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Football Queensland announce reformed junior NPL competition

Last Friday, Football Queensland announced that there junior NPL competition would be reformed from 2020 and beyond.

The reformed system would integrate grading to ensure teams would play against opposition of a similar caliber. This is clearly aimed at achieving a higher level of fairness and equality in the junior system.

Soccer is not the only sport in which some teams are unfairly pitted against sides much stronger than themselves. It happens frequently in cricket, Australian rules football and basketball.

It’s great to see Football QLD taking necessary action to make positive change and to retain juniors in the sport for longer.

The full press release can be found below:

Following the decoupling of the National Premier League (NPL) Queensland and the Football Queensland Premier League junior competitions and recently announced changes to the naming convention, Football Queensland (FQ) in conjunction with the Technical Working Group has developed a framework and model to appropriately determine the ranking of NPL junior clubs from 1-24.

A comprehensive technical audit has been completed by FQ across the 24 NPL and FQPL clubs. The Technical Working Group developed a number of models and ultimately proposed a hybrid grading model based on the FQ club technical audit score in a weighted formula alongside the total 2019 league points.

The ongoing refinement of the model will consider other agreed data sets that reflect the clubs’ focus on junior player development, and the audit scores will continue to change in the coming weeks as the working group completes its recommendations.

The recommended competition format has been designed based on the guiding principles of ‘like vs like’, ‘best vs best’ and ‘for the good of the game’.

It is intended for FQ to administer the league through a structured pool competition across three distinct phases throughout the season.

The Technical Working Group recommended that clubs ranked 1-6, in addition to the Brisbane Roar 2 Star Academy, should be ring-fenced to compete against each other in the first phase of the competition, in keeping with the proposed direction of the FFA Academy Star Rating system.

The remaining clubs will be allocated across three remaining pools according to their ranked position.

All clubs will participate in the proposed three phases of the league: pre-season, competition and tournament.

  • The pre-season phase of 7 rounds will be used to further validate the hybrid grading model. At the conclusion of this phase two pools of 12 will be formed (NPL Academy and NPL Development) in preparation of the ‘competition’ phase of the season.
  • In the 11 round ‘competition’ phase, the NPL Academy will consist of clubs ranked 1-12 plus the Brisbane Roar Academy, and NPL Development will consist of clubs ranked 13-24 plus the QAS Girls.
  • The ‘tournament’ phase will see competitive matches played with clubs split into four pools based on the principles of ‘best v best’ and ‘like v like’. The pools will then play for the Queensland Cup, Gold, Silver and Bronze Plates respectively.

Further information on the hybrid grading model, league structure and NPL reforms will be announced in the coming weeks.

Details of the Technical Working Group’s deliberations can be found in the minutes of the meetings, which have been released weekly and are available online via https://footballqueensland.com.au/technical-working-group/

Caelum Ferrarese is a Senior journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on micro policy within Australasia and industry disruptions at grassroots level.

Is Australia ready for a two-year World Cup cycle?

Battle lines are being drawn between FIFA and key stakeholders, as it remains to be seen whether Australia will support the push for a two-year World Cup cycle.

FIFA’s minutes from the 71st Congress, where Saudi Arabia put forward the motion to study the viability of a two-year cycle, doesn’t include what member federations voted for in the motion.

Football Australia hasn’t stated publicly whether they were one of the 166 nations who voted for the motion, or whether they support the plans.

Football Australia is instead adopting a wait-and-see approach, to avoid taking a position before any proposal for changes are put forward after the viability study is completed.

Two-time A-League Coach of the Year Ernie Merrick believes the push from FIFA for a two-year World Cup cycle is because of business and money.

“It’s about profit and loss. It’s not about the people in the sport really, and FIFA are always competing with their confederations, of which there are six, and FIFA only have one event where they make substantial money from revenue and that’s every four years,” Merrick said.

“So in effect FIFA loses money for three years, and then the fourth year and makes massive profits mainly from broadcast, ticket sales, and sponsorship from a World Cup.”

The majority of FIFA’s $8.7 billion in revenue between 2015-2018 came from the 2018 Men’s tournament.

The commercial value of another World Cup every four years is incredibly attractive to the governing body as a way to boost its already full coffers.

Australian football will struggle to keep up with other countries if the World Cup is hosted every two years, according to Merrick.

“At the same time a lot of countries, including Asian countries, are spending an enormous amount of money on facilities and preparation setups for national competition. We all know of England’s setup, which is huge at St George’s Park, and here we don’t have a designated specific setup to prepare national teams,” he said.

“There’s a lot of infrastructure that will have to change to give Australia a chance to qualify on a regular basis. We certainly have good players and good coaches and we can compete with anyone regarding players, coaching and strategy but when it comes to the sort of money involved in preparing a national team, friendly games, and the amount of travel involved, Australia is really going to suffer.”

Michael Valkanis – former A-League coach, player and current Greece assistant coach – believes that without aligning with FIFA international dates, it means the A-League will struggle to adapt to a two-year World Cup cycle.

“We saw the effects of the Socceroos going away to play, and it always makes it difficult on A-League coaches and teams to support that.” Valkanis said.

“You can see the effects it can have on finals games, and we’ve been crying out for a long time that we become parallel with the rest of the world with international dates.”

Some of Australia’s biggest competitors in the AFC are showing ambivalence towards the concept.

“It would depend on how it would all be organised,” a Korean FA official told Deutsche Welle.

“If we want to have consistent success then we need to play as many competitive games against South American and European teams as possible. At the moment, we play one or two games every four years if we qualify. It’s not enough.”

While the viability of a two-year World Cup cycle is being studied, it is unclear how determined FIFA is to implement such a radical change to the football calendar against intense opposition from some of its members.

Merrick believes the end result could be FIFA demanding a portion of the confederation’s revenue.

“I think four years is probably a better situation at the moment – maybe three years down the track – but I think confederations will have to come to an arrangement with FIFA, and FIFA will want to take some of their revenue somehow through licensing,” Merrick said.

Those involved in international football already believe that the best model is the one we have currently, something that Valkanis is a strong fan of.

“I am a traditionalist. I think the World Cup is something special that stands out from any other competition in the world,” he said.

“The only other event that comes close is the Olympic Games, and to change the format so we see it every two years instead of four, I don’t think it leaves it the same. It is special the way it is.”

Football Australia CEO James Johnson will have a challenge on his hands navigating what a change in the World Cup’s schedule means for Australian football, as FIFA continues to push for increased revenue from the game.

Football Coaches Australia presents ‘The Football Coaching Life Podcast’ S3 Ep 2 with Gary Cole interviewing Steve Corica

Corica FCA

Steve Corica is Head Coach of A-League Men at Sydney FC, where he narrowly missed out on three A-League Championships in a row, losing to Melbourne City in the Grand Final last season. What a remarkable start to his first senior head coaching role!

He played his junior football in Innisfail in North Queensland, before heading to the Australian Institute of Sport and playing just under 500 professional games in Australia, England and Japan.

Steve’s preparation for coaching began while he was playing, and he started to gain his coaching licences before taking on an assistant role with the Sydney FC Youth Team.

He served a seven-year apprenticeship at Sydney with the Youth Team and then as an assistant to Vitezslav Lavicka, Frank Farina and Graham Arnold before taking on the Head Coach role in 2018. He learned from each of these coaches and also learned, like most ‘he didn’t know, what he didn’t know’ when taking on the Head Coaching Role.

Steve believes that team and club culture are key to success. He understands that while he is the driver of the culture, that buy-in from all of the players is integral to behaviours being demanded from the playing group of one another.

Steve’s ‘one piece of wisdom’ was ‘to be yourself’. Know how you want to play, the style of football you want to play. Be strong when you do get setbacks, but believe in what you’re doing, stay strong and keep believing in the style of football you want to play.

Please join me in sharing Steve Corica’s Football Coaching Life.

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