Football Australia sign multi-year deal with LCI Education

Football Australia have announced a multi-year deal with LCI Education’s Australian institution, LCI Melbourne, to become the Creative Higher Education Partner of the Socceroos, Matildas and all Australian Youth National Teams.

In a collaborative endeavour, LCI Melbourne will provide the Australian football community with bespoke creative design webinars and learning opportunities.

Select LCI students will also gain hands-on industry work experience in Football Australia’s award-winning Digital Content and Marketing Teams.

Football Australia’s marketing and creative department has received several awards, including a bronze at the 2024 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity for the CommBank Matildas campaign, ‘Til it’s Done’ and TikTok Australia Sports Creator of the Year 2023 for the Matildas account.

The collaboration is importantly going to give students a chance to work with an elite digital marketing team and hopefully continue producing world-class media content that has levelled up the popularity of the Matildas.

The power of media and the narrative is often understated, and Football Australia is putting an emphasis on continuing to grow in that aspect across all levels and age groups in order to build a bigger audience for the game.

Football Australia CEO James Johnson explained the importance of this collaboration for the development of the football community in Australia.

“Football can play an important role in enriching the lives of our participants whether socially, physically, mentally and now educationally,” Johnson said in a statement.

“We are pleased to be stretching our partnerships to embrace new ties to the higher education sector, supporting accessible, affordable, and accelerated education pathways to a wider variety of students.

“The growth opportunities at LCI Melbourne are exciting as we work together to enhance sporting and educational outcomes. We will empower students to dream big, think differently, and turn their artistic passions into powerful forces for change, thanks to the collaboration between LCI and Football Australia’s award-winning Marketing, Digital, and Media Team.

“We look forward to working with LCI to elevate our sport even further through innovative and impactful storytelling.”

President and CEO of LCI Education, Claude Marchand, spoke on the shared values between the two parties and their focus on impacting the football community with their product.

“Being associated with such a powerful, inclusive, and representative brand in Australia is significant for a global education community like LCI Education,” Marchand added via media release.

“We strongly believe that football, with its shared values of commitment, perseverance, initiative, and teamwork, unites our learners and staff across our 12 institutions located on five continents.

“This innovative partnership between LCI Melbourne and Football Australia will undoubtedly create a lasting impact in the community, as the union between education and sport is powerful in shaping tomorrow’s leaders!”

This expansion of the sport’s partnership footprint now sees football supported by some of Australia’s biggest values-based brands including Nike, CommBank, Subway, Qantas, Coles and others.

This partnership is a smart, proactive move by Football Australia to incorporate the two parties by consolidating the link between accessible higher education and the most participated sport in the country with a goal to emphasise diversity and inclusion.

Uncertainty looms around National Second Tier’s future

The highly anticipated National Second Tier (NST) in its proposed format is set to be postponed by Football Australia, with the body looking to find alternative ways to include these NPL clubs into a similar structure that would be more financially viable.

Vince Rugari of the Sydney Morning Herald broke the news on Tuesday claiming the highly ambitious second tier was likely going to be put on hold after the original plan was to have 10 to 14 foundation clubs forming a separate league, without promotion or relegation to start.

There was a very high financial threshold that the eight foundation clubs needed to reach in order to be granted a licence and unfortunately with rumours of some in the eight sceptical of its viability, other NPL clubs with a proposal in the original plan have backed away from the idea for the time being.

For what is meant to be a ‘national competition’, having clubs from NSW and Victoria only is quite restricted but the search for a financially strong club outside of the two states, willing to take that massive financial risk, is a task that is too difficult in the country’s current state of football affairs.

There has been a lack of a clear message from Football Australia across the past 12 months. The eight foundation clubs were left on standby about important information like the correct format, whether it was going to expand to 10 or 12 teams that Football Australia promised multiple times, or when the league would actually kick off in winter of 2025 or beyond that considering the shaky A-League finances being the main subject of discussion surrounding the initial success of the NSD.

After the A-Leagues controversial call to reduce initial funding of top tier clubs to $530k a year from its usual $2m a year, a properly run second division seems like a task too far down its priority list despite the positive feedback it has received from fans and clubs about implementing a ‘transformative’ system mirroring European football.

An idea being floated around as a possible solution to the unviability of a separate league is to add existing A-League teams to the ‘Champions League-style’ second division, which would essentially be a more exclusive version of the existing Australia Cup.

Football Australia CEO James Johnson told The Asian Game exclusively that “we will have a (national) second tier it will exist,” but the home and away format played during the winter is a long shot and the foundation clubs are left in limbo wondering what their immediate futures are considering the heavy financial investment they will have to make if it goes ahead.

This whole saga has been a case of Football Australia pushing away the problems that quickly arose from this ambitious idea and being too reactive when it comes to finding a solution that would be fair for the foundation clubs financially.

The NSD must wait and not force itself into a fragile Australian football landscape that has many more issues it must worry about in the top flight before building a second division that could financially damage some of the most historic clubs in Victoria and NSW.

In a world where Australian football needs authority and structure, the collapse of the original idea of the NSD proves there is a long way to go and communication towards the clubs and fans involved has to improve.

Newcastle Jets’ new owners add key pieces for upcoming season

Newcastle Jets’ new owners, Maverick Sports Partners, have hired Ken Schembri as General Manager of Football and Ben Hawes as General Manager of Commercial, Digital and Marketing for this upcoming season.

The appointment of Schembri and Hawes reaffirms Maverick Sports Partners’ intent to invest in high-quality resources, which should excite Newcastle fans for this upcoming season.

Schembri had previously worked with the reigning champions, the Central Coast Mariners, being an essential part of establishing the Central Coast Mariners Football Academy and their Centre of Excellence when he joined in 2014.

Schembri will manage the A-League Men’s roster, oversee player performance and development, and handle recruitment for all football departments.

The Mariner’s Academy has produced many young and exciting Australian talent including Garang Kuol and Max Balard who have all gone to join clubs in Europe after their time in Gosford. Schembri has most recently played a key role in Central Coast’s recent success as Head of Football.

Maverick Sports Partners Director Maurice Bisetto commented about the new additions.

“We are excited to have both Ken and Ben join the Newcastle Jets team. They will be integral to the strategy and direction of the Club’s New Era, providing expertise and support, on and off the pitch,” said Bisetto in a club statement.

These two joined the Jets after the club were bought by the Australian company only last month.

Hawes has prior experience in Sponsorship, Marketing and Content roles at the National Rugby League, Sportsbet, BlueBet and Sydney FC.

Hawes will focus on expanding and diversifying the clubs commercial revenue streams which includes growing the sponsorship portfolio. He will also deal with commercialising the club’s digital channels as well as implementing new marketing and fan engagement strategies.

Due to these recent moves, Newcastle have the potential to produce exciting Australian talent and grow its brand across the league which will help the club continue to improve both on and off the pitch and ultimately strengthen their stability for future seasons.

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