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Football West welcomes $35m major investment from WA Government

Football West have welcomed the West Australian Government’s announcement of a major investment into football.

WA Premier Mark McGowan has revealed that HBF Park – the home of Perth Glory – will receive a $35 million upgrade in preparation for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, following the commencement of works for a $32.5m State Football Centre in Queens Park.

The upgrades at HBF Park will include replacing the halogen lights with a shift to modern LED lighting, upgrading the pitch through removal, levelling and turf replacement, new player bench areas, and upgrades to the existing power supply – including a new switch room.

In addition, the funding will cover temporary infrastructure, such as additional seating and facilities for players, media and supporters to cater for the World Cup.

The range of upgrades will allow the historic Perth venue to meet FIFA requirements to be a host venue in the upcoming World Cup, as well as providing benefits for future events.

The State Government also confirmed that work on the State Football Centre had commenced, with the $32.5m facility jointly funded by Federal and State Governments.

WA’s first ever Home of Football is due for completion before the 2023 Women’s World Cup. The elite facility will be the capable of hosting visiting international teams as a training ground, as well as grassroots football and junior development programs. It will also be the new headquarters for Football West.

McGowan spoke on the potential positive impacts of the planned improvements to HBF Park.

“Securing games in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup is a massive win for Western Australia. This investment in HBF Park will provide some much-needed upgrades to our premier soccer and rugby venue, while also enabling further temporary fit-outs for the World Cup games,” he said.

“This will be the biggest football event Perth has ever seen – providing global exposure for Western Australia and giving fans, young and old, lifelong memories of the world’s best in action.”

Football West CEO James Curtis added: “The State Football centre will support all players across Western Australia as they progress on the pathway. Hopefully we can see future players like Sam Kerr come through and train at that facility and make their way to the Matildas.”

“When we look at the investment for HBF Park, we know that when the Women’s World Cup comes here in 2023 the experience for football fans across WA will be something else. What it is all about is seeing some of the world’s best footballers come here to play in Perth, and we are looking forward to hosting them and having the community turn up and really get behind the sport.

“We know on the back of the Olympics, we know how popular women’s football is, and people are very excited for 2023 to happen.”

Artist Sketch
A detailed artist’s impression of the State Football Centre was released along with the announcement.

Why 2021 was a groundbreaking year for Australian football

Olympics

As 2021 draws to a close, it has proved to be another fantastic year of growth for the game.

With the 2023 Women’s World Cup on home soil edging closer, the tournament is one of the main driving forces behind facility funding and infrastructure in particular that will play a key role for the Matildas and visiting teams.

In a recap of 2021 highlights, Soccerscene picks out five contributors towards a groundbreaking year for Australian football.

The APL have officially been given the reigns

The long-awaited hand over of Australia’s professional leagues has provided A-League club owners with greater impetus to invest than ever before. The impact of the unbundling, which was officially confirmed at the last possible minute on December 31, 2020, is yet to be fully realised. But it has to be said that the signs thus far point to a positive future for football.

The Australian Professional Leagues (APL), the entity charged with growing the professional leagues in Australia, have already begun to endear themselves to the passionate domestic football fanbase, simply through making substantial decisions for the benefit of football in the short and long-term.

ViacomCBS

So far, the APL have delivered. A unified A-Leagues which has seen the Men’s and Women’s game united under one banner; the wholehearted support of broadcaster 10 ViacomCBS as the home of Australian football; the launch of the KEEPUP digital platform to serve as the go-to hub for all things domestic and international football; and a $100 million investment into football here from American private equity firm Silver Lake.

There is no denying that those who have sought to take the game in a positive direction are seeking to do as such through their actions, rather than their words.

Investment in National Premier Leagues infrastructure across the country

National Premier Leagues (NPL) sides across Australia placed a significant focus on the growth and investment into their infrastructure in 2021.

As of November, the upgrades to Clennett’s Lightwood Park are underway, ensuring that Kingborough Lions FC’s home ground will be given a significant opportunity to potentially host training basecamps for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.

The club were recipients of a portion of the Tasmanian Government’s $10 million pledge to upgrade facilities in preparation for hosting World Cup content.

Tasmania

NPL NSW 4 side Parramatta Eagles FC were successful in securing a well-overdue upgrade to the iconic Melita Stadium. The Eagles contributed $20,000 to the upgrade and were successful in obtaining $50,000 from the Community Building Partnerships Program.

Melita Stadium is a historic venue known to all that love the world game and has been given a new lease on life thanks to the funding. Beyond the historic relevance, the arrival of the upgrade to Melita Stadium in 2021 contains with it the symbolic implication of an overriding investment into football facilities across the board.

Edgeworth Eagles’ nearly $1.5 million development has ushered the historic Northern NSW side into a new era. A quarter of a million of the investment went into floodlighting to provide adequate lighting for the club’s many programs and teams, leaving them as the only NPL side with 500 Lux on their ground.

Eagles

In addition, Victorian NPL 2 side North Sunshine Eagles saw a newly redeveloped $8.4 million facility based in Ardeer established to house their entire junior setup out of More Park from 2022.

The facility has two full size rectangular pitches, a 21x12m fully enclosed futsal court, a mini pitch (suitable for MiniRoos), four female-friendly changerooms as well as a fully accessible sports pavilion, community social room and expanded carpark.

The efforts being made by these clubs (and plenty more) must be commended, particularly in light of yet another COVID-19 impacted season that forced competitions across the country to end early.

State federations make strides to advance the game 

Exciting partnership news extended across the country, with notable deals including: Football South Australia announcing a new eight-year partnership with leading LED manufacturer One World LED & Sportal; Football West linking up with Veo Technologies to support West Australian clubs; and Capital Football beginning their new apparel partnership with Australian sports clothing manufacturer ISC.

Football Queensland have taken immense strides as a member federation this year, following the release of Future of Football 2020+. In August, FQ Members voted on 11 resolutions put forward with an overwhelming show of support for the Future of Football 2020+ reforms, the first the game has seen in 20 years.

Football West CEO James Curtis stepped down from his role with the intention of setting a precedent of leadership succession for the West Coast’s representative football federation, and perhaps for Australian football as a whole.

Football West

In a sport where in-fighting and over-politicising has undoubtedly impeded the game in the past, such movements are indicative of the changing approach to how football is governed.

The women’s game is given the focus it deserves

With the excitement of an upcoming Women’s World Cup to be co-hosted with New Zealand in 2023, opportunities have finally been presented to the women’s game to give it the attention and investment it has deserved. Such spotlight is undeniably overdue, especially considering the overwhelming presence and support of the Matildas across the Australian sporting public.

With the women’s game expected to grow in interest and participation over the next decade, female friendly amenities are essential in ensuring a safe and inviting space is facilitated for women to prepare for competition and training.

The lack of female friendly football facilities has been slowly rectified in 2021, with the likes of Nepean Football Association side, St Marys Band Rangers FC, recently seeing an upgrade to the facility at their home ground, Kevin Dwyer Fields. Fresh paint, new bench seating and most importantly lockable showers and toilets for females has been added to the existing change rooms.

The Nest

Football Australia’s announcement in August of a High Performance Coaching Initiative will look to help women’s football move beyond the well documented barriers. In an Australian football first, over 150 women coaches at various levels will partake in a comprehensive study to better understand their coaching landscape in the first phase of the Initiative.

By taking on an evidence-based approach, women coaches in football will be supported, engaged with, developed, and retained to increase the numbers in high performance.

For regional football, a NSW Government funded talent identification and youth development program was announced in January to take place over the next three years to help young girls who aspire to play for the Matildas.

The $750,000 initiative is designed for girls aged 12 to 18 years old, with funding to support the establishment of training hubs across the state and identifying talented young players will be further supported through the provision of training camps and player support scholarships.

Australian football finally has the ‘new dawn’ it’s been waiting for

Starting anew, with expansive scope available to Football Australia, the APL and the member federations to lead Australian football out of its tumultuous, and often chaotic, adolescent years, the opportunity is now here to ensure that Australian football reaches its lofty potential.

There is plenty to be excited for, particularly with a National Second Division touted for 2023 that will arguably stamp Football Australia and the APL’s commitment to uniting the game between the professional, semi-professional and grassroots tiers.

Ultimately however, Australian football needs to work to win back many fans who have become disenchanted with how the game has been run. In an interview with Soccerscene ahead of the A-Leagues season, 10 ViacomCBS Executive Producer Geoff Bullock acknowledged that the broadcasters were looking to bring a “fan-first approach to broadcasting football” in Australia. If one thing is clear about the future, Australian football must reignite the passion of the fans in this country.

References to a ‘new dawn’ for Australian football will understandably be taken with a grain of salt from the footballing public. But even the most tentative Australian football adherent would feel a greater hope and optimism for the future. It’s simply a matter of patience.

Fans

Nepean Football Association celebrates new synthetic pitches

Synthetic fields

The Nepean Football Association are elated following the construction of their first-ever synthetic fields in the area, thanks to Penrith City Council and the NSW Government.

Jamison Park is now the proud home of two synthetic rectangular football fields, which also incorporates a cricket wicket and an AFL field.

The $4 million project has delivered two full size FIFA Quality synthetic fields, featuring 100 lux smart technology LED floodlights for the Nepean FA.

The project was jointly funded by Penrith City Council and the NSW Government, through the Greater Sydney Sports Facility Fund and a contribution from the Nepean Football Association.

Jamison Park is the most used sporting facility in the Penrith City Council area, attracting approximately 300,000 visitors a year.

“Synthetic fields provide a raft of benefits to the community, including significantly higher usage tolerance, consistency, and quality of play and most applicable to football the ability to play in the rain or post significant rainfall,” Football NSW Manager – Government Relations, Funding and Infrastructure, Daniel Ristic said.

Nepean Football Association Chief Executive Officer Linda Cerone was full of praise to Penrith City Council and the NSW Government.

“Nepean Football Association and the residents of Penrith City Council now have a multi-use facility for everyone,” she said.

“On behalf of the Nepean FA Board and the 12,500 registered players thank you to Minister Ayres, the NSW State Government and Penrith City Council for making this project possible.

“Nepean FA has a venue that can be used play seven days a week regardless of the weather conditions.”

Jamison Park is now well on its way in becoming the Home of Football for the Nepean Football Association.

The upgrade at Jamison Park forms part of the NSW Football Infrastructure Strategy, specifically the key pillars of Improving Existing Venue Capacity, Homes of Football and Planning for Growth and Demand.

In the next 10 years, the Penrith LGA is expected to see an additional 61,000 residents. The potential market for new participants (if the current 3.8% state average participation rate is applied) will see an additional 2,300 participants in Penrith.

The introduction of the inaugural synthetic fields in Penrith will capture the predicted growth in the area.

This growth is further highlighted by the number of registered players in the Nepean FA over the last three years. Despite two affected years due to COVID-19, the association has seen a growth of 12% – an additional 1,400 participants in just three years.

The FIFA Women’s World Cup is now just 18 months away, where the best female football athletes will be plying their craft in our backyard. The World Cup will no doubt bring further interest in the world game and an increase in female participants across NSW.

Jamison Park will be used for football competition in the summer months, with the site being used by the Nepean FA in the winter season for training, competition games, coaching, referees’ courses, plus more.

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