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.