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/

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

Football Victoria champions its advancements for women’s football in 2023 Annual Report

Football Victoria (FV) released the 2023 Annual Report, detailing their efforts and successes last year.

In a massive year for women’s football, Football Victoria led the way in delivering improvements in both participation and infrastructure for the women’s game.

The Andrews-Allen State Government has invested an unprecedented $400 million towards developing Victoria’s football facilities over the past five years, however, 2023 would see a major push for the construction of female football facilities, as well as upgrading existing spaces to become more female-friendly.

Typifying this push was the completion of the ‘Home of the Matildas’ centre, which was constructed as part of the La Trobe University Sports Park project. The centre opened in July last year and has instantly become a symbol of women’s football and the Matildas efforts in 2023.

Again, the State Government set records, putting $42.29 million towards its construction – the largest donation ever made by any level of government for a football-specific project nationally. The centre boasts state-of-the-art football pitches (grass and artificial), twelve changerooms, a fully-equipped gym and wet recovery centre, medical facilities, and corporate spaces.

The facility has already been utilised for local, regional, national and international events, and will be the cornerstone of Football Victoria’s future efforts, serving as its official headquarters.

Further mentioned was the creation of 14 council-supported “Social Football Hubs” across the state, contributing to the enormous growth in summer football participation for females – reaching nearly 6,000 compared to just 1,900 in 2022.

Also in infrastructure, the report triumphs its involvement in revitalising recreational spaces in Ballarat. At an estimated spend of $16 million, the Victoria Park Sport & Community Facility and Wendouree West Recreation Reserve projects were completed in 2023, and Football Victoria believes this will provide the highest-quality football experience for the community.

There is less mentioned in the report about the present growth of football facilities in other regional centres, with the report mentioning that State government budgetary measures may hinder its plans in the short term.

Then-acting CEO, Karen Pearce OAM, commented on the federation’s endeavours regarding regional football within the report.

“We are currently undertaking a Regional Review to determine an optimal operating model to improve the function, efficiency, capacity, and overall football experience in regional Victoria,” she wrote via the report.

“The review has explored all key components of the football ecosystem, with some key findings currently underway.”

There is a long-term plan to construct ‘regional hubs’ consisting of 4-6 pitches and state-of-the-art facilities in the outer suburbs and rural centres of Victoria, including a redevelopment of the Gippsland Sports and Entertainment Centre in Sale.

The concentrated effort to improve football infrastructure has benefitted participation in the sport, with player registrations totalling at 82,945.

There were 4,229 teams from Metropolitan and Geelong areas that entered into community competitions last year, with player registration numbers totalling just under 54,000. The popularity of football amongst children remains strong, with 75% of this figure represented by Miniroos and juniors, with the remainder made up of seniors and over 35’s.

In addition, there was a 41% increase in coaching participation compared to 2022, and twice as much engagement between coaches and the federation on social media. This is owing to Football Victoria’s “Club Coach Coordinator Gala Day”, which championed greater access to coaching resources and accreditation.

Referee participation is less publicised across national media channels, but their importance to the growth of the game is crucial. Football Victoria has continued to invest in its refereeing facilities and academies, which helped see an increase of 350 referees compared to 2022. This includes a 50% increase in female referees.

Its accreditation and pathway programs has led to six match officials being selected on the FIFA panel – 17 reaching the A-League – and a further three joining the Football Australia Referee Academy. There were a further 67 officials who joined the successful Victorian Referee Academy in 2023.

Given the widespread success it has reported, Football Victoria will be challenged to sustain this momentum. Its efforts will have triggered interest from future sponsors and businesses, whose potential investment will play a key role in the expansion effort; especially if government spending is to be reduced.

Football Victoria President, Antonella Care, thanked the organisations current partners and sponsors in the report for their contributions.

“Our game would not survive without the support of partners at all levels of the game,” Care stated in the report.

“I would also like to thank FV’s proud sponsors for their dedication to football, and also pass on my gratitude to the many businesses who sponsor Clubs and allow them to reinvest into the game.”

Football Victoria’s improvements in participation and infrastructure – thanks to support from sponsors and government agencies – exemplify the state’s reputation as the national leader in football expansion.

Brisbane Roar’s new training facility tipped for July opening

Brisbane Roar, in conjunction with the City of Moreton Bay Council, plans to open its new state-of-the-art football training facility in July this year.

The development of a new training precinct – the City of Moreton Bay Football Centre of Excellence – has been in the pipeline for nearly two years, but looks set to become a reality in Brisbane’s North.

Importantly, the new facility will bring its women’s and men’s A-League and NPL teams under one roof, in a move that will help increase club unity and enhance career pathways for its academy players.

The club is currently separated across the city, with its Liberty A-League side based at the Queensland Sports and Athletics Centre in Brisbane’s South, whilst its Isuzu UTE A-League side trains at Meakin Park – a further 20 minutes away.

As confirmed by both parties, some of the features will include:

  • 5 training fields
  • A main changeroom with amenities
  • Gym, recovery, and physiotherapy rooms
  • Kitchen, lounge, laundry and bathroom facilities
  • Coaching offices and media rooms
  • Private boom gate parking

The precinct brings with it the much anticipated Women’s Football Centre of Excellence, that aims to provide a unique experience for Brisbane’s current and future female stars.

Queensland continues to be a massive provider of talent for women’s football in Australia, evidenced to its full extent during the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, where Mackenzie Arnold, Clare Polkinghorne, Katrina Gorry, and Hayley Raso all represented the Matildas.

However, many of these players endured several moves around the country to develop their game as youngsters, evidencing the finite provision of local and national resources available to the women’s game.

With the new Women’s Centre of Excellence, Brisbane Roar are offering its future Katrina Gorry and Clare Polkinghorne not just a state-of-the-art facility, but stability and comfort in their football journey.

Brisbane Roar have been working closely with the City of Moreton Bay Council and are firmly focused on opening the facility ahead of the 2024/25 A Leagues season. Speaking at the ribbon-cutting event, Brisbane Roar Chairman & CEO, Kaz Patafta, was elated about what the club and the council is set to achieve.

“Brisbane Roar are thrilled to extend our collaboration with the City of Moreton Bay Council, marking a significant milestone with the development of a world-class football high-performance facility,” Patafta stated via media release.

“The club eagerly anticipates unifying our team and offering our players access to a premier, top-class training environment later this year.”

Council Mayor, Peter Flannery, is enthusiastic about the prospect of growing the women’s game in Brisbane.

“It’s great to see the Women’s Football Centre of Excellence being completed after a long journey. Although the fields aren’t quite ready for use, the Roar have begun fitting out the facility with their equipment in preparation for the 2024-25 season,” Mayor Flannery added via press release.

“This will be one of the leading dedicated women’s sporting facilities in the country once the fields are completed over the coming months.”

The Roar’s investment in state-of-the-art infrastructure is sure to have a noticeable effect on its football operations. It will also hope to encourage participation at local junior level, with the facility serving as a place of aspiration for young players.

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