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Football Australia introduces new independent review process

Football Aus

Football Australia have announced the development of an independent complaint management process to enable current and former footballers and staff to bring forward concerns about alleged abuse, harassment or bullying in relation to Football Australia’s national teams and the A-Leagues.

Under the agreement, Sport Integrity Australia will receive, assess, and manage all complaints, ensuring all concerns are heard and assessed independent of Football Australia. Details are expected to be available in the coming weeks.

The National Sports Tribunal will have jurisdiction to hear any disputes that fall within the scope of the complaints process, through mediation, conciliation, or arbitration.

Football Australia initiated discussions with SIA with a view to establishing an independent mechanism to supplement the governing body’s complaint handling process under its Member Protection Framework.

Football Australia CEO James Johnson outlined that his organisation treated matters of abuse seriously and had a “zero tolerance” approach.

“The wellbeing of our diverse community is our priority, and we’re committed to safe, inclusive environments for all footballers and staff. There is no place for abuse, harassment or bullying in our sport and it’s incumbent on organisations like ours to take the lead when it comes to dealing with these issues head-on,” he said”

“We understand that society’s expectations have shifted, and it’s vital that our sport reflects those expectations. With this in mind, we approached Sport Integrity Australia recently and we’re pleased with this timely announcement that the proposed process will enable anyone with concerns to come forward, with the confidence that their concerns will be heard and assessed independently.”

Sport Integrity Australia CEO David Sharpe addressed the importance for complaints to be handled outside an individual sport.

“I welcome the proactive approach from FA to address these issues independently. Having an independent body to hear complaints is critical to giving athletes and staff confidence that their concerns will be heard openly and that they will be treated fairly. Nothing can be swept under the carpet,” he said

John Boultbee, CEO of the National Sports Tribunal, added: “The involvement of the independent National Sports Tribunal as the ultimate appeal body, ensures those concerned are provided the most independent and thorough processes from the time of the complaint through to its ultimate resolution.”

Further details regarding the process, scope and timeframe will be available in the coming weeks.

What the future holds for futsal in Australia

The return of the National Futsal Championships is a huge boon, according to two people key to the development of the game within Australia.

The return of the National Futsal Championships is a huge boon, according to two people key to the development of the game within Australia.

Last month Football Australia announced the return of the National Futsal Championships, pitting states against each other in a tournament that has been on hiatus since the start of the pandemic.

The Futsalroos – the FIFA recognised national team for Australia – have competed at eight FIFA Futsal World Cups, and the game has a rich history and strong participation in Australia.

The 2019 National Participation Report, produced by Football Australia (FA), shows the game growing in participation by 36% – with 63,031 registered players. The National Futsal Championships will feature close to 1,000 participants from over 100 teams being involved from states and territories across the country.

James Johnson, Chief Executive Officer of Football Australia, was pleased with the re-introduction of the National Futsal Championships and the reinvigoration of the F-League and looks forward to growing the futsal footprint in Australia.

“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,” he said in a statement.

“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.”

The 2022 and 2023 Championships will be hosted in Queensland and Victoria respectively – two states that have embedded futsal within their overall organisational strategies.

Trevor Edwards, Head of Futsal at Football Queensland (FQ), is the tournament organiser for the 2022 National Futsal Championships. He believes that FQ is seeing success in futsal because they have linked it with their football strategy in the state.

“We see it as a game in itself, but also linked in with the entire football family,” Edwards told Soccerscene.

“We are looking to develop the F-League in Queensland into a conference style where we have northern, southern, and central competitions in the state. That might take a few years to get to, but that is our target for futsal.”

Anthony Grima, head of Futsal at Football Victoria (FV), explains that it is essential for Australian football to develop futsal alongside the 11 a side game.

“After the 2021 National Futsal Championships were cancelled due to the devastating impact of COVID-19 on sport and the community, we needed to work together to regain momentum, and confirm hosts for the tournaments in 2022 and 2023 to ensure our community had a calendar they could work towards,” Grima said to Soccerscene.

“The tournament is the pinnacle event for Futsal in Australia and is the largest of Football Australia’s national tournaments.”

The National Futsal Championships is seen as a way to strengthen pathways for junior development, as well as grow the game within Australia.

“It is essential from a state perspective. We would like to see that continue and grow. In previous years since the national F-League became defunct, there hasn’t been a pathway for juniors to make the national selection for the Futsalroos. We’d love to see that pathway come back and develop,” Edwards said.

“Not just your pathway for national teams, but also pathways and processes for really strong grassroots participation, coach education, and referee education.”

The F-League, Australia’s last national futsal competition, ended in 2016. Grima thinks that a relaunched national futsal competition is vital to the development of the game in Australia.

“A National Futsal League is crucial for any country who wishes to participate and compete in international tournaments,” Grima said.

“In addition to the National Futsal Championships, state-based F-Leagues could potentially link up with a National Futsal League that links all the champions together and forms the pathway for both male and female players, coaches, and referees.”

In recent years, the small-sided game has been recognised for its ability to supplement player development for football and also increasingly as a sport in its own right.

In 2016, a game featuring legendary Brazilian Falcao and Bayern Munich’s Douglas Costa drew a crowd of over 2,000 people in Melbourne.

With states collaborating towards a common goal, futsal will only continue to expand within Australia.

“There are many initiatives that we can plan to elevate futsal not just in Australia but on the world stage. It is clear that Football Australia, under the leadership of James Johnson, wants to grow the Futsal footprint in Australia,” Grima said.

“Futsal’s inclusion in the ‘XI Principles – for the future of Australian Football’ back in October outlined a vision to create a national program for futsal and beach soccer by working closely with the Member Federations in a unified, inclusive and collaborative manner.”

Edwards shared the same view as Grima towards growing the game.

“As a whole, we are excited as Member Federations to be involved in the development of futsal. We are excited with the collaboration that is happening, and I hope we can keep pushing the sport together so futsal continues to grow in this country,” Edwards said.

When the National Futsal Championships kicks off at the Gold Coast Sports and Leisure Centre on January 5, 2022, it will have the backing of the entire football landscape.

Those involved in the game are committed to see it be a grand return for the tournament, to ensure the continuing growth of the game is not only maintained, but expanded and elevated in the months and years to come.

Major events return to NSW with Matildas match series

Matildas fans

Football Australia have announced that the Commonwealth Bank Matildas will host Brazil in a two-match series next month.

The matches are set to be held at the newly named CommBank Stadium in Western Sydney, on October 23 and October 26, 2021.

October will mark 19 months since the Matildas last played on home soil in a 2-1 win against Vietnam in a Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Play-Off match in March 2020.

Since then, Football Australia has made it a key priority to bring the Socceroos and Matildas home following the significant impact of COVID-19 on the world.

The plan to stage a Matildas double header marks the first of its kind for any sporting code in Australia and opens up opportunities for other international sports and the broader entertainment industry to consider similar arrangements.

This is a symbolic announcement as Australia begins to grapple with a COVID normal roadmap internationally, as the Matildas prepare for a busy international schedule ahead including the much-anticipated FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023.

Behind the scenes, Football Australia has worked tirelessly to develop an innovative Quarantine Management Plan to meet the requirements of Government, taking a leadership role in being a COVID-19 responsible sport and offering solutions that work within Government frameworks, protocols, and vaccination roadmaps.

This announcement also coincides with New South Wales being on target to reach a double vaccination rate of 70 per cent of all people aged 16 and over in advance of these fixtures, with crowd capacities to be determined by the Public Health Order at the time of the matches.

Football Australia Chief Executive Officer James Johnson was delighted with this announcement that will see the Commonwealth Bank Matildas play on home soil for the first time in over 18 months.

“We have made it our priority to bring our national teams home for international football so this is a phenomenal outcome for Australian football and one which we have been working tirelessly towards behind the scenes with both the Federal and NSW Government for a considerable amount of time now and appreciate the efforts of the NSW Government in particular,” Johnson said.

“International football is unique in that players are only made available during an international window of nine (9) days.  With many of our Commonwealth Bank Matildas and Socceroos based overseas, the 14-day compulsory quarantine period for international arrivals effectively rendered any international football in Australia impossible.

“Our team at Football Australia put together a submission based on global best practice, focused on ensuring the safety and wellbeing of players and staff, which has been accepted by the NSW Government and aligns nicely with its roadmap to opening up.

“We are excited that the first matches will be the Commonwealth Bank Matildas against Brazil on 23 and 26 October to be held at CommBank Stadium and can’t wait to welcome fans back into Stadiums.”

With confirmation of theses matches, Football Australia is now in the process of locking in the proposed fixtures between the Matildas and the current FIFA Women’s World Cup Champions, the United States Women’s National Team, in a two-match series earmarked for November 27 and November 30, 2021, both of which are to be hosted in Australia, subject to Government discussions and Public Health Orders.

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