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Phil Moss: Australian football coaches deserve better

Phil Moss

Former Central Coast Mariners coach Phil Moss claims football coaches in Australia deserve more respect and a higher level of support.

Speaking exclusively to Soccerscene, the former A-League coach claimed associations such as Football Coaches Australia (FCA), which he is currently president of, will improve the conditions and reputation of coaches in Australia.

“I think the main aim (of FCA) is to wrap coaches with a support mechanism, give them a collective voice and really drive towards a level of respect for coaches that we haven’t seen in this country,” he said.

“We’re always the easy option when things go wrong.

“There’s an old saying, when the team’s going well the players are great, but when the team’s losing it’s because the coach doesn’t know what he is doing.”

Moss had various coaching stints in his career at Dee Why FC, Northern Spirit youth (assistant), Manly United and the Olyroos (assistant) before moving to the Mariners in 2010.

He took over from Graham Arnold after being an assistant coach for the club in the three years prior, which included a championship winning season in 2012-2013.

Moss led the Mariners to a third placed finish in his first season as head coach in 2013-14.

However, he was eventually sacked near the end of his second season in charge after disagreements with the owner.

“We had a fantastic first season, we had a lot of success, we missed the grand final by one game,” Moss said.

“We also missed out on the second round of the ACL by a point and then we sold a lot of players. In the January transfer window of the following season, I think I lost six players in that period and that proved to be really tough.

“Things spiralled out a bit from there and the owner and I fell out. There was only going to be one winner in that situation.”

Moss believes a lack of appropriate professional support at the time of his removal, planted the seeds for his eventual involvement in FCA.

Central Coast ended up compensating Moss in the region of around $500,000 according to The Daily Telegraph, after his case for wrongful dismissal was settled before a court date. (Moss would go on to be an assistant coach at Sydney FC in 2017).

“I had my family, my closest friends, my mobile phone and a pretty good lawyer and that was it. That’s where FCA sort of morphed from.

“My mantra is to make sure no Australian coach is ever in the same situation I was in. Plenty of others before me were in (that situation) with no real support.”

Steps in the right direction have been taken to improve the employment conditions and general well-being of coaches through work driven by the association.

FCA recently released the findings of a study completed by the University of Queensland on these factors.

The report showcases data which highlights the need for contractual guidelines to be implemented, as well as standardising grievance and dispute resolution procedures, among other things.

FCA hopes to address these issues and move quickly into a process to fix them.

“We’re fighting for better conditions for coaches and probably a bit more uniformity,” claimed Moss.

“We are working hard on a well-being program for coaches, to support coaches in and out of jobs and in that transition into a job and out of a job. So, all those things are really important to us.”

The association was also in contact with the FFA and A-League clubs, before the start of this A-League season.

Greg O’Rourke and the FFA were kind enough to give us a slot during their agenda with the coaches.

“That was an opportunity for us to ask the coaches what their issues were, going into the season.

“We’re in the process of sharing that information with FFA and working through that, and not just with the FFA but obviously the new operating company of the independent A-league.”

The organisation has a seat at the table in the discussion for the introduction of a national second division, thanks to FFA Board member Remo Nogarotto.

Nogarotto is the current chair of the National Second Division Working Group.

Moss is thankful for FCA’s inclusion in the conversation, in what will provide elite Australian coaches with more job opportunities in the future.

“Full credit to Remo and his working group, for seeing it fit to include coaches.

“At the end of the day, coaches are responsible for the happiness and the satisfaction of four key stakeholders, the ownership and boards, the dressing room, the fans and the media.

“So, when you’ve got that sort of vested interest in the game, holistically, it seems really illogical not to have coaches part of the discussion and part of the decision-making process around the game.”

After being formally elected as president of FCA in July 2018, Moss was re-elected at an AGM in August of this year, in what was a proud moment for him.

Speaking about the privilege of leading FCA, Moss said: “It’s a massive honour. Probably aside from coaching in the A-League as a head coach, it’s right up there.”

Philip Panas is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game. Follow him on Twitter @PhilipPanas

Heidelberg United: Modernising youth development with SoccerPLAY

At all levels of the game technology is having a profound impact on football. While spectators focus largely on tools like VAR and goal-line technology, coaches and administrators are increasingly turning to sports science and innovation to seek a competitive advantage.

It was searching for this competitive edge that led Chris Theodorou, Football Programs Manager at Heidelberg FC to SoccerPLAY, an online management system which is revolutionising the club’s youth development.

“SoccerPLAY does more than just support coaches, it allows clubs to create a structure and a style. It’s a methodology,” Theodorou says.

SoccerPLAY is currently being used by more than 100 clubs and football federations around the world, including AC Milan and the Dutch Football Association.

The system gives users access to more than 800 exercises and training drills which can use to create training programs, improve specific skills, and track player development.

“The structure is phenomenal. It allows a football department to put together a program that can be accessed on a phone, tablet or computer,” he adds.

“It helps to keep training fresh and there are different formats for each exercise, so it provides coaches with all the tools they need to feel supported,” he adds.

Coaches can also create their own exercises which they can upload onto the system and form training schedules in weekly, fortnightly, or monthly blocks.

“If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Sporting organisations love to see their coaches turning up well prepared and with this system they will never run out of ideas,” Theodorou says.

“There are different objectives listed, so a coach or technical director can search specifically to find relevant exercises. From basics like first touch, passing, and movement to more advanced things such as building from the back and possession play, there are different formats of drills for everything.”

Each of SoccerPLAY’s  training exercises comes with a detailed guide on how to execute the drill correctly. This includes information on what equipment is needed, an animation providing an overview of the movements, and a real-life instructional video designed to demonstrate correct technique.

Theodorou highlights the video depicting technique as a particularly valuable tool for Australian coaches.

“The instructional videos are technique-focused because in Europe if you can’t pass, you can’t play. Whereas here in Australia we emphasise going hard and fast,” he says.

As SoccerPLAY is designed to incorporate youth development for all ages, there are exercises that are suitable for players in the under-6 age bracket through to under-19’s.

Many of the drills have variations which provide coaches the option to simplify them or make them more challenging, depending on the age group and skill level of the players.

“You don’t want to give five or six-year-old players too much information, so the drills are simple in order not to overcomplicate things. It’s also recommended that you don’t change what they are doing too often, whereas with older groups you can be more creative,” Theodorou says.

In addition to assisting coaches with an overarching training program, SoccerPLAY allows football departments an unprecedented ability to track individual player development.

“The player tracking is awesome. You can record a player’s results in agility tests, beep tests, sprint tests and so forth then track how they improve over the course of the year. At Heidelberg we aim to do these three or four times over the year to measure their developments,” Theodorou says.

“You can also track how players are performing in matches by uploading statistics and video snippets to their profile. For example, you can upload clips of a player doing something really well or if they’ve made a mistake, then you can show them the footage in order to identify learning opportunities.”

The key to SoccerPLAY’s effectiveness is the calibre of its designers, Dutch football experts Patrick Ladru, Bram Meurs and David Zonneveld. All three have all had distinguished careers within football, specifically youth development and education.

Among their many achievements, Ladru was a youth manager and then scout at AFC Ajax, Meurs played at PSV Eindhoven and now operates as a sports psychologist, and Zonneveld served as a youth coach at FC Volendam and now specialises in motorised learning for children.

“Ladru has worked with Johan Cruyff and the likes, he creates many of the exercises himself. Bram focuses more on the mental components of the system and what sort of actions players need to do off the ball and then there’s David, who specialises in teaching players behaviours and habits,” Theodorou says.

In Australia, SoccerPLAY is just beginning to gain traction with Heidelberg United being one of the first clubs to adopt the system.

As an active user of the program, Theodorou believes Australian football should be more open to stepping away from traditional practices and embracing new ideas.

“This is where FFA and FFV are missing the mark. Our national youth teams are not making World Cups so how are our seniors going to make World Cups in the future?” he says.

“The coaches that have embraced SoccerPLAY here think it’s unbelievable, its designed to be simple and effective.”

Matildas and Olyroos receive funding boost for Olympics

The Matildas and Olyroos will receive a high-performance grant from the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) to prepare for next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

The Olyroos will receive a one-off high-performance grant of $400,000 from the AIS, whilst the Matildas will have a longer-term commitment of funding from the institute beyond the conclusion of the Olympic games.

The AIS will draw the funds from the Federal Government’s $50.6 million investment package in high performance sport for the next two years, which was announced last month.

FFA CEO James Johnson welcomed the announcement and contribution from the respective parties.

“We appreciate and acknowledge the investment of the AIS and the Federal Government into the Matildas and the Olyroos ahead of Tokyo 2020,” Johnson said.

“The high-performance funding that both the Federal Government and also the Australian Institute of Sport provides our code is extremely important.”

“Football is the world’s most competitive sport – there are 211 countries across the world that are playing it, 46 in Asia alone. In Asia, Governments are investing in national team activity, so this additional support is helpful for us as we aim to continue to maintain our competitiveness against our neighbouring countries.

“We believe that the participation of the Matildas and Olyroos at next year’s Games – the first time that they have competed together since Athens 2004 – will add significant interest and excitement to the Games in Australia.

“Football has two million participants in Australia, so we expect our sport’s presence on this great international stage to play an important role in engaging Australians with Tokyo 2020, and inspiring more kids to take up sport and be active. And we look forward to working closely with the AIS and Government as we build up to the FIFA Women’s World Cup on home soil in 2023,” he concluded.  

The Olyroos will compete at their first Olympic games since Beijing 2008, whereas the Matildas reached the quarter finals of the 2016 tournament in Rio.

Will Australia ever see the FFA Cup again?

A total of 765 football clubs had registered to compete in the 2020 FFA Cup, yet a recent decision to cancel the competition may well have put its future in doubt.

Football Federation Australia arrived at the necessary yet unfortunate decision last week whilst also announcing the cancelation of the NPL Finals series due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In terms of the NPL Finals Series, the financial ramifications of the last six months will no doubt have played a major role in informing the move. Interstate travel appears an impossibility considering the losses in gate takings and sponsorship that each and every club across the country will have no doubt experienced in 2020.

A return to NPL play may well see the clubs delve even further into the red as running costs continue to remain higher than the meagre amounts being accumulated in sponsorship revenue and match day takings.

As for the FFA Cup, financial considerations will also have played a role in the decision, yet the sheer logistics of the competition and the time now available to complete it must surely have proven the final nail in the coffin when it came to FFA’s announcement.

The preliminary rounds slated for early 2020 were obliterated by the pandemic and many teams would normally have been eliminated by this stage of the calendar year. With a frantic month of A-League action now upon us in an effort to complete a season that has stretched for near ten months and NPL play ramping up as we speak, the chances of cramming cup, NPL and A-League into the most chaotic of schedules and crowning champions in all three by Christmas, appears something of an impossible task.

Sadly, the 7th edition of Australia’s much loved and long awaited cup competition has been necessarily torpedoed by the governing body. More concerning are real fears that it may be the last we have seen of it.

The FFA Cup brought something unique to the domestic game and provided Australian fans with a basic tenant of football so longed for and domestically absent. All over the world, league competitions pause frequently, as both minnows and heavy hitters take their chances in knockout play in an attempt to raise their respective nation’s cup trophy.

Such a moment says nothing about consistency, staying the course or a clubs’ dominance in home and away play. Cup competition is all about the moment and the ability to seize one, particularly when teams from lower divisions force their way into the later stages and seek to scare the heck out of their top tier rivals.

Thus the phrase, ‘cupset’.

Despite Australia’s cup having never left the hands of the A-League clubs, the competition is structured in such a way that a lower tiered team always features in the final four. In much the same way that EPL teams are kept away from each other in England’s FA Cup, Australia’s elite clubs do not meet until the late rounds, with NPL clubs in full training and competition given the chance to knock off their fancied rivals who are still to build into top form during their pre-season.

Most years, the ‘cupset’ plays out.

With suburban grounds hosting matches in mid-winter conditions, the atmosphere of the FFA Cup is both unique and inspiring. Traditional clubs draw considerable support from their communities and the subsequent lift in performance of the semi-professional teams has been evident on many occasions during the competitions’ short but impressive history.

Without stern determination to ensure its survival and return, the FFA Cup may well be another in a long line of victims that the coronavirus takes in 2020.

The cold reality for NPL clubs in a post pandemic world will be financial struggle. The sponsorship and investment challenges mentioned above will remain evident for some time, with many clubs having been openly keen to cancel the 2020 NPL season for fears of only worsening their precarious financial position.

Similar headaches lie ahead for FFA, with a newly signed Fox Sports broadcast deal destined only to cover A and W League play, Socceroo World Cup qualifiers and friendlies, as well as friendly matches involving the Matildas.

As such, those cold winter nights with televised FFA Cup play and live reports from the other fixtures taking place around the country appear gone. Fox obviously saw little return on their investment and have dropped the cup competition as they lessen their overall financial commitment to football.

Whilst many will cite the FFA’s need to take over the production costs of the domestic game and potentially on-sell content to Foxtel, Kayo Sport and potentially other providers, such an endeavour is challenging, long term and involves considerable financial investment.

Doing so in an effort to spark the A and W League may be a fair objective, however, the logistics and expense in attempting to produce the FFA Cup in-house, may well be a bridge too far, especially considering the remote locations that often play host to important matches.

In its official press release FFA expressed a clear desire to bring back #themagicofthecup in 2021, yet despite its best intentions, the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic may well make such a return near impossible.

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