FFA independent review of national teams – what are the implications?

Football Federation Australia (FFA) have announced they will address the way the Australian national teams are managed, by progressing with an independent review,

The FFA will address the decision-making processes and how items are reported to the FFA board, with the focus being that teams are operating at the highest standards.

It comes as the FFA seeks to learn from their handling of former Matildas coach Alen Stajcic.

The timing of his sacking from the head role raised question marks as he was the one to help guide the Matildas to the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

A situation like that, where legal action was taken by Stajcic, is something that the FFA doesn’t want to happen again.

It’s what has prompted the FFA to act and understand if there’s a better way of handling these issues in the future.

“The decision of the Board to replace Alen Stajcic as the Matildas coach is not under review or subject to review. However, the process raised questions for the Board on the manner in which conduct, performance and information are addressed by FFA as an organisation,” FFA Chairman, Chris Nikou.

The FFA have decided on a three-person panel who will all be involved in the decision-making processes and be part of the review.

The panel will be chaired by Diane Smith-Gander who is a professional non-executive director, alongside Rod McGeoch and Liz Ellis.

McGeoch is another non-executive director while Liz Ellis is a former captain of the Australian Diamonds netball team.

As part of their role, the panel will take part in interviews with FFA senior management and national team staff and need to evaluate documentation, information and correspondence.

A report will be compiled to the FFA board by the end of October 2019, with more details to come when that time comes about releasing information.

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Liam Watson is the Co-Founder & Publisher of Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy, industry matters and technology.

VAR to be introduced at AFC club competitions for next season

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has confirmed the implementation of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system across its revamped three-tier club structure as well as the inaugural AFC Women’s Champions League for the 2024/25 season.

The newly introduced AFC Champions League Elite, the top club competition in the confederation that comprises 24 of Asia’s best teams, will implement VAR from the league stage, which kicks off this September.

Meanwhile, VAR support for match officials in the AFC Champions League Two will be available from the Knockout Stage onwards. The competition, comprising 32 teams, is set to commence in September.

For the AFC Challenge League, which will feature 20 teams, the technology will come into play in the all-important Final in May 2025.

Lastly, the inaugural edition of the landmark AFC Women’s Champions League, which kicks off in October, will see the VAR system made available in the Semi-finals and Final, underscoring the Confederation’s commitment to supporting and developing women’s football on the Continent.

The AFC prepared for this VAR implementation for the 2024/25 season when they conducted the AFC VAR Course in Malaysia in 2023.

This Course consisted of 25 VAR officials across Asia who were taught the in’s and outs of the technology, as part of an effort to keep the Confederation’s match officials up to date with the latest technological advancements in refereeing.

Another workshop will be taking place in the coming months to ensure the VAR Information Officer’s (VIO) of each AFC country are also kept up to date with the technology.

Earlier this year, the AFC implemented the VAR system across all matches at the AFC Asian Cup for the first time, while also becoming the first Confederation to introduce the Semi-Automated Offside Technology (SAOT) system at the Continental Men’s national team level.

It is clear that the AFC have ambitions to remain a model Confederation that is always open for innovation as well as ensuring the success of its match officials on the biggest stages in world football.

As Asian club football prepares to enter a new era, it is vital that this VAR technology is introduced at all stadiums involved in the three competitions to ensure fairness.

After the Mariners success in the AFC Cup, it will be interesting to see how this new three-tier club structure allows Australian teams to compete further in these tournaments.

Australia awarded hosting rights for the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2026

Football Australia have announced that the country has been awarded the hosting rights for the 2026 edition of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup.

This decision followed official ratification by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Executive Committee at their meeting on 15 May 2024 – held in Bangkok, Thailand – on the eve of the 34th AFC Congress after lengthy discussions. Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan had expressed interested in hosting but withdrew from the process.

This will be the second time the country has staged the Women’s Asian Cup, having previously hosted the competition in 2006.

This tournament will feature 12 of the qualified AFC nations, placed into three groups of four with matches played in the confirmed host states of New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia.

Australia co-hosted the record-breaking FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023 alongside New Zealand, with the Matildas making it to the semi-finals and have grown the sport exponentially over the past 12 months.

The success of Australian national teams, including the Subway Socceroos and CommBank Matildas, has led to a nationwide increase in football participation, with an overall 12% increase in 2023 and an impressive 20% increase already noted in 2024.

Football Australia is leveraging the AFC Women’s Asian Cup as a platform to further boost participation and develop the sport, aligning with upcoming international events like the Brisbane 2032 Olympics & Paralympics.

AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa explained the exciting decision to reward Australia another major women’s football tournament.

“On behalf of the Asian Football Confederation, I offer our sincere congratulations to Football Australia on being confirmed as hosts of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2026,” he said in a statement.

“I am confident that we will see a more vibrant and competitive edition in 2026 in Australia where the unrivalled passion for the women’s game is so palpable and we wish the Local Organising Committee the very best of success in their planning and preparation.

“I know the Asian football family joins me in reinforcing our confidence in Football Australia to elevate the ever-evolving stature and growth of women’s football in Asia.”

Football Australia Chairman Anter Isaac mentioned the benefits this will bring to the game in Australia.

“Securing the AFC Women’s Asian Cup is a testament to our nation’s dedication to football. It is not only a victory for the sport but for every Australian, offering significant economic and cultural benefits,” he added in a statement.

“We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the AFC, its Executive Committee, the Secretariat, and our fellow member associations for entrusting us with the privilege of hosting this prestigious tournament. We are committed to advancing the exceptional initiatives already established and delivered by the AFC and the broader Asian football community in women’s football.”

Football Australia confirmed its intention to launch a hosting bid in September 2022 and now expects the Women’s Asian Cup to generate up to $260 million in economic output and create over 1,000 jobs for the host states.

These states were chosen after discussions with state governments to ensure they are fully prepared to support the successful delivery of the tournament.

Football Australia CEO James Johnson expressed his excitement for the winning bid and upcoming tournament being played on home soil.

“We are profoundly honoured to host the 2026 edition of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup. This decision reflects the global football community’s confidence in our capability to deliver outstanding events. Following the resounding success of last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup™, we are eager to create another tournament that celebrates women’s football and inspires a new generation,” he stated.

The tournament dates in 2026 will be confirmed with the AFC in due course and training and venue inspections will occur in the coming months.

It remains an extremely exciting time for women’s football in Australia, with the Matildas consistently selling out large stadiums, the growth of the Liberty A-League and now another major tournament on the horizon that is sure to boost the grassroots game as well.

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