Will Australia ever see the FFA Cup again?

A total of 765 football clubs had registered to compete in the 2020 FFA Cup, yet a recent decision to cancel the competition may well have put its future in doubt.

Football Federation Australia arrived at the necessary yet unfortunate decision last week whilst also announcing the cancelation of the NPL Finals series due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In terms of the NPL Finals Series, the financial ramifications of the last six months will no doubt have played a major role in informing the move. Interstate travel appears an impossibility considering the losses in gate takings and sponsorship that each and every club across the country will have no doubt experienced in 2020.

A return to NPL play may well see the clubs delve even further into the red as running costs continue to remain higher than the meagre amounts being accumulated in sponsorship revenue and match day takings.

As for the FFA Cup, financial considerations will also have played a role in the decision, yet the sheer logistics of the competition and the time now available to complete it must surely have proven the final nail in the coffin when it came to FFA’s announcement.

The preliminary rounds slated for early 2020 were obliterated by the pandemic and many teams would normally have been eliminated by this stage of the calendar year. With a frantic month of A-League action now upon us in an effort to complete a season that has stretched for near ten months and NPL play ramping up as we speak, the chances of cramming cup, NPL and A-League into the most chaotic of schedules and crowning champions in all three by Christmas, appears something of an impossible task.

Sadly, the 7th edition of Australia’s much loved and long awaited cup competition has been necessarily torpedoed by the governing body. More concerning are real fears that it may be the last we have seen of it.

The FFA Cup brought something unique to the domestic game and provided Australian fans with a basic tenant of football so longed for and domestically absent. All over the world, league competitions pause frequently, as both minnows and heavy hitters take their chances in knockout play in an attempt to raise their respective nation’s cup trophy.

Such a moment says nothing about consistency, staying the course or a clubs’ dominance in home and away play. Cup competition is all about the moment and the ability to seize one, particularly when teams from lower divisions force their way into the later stages and seek to scare the heck out of their top tier rivals.

Thus the phrase, ‘cupset’.

Despite Australia’s cup having never left the hands of the A-League clubs, the competition is structured in such a way that a lower tiered team always features in the final four. In much the same way that EPL teams are kept away from each other in England’s FA Cup, Australia’s elite clubs do not meet until the late rounds, with NPL clubs in full training and competition given the chance to knock off their fancied rivals who are still to build into top form during their pre-season.

Most years, the ‘cupset’ plays out.

With suburban grounds hosting matches in mid-winter conditions, the atmosphere of the FFA Cup is both unique and inspiring. Traditional clubs draw considerable support from their communities and the subsequent lift in performance of the semi-professional teams has been evident on many occasions during the competitions’ short but impressive history.

Without stern determination to ensure its survival and return, the FFA Cup may well be another in a long line of victims that the coronavirus takes in 2020.

The cold reality for NPL clubs in a post pandemic world will be financial struggle. The sponsorship and investment challenges mentioned above will remain evident for some time, with many clubs having been openly keen to cancel the 2020 NPL season for fears of only worsening their precarious financial position.

Similar headaches lie ahead for FFA, with a newly signed Fox Sports broadcast deal destined only to cover A and W League play, Socceroo World Cup qualifiers and friendlies, as well as friendly matches involving the Matildas.

As such, those cold winter nights with televised FFA Cup play and live reports from the other fixtures taking place around the country appear gone. Fox obviously saw little return on their investment and have dropped the cup competition as they lessen their overall financial commitment to football.

Whilst many will cite the FFA’s need to take over the production costs of the domestic game and potentially on-sell content to Foxtel, Kayo Sport and potentially other providers, such an endeavour is challenging, long term and involves considerable financial investment.

Doing so in an effort to spark the A and W League may be a fair objective, however, the logistics and expense in attempting to produce the FFA Cup in-house, may well be a bridge too far, especially considering the remote locations that often play host to important matches.

In its official press release FFA expressed a clear desire to bring back #themagicofthecup in 2021, yet despite its best intentions, the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic may well make such a return near impossible.

Stuart Thomas is a trusted Journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on macro policy within Australasia and industry disruptions.

New Zealand Football confirms 2020/21 season details

New Zealand Football has confirmed the details and starting dates of its national competitions for the 2020/21 season, during October and November.

New Zealand Football has confirmed the details and starting dates of its national competitions for the 2020/21 season.

The national men’s football league, the ISPS Handa Premiership will start in November, while the National Women’s League will commence from the weekend of October 31.

COVID-19 has also forced some structural changes to be made to both the men’s and women’s competitions.

In the ISPS Handa Premiership, the competition will feature eight club instead of the usual 10 teams. The South Island teams, Southern United, Tasman United and Canterbury United Dragons, will merge for the upcoming season. They will play under the Canterbury United Dragons name.

The competition will retain its usual format of a regular season with each team playing each other twice before a finals series including semi-finals and a grand final – the latter is expected to be held in March 2021.

Plans for a promotion and relegation framework have been postponed and will be reviewed before the 2021/22 season.

The National Women’s League will be played as a single round robin competition for this season. A grand final will be held on the weekend of December 19. The competition will feature all seven women’s teams.

“It has taken a lot of work with our clubs and federations to get to this stage but we are excited to now be able to confirm initial details of our national competitions for the upcoming season,” Daniel Farrow, General Manager of Football for New Zealand Football said in a statement.

“While Covid-19 and the knock-on effect of shifting community football dates has had an impact on the length of competitions and, in the case of the ISPS Handa Premiership, the number of teams able to take part, running men’s, women’s and futsal national league competitions this year was a key priority and we are very pleased to be able to make that happen.

“We also want to acknowledge the support of Sport NZ and our on-going partnership with Trillian Trust as key contributors to staging competitions this season.”

The 2019/20 ISPS Handa Premiership was called off early in March due to COVID-19. Auckland City, who were leading the competition at the time, were declared champions.

Queensland features an abundance of Matildas

New figures show that Queensland's female development has been incredibly successful in finding new talent, who have represented the Westfield Matildas.

New figures show that Queensland’s female development has been incredibly successful in finding talent, who have represented the Westfield Matildas.

As part of Football Queensland’s latest findings, 40 homegrown players have gone on to represent the Australian Women’s National Team at major senior and youth tournaments since July 2012.

Katrina Gorry, Mackenzie Arnold and Hayley Raso (pictured) are a few examples of local talents working their way up the ranks during the last eight years and will be key contributors in the next Women’s World Cup hosted by Australia and New Zealand in 2023.

Gorry, Arnold and Raso spent time at the Queensland Academy of Sport (QAS) before accomplishing themselves in the Westfield W-League and internationally.

Football Queensland and the QAS combined to launch a full-time training and playing program for upcoming talents in 2018.

“Our pathway is now the envy of every female footballer in the country,” Rae Dower said, a former Matilda and current Junior Matildas Head Coach.

“We’re fully committed to evolving the program and to helping as many female players in Queensland reach their full potential on and off the field through the creation of our high-performance environment.

“We’d love to help make dreams come true for Queensland players wanting to play for the Matildas in a home FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023 and beyond.”

Football Federation Australia revealed more than 18,000 women and girls from Queensland played football in 2019, as part of the latest census findings – a three per cent increase on 2018.

“The numbers we have are very encouraging and we look forward to seeing Queensland produce many more Westfield Matildas,” FQ Technical Director Gabor Ganczer said.

“Having the FIFA Women’s World Cup on home soil will be a big moment and objective for aspirational players and we are putting a lot of resources into helping them achieve their goals, not just now but permanently.”

Football Queensland provided every local player who has represented Australia at Olympic Games, World Cups or Continental Championships since the beginning of July in 2012:

Laura Alleway, Mackenzie Arnold, Mia Bailey, Angela Beard, Georgia Beaumont, Savannah Boller, Eliza Campbell, Kim Carroll, Kyra Cooney-Cross, Larissa Crummer, Isobel Dalton, Casey Dumont, Charlotte Farmer, Ciara Fowler, Mary Fowler, Sunny Franco, Shekinah Friske, Emily Gielnik, Brooke Goodrich, Katrina Gorry, Winonah Heatley, Elise Kellond-Knight, India Kubin, Aivi Luik, Afrikah McGladrigan, Teagan Micah, Ayesha Norrie (Kirby), Hollie Palmer, Clare Polkinghorne, Kezia Pritchard, Hayley Raso, Jamilla Rankin, Taylor Ray, Indiah-Paige Riley, Arina Tokunaga, Kaitlyn Torpey, Cortnee Vine, Natasha Wheeler, Brittany Whitfield, Tameka Yallop (Butt).

Junior football makes its return in Devonport

Football Queensland

After a delayed start due to the COVID-19 crisis, the 2020 Devonport Junior Soccer Association season began this past weekend.

Close to 700 juniors between the age of four and twelve were back on the football field in the city of Devonport.

Football Tasmania CEO Matt Bulkeley was excited to see the children return to play the state’s favourite team sport.

“COVID-19’s impact was felt particularly hard on the north-west coast, creating a lot of uncertainty about whether the season could kick-off,” Mr Bulkeley said.

“To see children back out on the pitch again, having fun and being active is a great reward for whole community after a tough few months.

“With junior matches also starting across Burnie in the Western School Soccer Association earlier this month and the Northern Championship, WSL and NPL seasons underway, the football family on the north-west coast has finally returned to doing what they like best on the weekend – enjoying our great game.

“The 2020 season wouldn’t have been possible without the tireless work of all the volunteers, clubs and associations who have put in so many hours to make the return to football safe.

“On behalf of the entire Tasmanian football family I wholeheartedly thank everyone involved in rebooting football so players and families can again enjoy the vast array of health and social benefits playing the sport provides.

“I’d also like to thank our 2020 junior competition partners MyState Bank and Southern Cross Austero for their roles in helping get junior players back on the pitch safely and in time to fit in a meaningful season.”

DJSA President Richard Bidwell claimed there was a huge sense of relief to finally begin the football season.

“While this season may be shorter than usual, it’s been a lot busier behind the scenes, dealing with both the COVID delay and the building works at Meercroft Park.

“I’d like to thank everyone involved – from the DJSA staff and volunteers, to the schools and the Devonport City Council – for understanding the circumstances and making it possible for our kids to play.

“After being all set to go in March and then facing the unknown of how many players we’d have for 2020 if we could get a season in, it’s wonderful that football is finally back at Meercroft.”

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