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Football Coaches Australia appoints Ernie Merrick as FCA Ambassador

Merrick

Football Coaches Australia (FCA) is pleased to announce the addition of Premiership and Championship-winning A-League Men’s coach Ernie Merrick as an FCA Ambassador.

Ernie’s ongoing legacy in Australia football is assured. To date, he has left an indelible imprint on Australian football, and on those he has worked with.

Through his statesman role, FCA looks forward to Australian football coaches continuing to be able to tap into Ernie’s considerable football experience and expertise. Ernie will also be able to provide valuable commentary and insights on FCA issues relevant to coaches in Australia.

Ernie Merrick OAM was a PE teacher, as well as an amateur football player before entering the head coaching ranks.

Ernie’s most recent A-League role was as Newcastle Jets FC Head Coach where he took the Jets to the Grand Final in his inaugural 2017/18 season. He is the former head coach of the Victorian Institute of Sport, Hong Kong national football team, and A-League clubs Melbourne Victory FC and Wellington Phoenix FC.

Under Ernie’s leadership, Victory won the 2006–07 A-League Premiership, finished second in the group phase of the 2008 Asian Champions League and in the 2008–2009 season, won the treble, the Pre-Season Cup, the Premiership and the Grand Final.

During the 2009–2010 season, despite severe season-ending knee injuries to key players, Victory once again reached the Grand Final.

In committing to the FCA Ambassador role Ernie stated:

When asked by FCA to become an Ambassador and Technical Advisor to FCA I felt privileged and honoured. I hope to be able to work with FCA to provide ongoing professional development mentorship to aspiring coaches.”

FCA President Phil Moss acknowledged the appointment by stating:

“Ernie’s credentials as a coach speak for themselves – without a doubt one of the most successful to grace the national competition – but he is also a top-class human being who passionately cares about people so he will add significantly to our organization & our members.”

Long-time football colleague, and current FCA Executive Committee member, Gary Cole endorsed Ernie’s role.

I have had the pleasure of knowing Ernie (Merrick) since the mid-eighties when he came to Preston Lions in the NSL as a young assistant coach to Billy Murray. Our paths crossed again when he was Head coach of the Victorian Institute of Sport, where he helped develop wonderful players like Vince Grella, Simon Colosimo, Adrian Leijer and Billy Celeski. We then had the opportunity and privilege to help set up and build Melbourne Victory Football Club.

“I’ve really enjoyed working with Ernie as he is a wonderful leader and has the gift of being able to make the complex simple. He is a Pro-Licence Coach, with a teaching and sports science background, yet simplifies rather than confuses, which helps him to be the wonderfully successful coach he is, as well as a great developer of players.”

FCA looks forward to further Australian coach Ambassadorial role announcements within the near future.

James Johnson on how the Club Licensing System is critical to progress of Second Division

On Thursday, Football Australia released their reformed Club Licensing System Regulations that will increase standards at clubs across the top three tiers of Australian football – as a key part of broader structural reform they are engineering to take the game forward.

Reforming the Club Licensing System was an agreed responsibility Football Australia took on during its unbundling of the A-Leagues to the Australian Professional Leagues in December 2020, and is something Football Australia CEO James Johnson sees as critical to unlocking standstill issues facing the game, such as the proposed National Second Division (NSD) and Domestic Transfer System (DTS).

“We have challenges in the sport, namely around player development at the moment, and right at the very heart of the Club Licensing System are standards and requirements that really need to be reviewed on an annual basis. So we’ll continue to lift the standards in club football with a particular focus on youth development,” Johnson, who oversaw the Global Club Licensing Program while at FIFA, told Soccerscene

“That’s going to align very well with some of our other initiatives, like a Domestic Transfer System that has player development at its very core. It’s something we need to fix now; it’s something I don’t think is an opinion, it’s a fact.

“These measures – Club Licensing, a transfer system, the second tier competition – are all designed to improve the level of our players, the benefit of which we will see in the years to come.”

Club Licensing has historically been managed by the Asian Football Confederation as a means of ensuring minimum standards for clubs to compete in Asian club competitions. By taking it into their own hands, Football Australia can now raise and specify standards for clubs at not just the professional level, but the levels below it.

The regulations include certain criteria that must be met to compete and continue to compete in certain competitions, broken into five categories: Sporting, infrastructure, personnel and administrative, legal, and financial – with variations in each to reflect multiple levels of the pyramid. 

“First and foremost, this new Club Licensing System will be a set of criteria that needs to be fulfilled in order for all clubs to participate in Asian club competition, but also for all clubs in the A-Leagues to continue their ability to participate in that competition,” Johnson said. 

“The second part, the more strategic football development angle, is that it is designed to become a strategic plan for club development and enhanced governance of clubs throughout the country. It really sits right at the heart of key decisions clubs would take, and how they operate on a day-to-day basis.”

The new system is designed to cater for clubs at the professional (A-Leagues), semi-professional (NSD) and state-league (NPL) levels, providing an overarching set of standards to promote uniformity between clubs and divisions. Theoretically, it could also prepare clubs for movement between divisions if promotion and relegation were to come into effect.

Johnson sees that uniformity as vital to the game moving forward, given the three tiers will be administered by three different organisations: The A-Leagues by the Australian Professional Leagues, the mooted NSD by Football Australia, and the NPL competitions by their respective Member Federations. 

“You have to set different standards for different levels of football. As we roll out the second tier competition in the coming years, Football Australia would licence clubs to participate in that competition because it would be the competition administrator,” he said.

“The next step would be to go down the pyramid. There’d be a continual evolution of the Club Licensing System where we’d set a strategic framework that the competition administrators, the Member Federations, would ultimately work under, in order to create their own criteria for participation and access to the state level competitions.

“That framework that the Member Federations would operate under would give each region across the country a good level of specificity to develop their own criteria to access their own region.”

Concerning the level of football not currently in place – the proposed  second tier – Johnson stated the Federation had the backing of the AAFC, the representative body of the clubs looking to step from the NPL into the second tier of competition, over the new Club Licensing System.

“The AAFC are very much aligned with the direction Football Australia are wanting to go. Their interest in licensing is concerning the NSD, and I don’t think there would be any issues there provided we set the criteria as the right levels,” Johnson said.

“What we’ll get once the system is implemented is the ability to analyse clubs all around the country. We’ll be able to benchmark how clubs in Victoria are performing on and off the pitch, against teams in Brisbane or Hobart or Perth.

“One of the big values of a CLS is it’s a measuring stick that helps us understand which areas clubs around the country are strong in, and which areas they need more focus on. Ultimately, that’s how we grow club football.”

Tasked with overseeing the licensing reform is Natalie Lutz, who Football Australia hired as their Club Licensing Manager in January. Lutz has considerable experience in the field, having previously overseen the rollout of club licensing across the CONCACAF Federation. 

“Natalie knows what she’s doing, she’s very experienced, she was responsible for the roll out of a Club Licensing System in 40-odd countries in the Americas. We have her in the business now, which is why this project is evolving,” Johnson said.

The Football Coaching Life with Trevor Morgan: “Put the player first and have empathy for their situation”

Gary Cole
The latest episode of The Football Coaching Life with Gary Cole, presented by Football Coaches Australia, sees Gary sitting down with the current Football Australia National Technical Director and Australian Mens U17s (Joeys) Head Coach, Trevor Morgan.

Morgan has been a well-entrenched figure within the youth development setup in Australia football over the past few decades, having been the Director of Football at Westfield Sports High and the National Youth League Head Coach for the Western Sydney Wanderers prior to taking on his current roles since 2018 and 2020 respectively.

Morgan led the Joeys to the knockout stages of the FIFA U17 World Cup in Brazil in 2019, and has remained in that role ever since.

Trevor Morgan’s ‘One Piece of Wisdom’ for aspiring coaches was: “Pay attention to what the player needs, don’t make it too complex, try and observe as much as you impart knowledge, put the player first and have empathy for their situation, think about what motivates and challenges them.”

Please join us in sharing Trevor Morgan’s Football Coaching Life.

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