Football Victoria CEO Kimon Taliadoros: “We have a demand for playing football exceeding the ability to provide opportunities”

Kimon Taliadoros played for some of Australia’s biggest clubs in the National Soccer League, and joined Football Victoria (FV) as president of the federation in 2015 before becoming Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in February of this year. He spoke to Soccerscene about the challenges he has faced so far at FV, increasing participation in football, and how sport serves as an escape for many in our community.

Q. What challenges have you faced as CEO of FV?

Taliadoros: Football has the most significant challenges, however the most significant opportunities, because we part of the global game. Within Victoria, we have an extremely competitive marketplace with Melbourne effectively being the hub for Australian sport, and Australia’s national sports – cricket, AFL, basketball, and netball. The extremely competitive local market competing for resources, support and athletes remains the ongoing challenge for football.

Q. How can FV further engage upcoming athletes to win them over to football?

Taliadoros: We believe that if we can attract people to try football in any of its numerous formats – small-sided, full-sized, social football, futsal, boys, girls, men, women, people of all backgrounds and genders – and we can produce an enjoyable game day experience we can continue to develop that relationship with the sport, that will turn into a lifetime engagement with the sport in a number of different ways – as a player, as an official, as a volunteer or as a fan. We hope to engage with someone who enjoys the benefits of a lifetime relationship with football.

Q. How important is having pathways for inclusion in football?

Taliadoros: It is critical that football is accessible for all. It is Football Victoria’s obligation to ensure that it is available to everyone. From a gender perspective, we set ourselves a target of 50/50 participation by 2027 back in 2018, and we committed to achieving that not only from a playing perspective but also from a refereeing, coaching and administrative perspective. At the very heart of our purpose is to ensure the football experience is available to everyone who lives in Victoria.

Q. Phil Brown mentioned increased participation in Powerchair Football is a goal for Capital Football, does FV have any similar goals?

Taliadoros: We intend to expand all our programs in Victoria until we meet demand, including for blind football, AAA, women and girls, wheelchair and power football. This satisfies the goal of being accessible, which is a really important word, ensuring it is available for all. This covers a range of criteria, including the format, the cost, and the convenience. This has been the heart of our role as Football Victoria, as custodians of the game, and it remains our goal.

Q. The price of playing football in Australia is often discussed, how can we make it cheaper to play?

Taliadoros: It is a significant challenge for the football ecosystem. The football economy has historically relied on a user-pay system, so the grassroots has subsidised the football economy in Australia. There are two ways we can try to address the pricing issue. The first is to increase the supply of football, which would lead to a reduction in prices through more football more often, more clubs, and more facilities. The second element of that is being able to generate a football economy that results in the professional game being able to contribute to the development of football in much the same way as cricket, AFL, and NRL – the most popular professional sports in Australia – invest significantly in their communities.

Q. How do we achieve that?

Taliadoros: It’s the growth of our key brands. Our Socceroos, Matildas, our underage teams, and the FFA Cup. All those commercial brands and assets that are critical to being able to generate a commercial outcome that can be invested in grassroots to further develop and grow.

Q. Does the disruption from lockdowns have the potential to drive up prices and make football more inaccessible?

Taliadoros: Not necessary, the disruption may have an impact on clubs from an income perspective. From a sports perspective, the demand is high at all levels, increasingly so from a community sports perspective. Community sport is increasingly being recognised as essential to our social fabric, so that has resulted in a very strong interest in participation. I wouldn’t have thought that would have been an impact on cost, but certainly, it would have affected families in certain ways.

One area that has been affected, because it has had such a significant effect on small businesses, is the strain on clubs who typically rely on small businesses for sponsorship and support. There has been an impact on clubs from a revenue perspective. The other area we have seen impact is the number of volunteers. They have come in fewer numbers, which means the demands around COVID Safe community sport are considerably greater, so there has been an additional strain on clubs to put on their community football.

Q. We are seeing how important sport is to society, is football an escape for people in these times?

Taliadoros: Without a doubt. We know this because we’ve had three lockdowns, and for every lockdown we’ve had this year in Victoria, we’ve had constant demand on our communications that clubs are provided with the latest information to enable them to get back to playing as soon as possible. This is essentially driven by their players, their coaches, and their local communities. We have very strong evidence that community sport from a football perspective has a greater demand now, perhaps even more so than ever before.”

Q. What will be the biggest challenges for FV this year and going forward?

Taliadoros: Our biggest challenges remain the same as they have been for the past five years, and even before that. We have a demand for playing football exceeding the ability to provide opportunities. This generally means facilities, which is a challenge. The second greatest challenge is to ensure that we can drive effective take-up and participation from women and girls. We need to leverage the incredible Matildas, the home of the Matildas that is being built out at La Trobe, and the Women’s World Cup arriving in two years. Those are the two greatest challenges that will remain for Football Victoria.

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.

PFA maintains faith in collective bargaining over Domestic Transfer System stand-off

Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) remain steadfast in their view Football Australia cannot impose a Domestic Transfer System (DTS) on the local game without consensus among all parties, and that if it is to come into effect, it must be at the expense of the A-Leagues salary cap.

Last month, Football Australia moved a step closer to their favoured DTS by removing the longstanding cap on transfer fees for contracted players between Australian clubs, edging the game closer to the free market system that underpins player movement globally. 

In February, CEO James Johnson told ESPN failure to reach consensus over the DTS could lead to his organisation making ‘aggressive decisions’ towards its implementation. PFA co-chief executive Kathryn Gill told Soccerscene such a move would be undemocratic, and may no longer be appropriate in any case, post-Covid 19.

“Ultimately the transfer system acts as a tax on the employment of players. This would have a significant impact on their employment opportunities, and therefore it is a matter that requires the agreement of the players, not just consultation,” Gill said.

“We currently have a five-year CBA with the Australian Professional Leagues, signed September 2021 that is showing some encouraging signs regarding the investment in player payments, youth development and improving contractual stability.  If we are to shift towards a different strategy, we need to understand the problem we are trying to solve. 

“We’ve just undertaken a comprehensive labour market analysis of the A-Leagues and what our data tells us is that the problems we now need to solve are different from the ones we were confronted with before the pandemic.”

Gill’s PFA co-chief, Beau Busch, believes that for Football Australia to move away from the consultative nature that has served the game well through the pandemic, and for years prior, it would be damaging to the ecosystem. 

Matters that impact the employment of players are matters that require agreement through collective bargaining. In the absence of collective bargaining, we can’t create the conditions for collaboration and shared purpose and run the risk of creating regulations that are at odds with each other,” Busch said. 

“We’ve seen increasing moves from organisations like FIFA for example, trying to introduce biennial World Cups without consultation and European clubs going off to build new Super Leagues without considering the players or the fans. 

“That type of unilateral action is not in the best interests of the game and so these issues, that fundamentally affect the employment conditions of players, should be done in partnership with the players.”

Busch also pointed to FIFA’s intention to reform their global transfer system as an indicator that increased alignment may not be in Australian football’s best interests. World football’s free market has led to a chronically lopsided distribution of wealth towards those at the pointy end, while nobody could argue the trophy cabinets of clubs in Europe’s top five leagues reflect competitive balance. 

This season, Bayern Munich won their 10th consecutive German Bundesliga title; Juventus enjoyed a similar stretch of nine Serie A titles between 2011/12 to 2019/20, while PSG have lifted eight of the past 10 Ligue 1 crowns in France. Even the English Premier League, upheld by some as a bastion of competitiveness for European leagues, has seen 26 of its 29 titles shared by four clubs. 

“Globally, the justification for a transfer system is that it redistributes revenue, supports competitive balance, and encourages investment in the training and development of players. These are objectives that are obviously important to the sport, however the global transfer system has been unable to achieve them and this is illustrated through FIFA’s commitment to reforming it,” Busch said. 

“We absolutely agree that Australian football needs more players playing at the highest possible level and that whatever system is in place needs to be aligned to that aim. But with any regulatory change, research and evidence and a sound business case that underpins it is vital. 

“To date, we haven’t been presented with any modelling on what outcomes a domestic transfer system will produce, either in terms of player development, or stimulating the Australian market and football economy.”

The removal of the cap on transfer payments between clubs and potential DTS will help clubs earn their full reward for the development and on-sale of players. But if the theory is sound, it’s the opinion of the PFA that increased costs will in effect stymie player movement and force clubs to look inwards for talent, restricting the ease with which players can move between employment opportunities.

Gill is adamant that if a transfer system is to succeed, it must come in conjunction with the removal of the salary cap, which already restricts clubs from investing what they might otherwise be willing to on their squad. Aimed at maintaining competitive balance across the A-Leagues, it is not conducive to the growth of players’ value. 

“The transfer system and salary cap are trying to achieve different objectives, and attempting to impose both restraints at the same time is likely to not only be illegal but self-defeating for the game. That is why no league around the world operates with both,” Gill said.

“From a players’ perspective, having both would act as a double restraint with players having a cap on their earnings and a tax on their employment via a transfer system. Ultimately, this would not help clubs attract and retain talent.”

Despite Johnson stating ‘aggressive decisions’ may be required, and the parties seemingly gridlocked over the DTS, Gill remains hopeful that collective bargaining and goodwill can see the game forward in a unified manner.

She feels the game is a long way from requiring an independent regulator, which is set to be ratified by the UK Government to oversee football in England, off the back of the fan-led Crouch Report into the state of their game.

The Crouch Report also advocates for a reformed ‘owners and directors test’, and ‘shadow boards’ made up of fans to represent their interests and hold a golden share in legacy decisions regarding stadia, colours and crests.

“Since 1995 the PFA has been able to reach agreements with clubs and the governing body, so what history shows is that collective bargaining has been an effective vehicle for progress. We need to examine our own context, and we can certainly learn from what has occurred around the world and what led to the push for an independent regulator in the English game,” Gill said.

“What is clear is the governance framework in that country and measures such as the transfer system have failed to drive progress for the entire sport and this drastic government intervention has been a direct result of this.”

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