Football Australia to implement FIFA’s Talent Development Scheme

Football Australia

With the Subway Socceroos competing at the men’s World Cup in under a month and the CommBank Matildas poised to co-host a Women’s World Cup in mid-2023, Football Australia and FIFA have teamed up to uncover the next generation of local youth talent.

A visit from FIFA’s High Performance Department to Australia last week reaffirmed Football Australia’s emphasis on unearthing and producing future Matildas and Socceroos players.

FIFA High Performance Specialist April Hendrichs and FIFA High Performance Specialist Richard Allen spent a week in Sydney with members of Football Australia’s Technical Department to discuss FIFA’s Talent Development Scheme (TDS), their assessment of Football Australia’s Ecosystem and Performance Gap Report as produced by FIFA’s High Performance Department, and evaluate Football Australia’s own TDS strategy prior to its implementation next year.

The TDS aims to create a sustainable legacy for long-term talent development by maximising each Member Association’s opportunities and address the unique barriers and challenges to talent identification by respective Member Associations.

Speaking on Football Australia proposed TDS Strategy, Football Australia Chief Football Officer Ernie Merrick said via press release:

“Through our Talent Development Scheme we want to ensure we are giving every talent a chance to be identified and reach their potential irrespective of their circumstance, which will ultimately develop more CommBank Matildas and Subway Socceroos in the next five to ten years,” Merrick stated.

“To achieve this, Football Australia aims to solve challenges as identified in the FIFA Ecosystem and Performance Gap Report by creating monitoring lists and depth charts of more players aged 15 – 20 years in both men’s and women’s football, increase the frequency of elite matches and invitational camps across all parts of the country, and play more representative matches against international opposition.

“By using purpose-built technology and engaging a wider scouting pool to evaluate Australian talent both in Australia and abroad, we believe we can identify more talent in each age group than we ever have and support their development. This in turn will allow national team coaches to improve squad selection and create more competition for spots in our youth national teams, which will feed into the senior national teams.”

Geography is Australia’s number one challenge when it comes to talent identification, where Football Australia has developed a Talent ID App which will enable technical staff, coaches, and scouts to provide real time feedback on talent covering a range of key attributes.

As part of the market visit Football Australia – with the strong support of Football NSW – hosted two elite matches at Valentine Sports Park featuring a girls’ match and a boys’ match, where over 50 technical directors and qualified coaches from across Greater Sydney attended to provide their real time feedback using Football Australia’s Talent ID App, enabling FIFA staff to see the cornerstone of Football Australia’s proposed TDS strategy in action.

April Heinrichs – the globally revered FIFA Women’s World Cup winner as a player, coach, and technical director – said the week in Sydney was hugely beneficial and she was impressed with the vision Football Australia has to tackle the unique challenges it faces in the area of talent identification.

“I’ve been thoroughly impressed with Football Australia’s approach to the development of its own Talent Development Scheme,” Heinrichs added via press release.

“Over a five-day period, I’ve been able to meet with a range of people within Football Australia and the wider Australian football community to better understand the association’s challenges around the development of talent and witnessed first-hand the exciting opportunities that lie ahead for Australian football.

“FIFA will continue to work closely with Football Australia to support their endeavours in this space, and we look forward to seeing the roll-out of the association’s Talent Development Scheme and the positive outcomes which should stem from this over the next decade and beyond.”

Football Australia is aiming to launch its Technical Development Scheme in early 2023.

Premier League continues talks on cost control and EFL funding

Premier League club bosses are holding further talks regarding cost control measures for clubs competing in European football and additional funding for the EFL.

The top flight is examining the introduction of a model along similar lines to UEFA’s squad cost ratio, which by 2025-26 will cap the spending of clubs involved in European competitions on wages, transfer fees and agent costs at 70 per cent of revenue.

It is understood that clubs in the Premier League not competing in European competitions will be allowed more leeway on spending, with a ratio of around 85 per cent of revenue having been discussed. This is potentially to ensure a more level playing field for mid table Premier League clubs who are struggling to break that barrier.

There is a major roadblock, however, in these talks with relegated Premier League clubs still earning parachute payments in their first season back in the Championship and being able to continue working to the 85 per cent ratio whilst the bottom half Championship clubs are working on a much tighter budget, closer to the 70 per cent UEFA mark.

Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters spoke about these talks advancing and what it means for the future of both leagues.

“We have some proposals out for consultation with our clubs about moving and aligning more with the UEFA system,” Masters said at the Culture, Media and Sport committee.

“Some of the issues that are still at debate between the EFL and the Premier League and internally within the Premier League itself are about trying to find a resolution on exactly how the financial regulatory system will work in the future.

“There’s an area of disagreement between us on how cost controls are going to work. Because obviously if you’re going to put more money into a system, that system has to be properly regulated. That system has yet to be fully agreed on how Championship clubs, how relegated clubs and how Premier League clubs operate a common system.” he concluded.

In terms of the extra funding agreement being discussed, EFL Chairman Rick Parry announced that his competition was prepared to accept an amount that would equate to 14.75 per cent of the two competitions’ net media revenues, which he said worked out at an extra £125million ($240 million) a year.

Whilst this is a huge positive for the footballing ladder in England, there is still a debate amongst clubs and representatives over how the extra funding to the EFL should be paid out.

Recently relegated sides are already working on a bigger budget, whilst sides in the bottom half are struggling to pay player wages with this disparity being completely unacceptable.

So it definitely begs the question, does majority of the extra £125million ($240 million) a year go towards helping bottom clubs compete in the long term? or would that be a stain on the league’s integrity and fair play values?

Votes were not casted in last week’s meetings regarding cost control measures or extra funding, but reports suggest that a conclusion is being made swiftly with both parties eager to agree on a fair deal.

MLS NEXT Pro continues to expand with Connecticut United addition

Connecticut United FC joins MLS Next Pro

Connecticut (CT) United FC will join the ever-growing MLS NEXT Pro League in 2025, in a move that promises to reinvigorate the US state through investment in football infrastructure.

CT United becomes the fifth independent team to join US football’s third-tier national competition, which serves as a valuable development tool for young players at the 27 existing Major League Soccer (MLS) clubs.

It joins teams from Jacksonville, Florida and Chattanooga – who were recently announced by the MLS NEXT organisation.

Chattanooga FC have been competing at state-level for 15 years, allowing it to join the competition in 2024 alongside fellow independent club, Carolina Core FC.

Jacksonville Armada are expected to enter alongside CT United and a team from Cleveland, Ohio, in 2025.

The nucleus of CT United’s football operation will be based in Connecticut’s capital city, Bridgeport, after its Planning and Zoning Commission approved a project for a waterfront football-specific stadium.

The stadia will be a part of a larger infrastructure plan to create a mixed-use destination for retail, residential, and community zones. Bridgeport’s Mayor, Joseph Ganim, says the city is ready to drive the project.

“Bridgeport is in the midst of a renaissance, rebranding from an industrial city to now the capital of arts and entertainment of Connecticut,” he said via media release.

“I am proud to announce that MLS NEXT Pro will join that landscape in providing entertainment opportunities for Bridgeport residents and the region at large.”

The club’s formation represents the first foray into sports ownership for the Connecticut Sports Group (CTSG), an organisation founded and led by Connecticut local and technology entrepreneur, André Swanston.

Though in its infant stages, the organisation relies primarily upon its partnership with the University of Connecticut, and minor investors within the state.

Swanston, 42, becomes not just one of the youngest principal owners of a football club in the country, but also making a difference as one of the few Black sports owners in US sport overall.

“As CT United FC embarks on its MLS NEXT Pro journey, I want to extend deep gratitude to the incredible fans, community leaders and government officials who have embraced our vision – I am confident that, united, Connecticut can compete against anyone,” he proclaimed via press release.

“We are committed to building the infrastructure – from a free youth academy to a state-of-the-art stadium – needed to propel Connecticut to the highest levels of soccer.”

The formation of CT United represents an exciting prospect for the people of Connecticut, who will be eager to see CTSG deliver on its vision to ‘create unforgettable experiences that inspire communities.’

It also showcases Major League Soccer’s continuing expansion, and intent to re-invigorate communities across North America.

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