecosystem.”

Since Johnson was appointed as CEO early last year, the governing body has shifted their business model allowing them to deliver strategic priorities and focus on initiatives such as: the implementation of the domestic match calendar, the proposed introduction of a domestic transfer system, a half slot to the ACL for the FFA Cup winner and more. Johnson believes factors such as these are vital to reconnecting Australian football’s national pyramid.

In his speech at the Community in Business event, the former senior executive at the AFC, FIFA and the City Football Group also strongly emphasised the importance of recognising the game’s history properly, something the game has continued to neglect in previous years.

“We have a rich history and it must be celebrated,” he said.

“There are moments in our game, that not only shaped the game, but they shaped the way that our country is. In 1974, we sent our first men’s team to the World Cup led by Rale, in 1993 Maradona came here, in 1997 Iran broke our hearts, in 2005 a famous penalty got us to our first World Cup in many decades and in 2020 we won the rights to host the Women’s World Cup.

“Our game is full of these moments and I think if you all think about those moments, people will remember where they were when they occurred. We forget that our clubs in this country predated federation. We forget that football was the first sport in Australia to have a national competition in the 70’s. We forget the first cup competition in this country was in the 60’s, the Australia Cup.

“We forget that women played football in this country as early as 1909. Nearly 42 years ago, our very first Matildas stepped out onto Seymour Shaw Park for the first Matildas match. Now, we are only a few years away from the biggest sporting event for women in the world coming to our shores.

“We forget that 99 years ago our Socceroos played their first match against New Zealand. We are one year away from 100 years.

“We forget the role that football played in the lives of indigenous children, like John Moriarty, Jade North and Kyah Simon.

“We forget that our national competitions have always been the hallmark of our game. The NSL for many, many years. Our history provides us with platforms to move forward to and to launch a bold, exciting future for our sport.”

Johnson addresses the audience at Football Victoria’s CIB event

Johnson sees the Women’s World Cup in 2023 on home soil as the perfect avenue to establish a strong future for the game.

“We are focused on creating that link between our national teams, in particular the Matildas and our community,” he said.

“Our base of 2 million participants is great, but only 22% per cent of our base are women and girls. There is a direct link between the importance and relevance of national teams and the base of community. With our national teams starting up again, you will see over the next 3 years (particularly with the Women’s World Cup) that our base will grow further and it will grow well.

Our ‘Legacy 23’ framework is an ambitious plan to maximise the opportunities that the legacy of the Women’s World Cup (WWC) will provide us. Legacy is not something that starts after the WWC, it started last month. We’ve got to try as best as possible to ensure the WWC has a long-lasting legacy, similar to what happened with the Sydney Olympics in 2000.”

The FA CEO concluded by calling on every single stakeholder to be open to change, including the governing body itself, and push forward to make the sport the best it can be.

“If we are to reach the potential of our game, each and every one of us, every stakeholder, Football Australia, Member Federations, clubs, leagues, our community need to be open to change,” he said.

“Change and innovation are the commodities that we must deal with in 2021. I’m under no illusions that Football Australia must continue to earn the trust and confidence back from our stakeholders and community. To do this, we need deeds not just words.

“Let’s seize this opportunity and put our best foot forward.”

Football Victoria’s fifth year of Community in Business looks to reinvigorate business partnerships in the state

In what has been a tough 12 months for businesses across the state due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Football Victoria (FV) will look to recharge the business community through their annual FV Community in Business (CIB) program.

The state governing body for football will host the first of its four CIB events this year on Friday, with Football Australia CEO James Johnson to give the keynote address.

Football Victoria will also be celebrating the five-year anniversary of CIB in 2021, a program which was the brainchild of current FV Head of Commercial Anthony Grima and prominent business identity Professor Greg Stamboulidis.

FV’s Community in Business network was established after extensive research was conducted in 2014 on sponsorship data. At the time around 2,000 businesses invested commercially into grassroots community football in Victoria, with significant financial contributions made to over 350 clubs in the state.

Grima further explained to Soccerscene the origins of Football Victoria’s Community in Business program.

“It was created to provide a platform for businesses, football clubs and their sponsors, media and all levels of government to unite in their shared passion for the world game,” he said.

“It really was born out of one of those ‘write on the napkin’ type moments over a coffee in Ivanhoe. The idea just grew legs from that very moment. It seemed right and we knew the grassroots game needed it.

“We knew that this shared passion would lead to the development of meaningful relationships between the vast range of stakeholders in football and provide them with affordable and effective opportunities to connect with one another for mutual benefits and returns; and at the same time achieve important outcomes for football in Victoria.”

The membership-based program had its launch event in late November 2015, on the back of the Socceroos Asian Cup success earlier in that year.

We were thankful to have the then Socceroos Head Coach Ange Postecoglou and Socceroos legend Josip Skoko, amongst others, to launch the new community initiative,” Grima said.

“Approximately 100 guests of the Victorian football community were invited to help us launch the new initiative. The event was hosted by George Donikian, who we are also very grateful to, being our inaugural MC and first Honorary Member.

Since then, the Community in Business brand has continued to grow exponentially, with over 100 businesses in any given year signing up as members to fund the program.

A major drawcard of these events are the special guests who attend the multiple functions across the year.

“Our feature guests continue to reflect the ethos of supporting every level of the game,” Grima said.

“We make sure that we are always celebrating Victoria’s football achievements, by unifying the achievements of football past, present and future in this country and the diversity of our great game.”

Guests from over the years include Harry Kewell, Graham Arnold, Craig Johnston, Archie Thompson, John Aloisi, Lisa De Vanna, Melissa Barbieri, Tony Vidmar, Paul Wade, Craig Foster, Les Murray and many more.

Other notable events over the course gave members the opportunity to meet former Manchester United and Liverpool players such as Wes Brown, Louis Saha, David James, Emile Heskey and Steve McManaman.

Occasions such as this couldn’t be possible without the assistance of event organisers, who the federation works alongside.

“A big thanks must go to the team at MSE Events,” Grima said.

“The events are very thoughtfully considered and planned, as much as possible, around special events where the celebration doesn’t end at the luncheons.

“For example, when Brazil and Argentina were in town, we gave all our members free tickets to these matches.”

Grima believes that without the support from clubs, businesses and the football community as a whole, the program wouldn’t be where it Is today.

“I am personally proud of how far the program has come,” he said.

“It is called Community in Business because it is a network that is owned and valued by the community. We are all in the business of making this community great. Together we can achieve more for our game, unified as friends in football.

“Community in Business continues to demonstrate how business and community can work together to achieve extraordinary outcomes for our game.”

More information on Football Victoria’s Community in Business program can be found here.

 

 

 

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