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Peter Filopoulos: There are opportunities in times of crisis

Speaking with Soccerscene, Football Victoria CEO Peter Filopoulos claims the current period presents the game with challenges but also opportunities for the future.

Filopoulos, a highly experienced administrator across a variety of sports, believes nothing in his career compares to the impact the COVID-19 pandemic is currently having.

“This is the biggest disruption that’s faced sport, not just football,” he said.

“In my time of 30 years in sports administration, I’ve never seen anything like it before.

“But I also see this crisis as an opportunity for football to position itself at the backend of this.

“To be able to build a platform for us to change the way we do business and the way we do things, that’s what I’m looking forward to.”

In unprecedented times, Filopoulos said the organisation, alongside collaborative efforts with the FFA, are filling the void for football participants through alternative means.

Initiatives which focus on the mental and physical wellbeing of the footballing community have been implemented in recent weeks.

“We’ve been driving some digital content, which is fantastic,” he said.

“We’ve introduced the #LiveLoveFootball at home campaign.This is a series of skills, videos, activities, quizzes, podcasts, throwbacks, classic moments and more.

“We’ve also got Skills Hub through FFA, that helps the grassroots football community stay active and connected through this time.

“FFA recently launched this online skills hub developed in association with all of us federations, with the #PlayAtHomeChallenge.”

With all football activity suspended until May 31 at the very least, Football Victoria has been in constant contact with local councils, in regards to supporting grassroots football clubs in the state.

According to Filopoulos, around ten councils have already provided rent relief for clubs during this period, with hopefully more to come.

“We are working with the rest of them,” he said.

“We’ve written to them and we’re speaking to them to help support our football clubs in the time of need.

“Not only on the rent relief, but also to try and access facilities post the winter season, for when we resume football activity and (most likely) encroach on the spring season.”

The state governing body has been in consistent dialogue with all levels of government on a number of fronts, including financial assistance.

The organisation recently sent all of its member federation clubs a government assistance overview for the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The Football Victoria CEO explained he is also working with other sports in a bid to garner support from government.

“We’ve all got the common challenge and the common problems,” he said.

“So, we are working as a conglomerate to lobby government.

“Government’s going to be looking towards us for social economic recovery in the backend, we need to be in a financial position to have the capability to do it, so we need the support.”

With recent suggestions a possible rebuild of the game could be close, Filopoulos believes a national second division and connected football pyramid will be a reality in the near future.

“That’s something Football Victoria are very big advocates of. (We are) working with FFA closely to try and deliver that sooner, rather than later.

“I think we’ve got a very supportive CEO and Chair at FFA, it’s a matter of now putting those plans in motion.

“I’d like to think that we can accelerate that strategy at some point, once we are out of this crisis.”

A key to that strategy in a prospective national second division is the involvement of broadcast partners, with Football Victoria having already begun talks about their own product to streaming services such as Optus Sport and Kayo Sports.

“(Discussions) are still progressing, but given that we’ve got no content really to upload or share at the moment it’s gone a little bit on the backburner, hopefully we can resume these discussions at some point.”

For now, however, planning continues behind the scenes at Football Victoria for when football does return.

“In terms of when we get back, we are looking at a number of scenarios at the moment,” Filopoulos said.

“Depending on when we can start, we believe we will be able to complete certain competitions.”

One thing’s for sure, football will bounce back.

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

$1.5 Billion FIFA COVID-19 Relief Plan Approved

FIFA

The Bureau of the FIFA Council has approved the FIFA COVID-19 Relief Plan regulations which aim to financially support member associations during the pandemic.

$1.5 billion USD ($2.1 billion AUD), will be made available by the international governing body to assist the member associations and confederations.

Each member association will receive a $1 million USD universal solidarity grant. An extra $500,000 USD will be provided which can only be used for women’s football.

The six football confederations will also receive $2 million USD each, these grants will be received by the organisations by January 2021.

As a part of the plan member associations will also be able to apply for interest free loans of up to 35 per cent of their annual revenues. FIFA has set a maximum loan limit of five million dollars. Confederations will be able to apply for loan of up to four million dollars.

FIFA said that clear loan repayment conditions are laid out in the regulations along with strict compliance and audit requirements.

“This relief plan is a great example of football’s solidarity and commitment in such unprecedented times,” said FIFA President Gianni Infantino.

“I would like to thank my colleagues of the Bureau of the Council for approving the decision to move forward with such an important initiative for the benefit of all member associations and confederations.”

With the funds provided FIFA believes that member associations will be able to restart competitions, re-hire staff and pay any administration or operating costs.

“Unfortunately, the resultant suspension of basic football activities in almost every country has led to enormous financial distress for member associations and their respective football structures,” FIFA said in the relief plan.

“FIFA quickly recognised the need and duty to implement a FIFA COVID-19 Relief Plan aimed at alleviating this distress and ensuring the provision of financial support to assist with football’s resumption and protect the games future well-being across the globe.”

FIFA administrators created the plan earlier this year after consultation with the confederations. The plan was then approved by the FIFA Council on June 25.

New Zealand Football confirms 2020/21 season details

New Zealand Football has confirmed the details and starting dates of its national competitions for the 2020/21 season, during October and November.

New Zealand Football has confirmed the details and starting dates of its national competitions for the 2020/21 season.

The national men’s football league, the ISPS Handa Premiership will start in November, while the National Women’s League will commence from the weekend of October 31.

COVID-19 has also forced some structural changes to be made to both the men’s and women’s competitions.

In the ISPS Handa Premiership, the competition will feature eight club instead of the usual 10 teams. The South Island teams, Southern United, Tasman United and Canterbury United Dragons, will merge for the upcoming season. They will play under the Canterbury United Dragons name.

The competition will retain its usual format of a regular season with each team playing each other twice before a finals series including semi-finals and a grand final – the latter is expected to be held in March 2021.

Plans for a promotion and relegation framework have been postponed and will be reviewed before the 2021/22 season.

The National Women’s League will be played as a single round robin competition for this season. A grand final will be held on the weekend of December 19. The competition will feature all seven women’s teams.

“It has taken a lot of work with our clubs and federations to get to this stage but we are excited to now be able to confirm initial details of our national competitions for the upcoming season,” Daniel Farrow, General Manager of Football for New Zealand Football said in a statement.

“While Covid-19 and the knock-on effect of shifting community football dates has had an impact on the length of competitions and, in the case of the ISPS Handa Premiership, the number of teams able to take part, running men’s, women’s and futsal national league competitions this year was a key priority and we are very pleased to be able to make that happen.

“We also want to acknowledge the support of Sport NZ and our on-going partnership with Trillian Trust as key contributors to staging competitions this season.”

The 2019/20 ISPS Handa Premiership was called off early in March due to COVID-19. Auckland City, who were leading the competition at the time, were declared champions.

Queensland features an abundance of Matildas

New figures show that Queensland's female development has been incredibly successful in finding new talent, who have represented the Westfield Matildas.

New figures show that Queensland’s female development has been incredibly successful in finding talent, who have represented the Westfield Matildas.

As part of Football Queensland’s latest findings, 40 homegrown players have gone on to represent the Australian Women’s National Team at major senior and youth tournaments since July 2012.

Katrina Gorry, Mackenzie Arnold and Hayley Raso (pictured) are a few examples of local talents working their way up the ranks during the last eight years and will be key contributors in the next Women’s World Cup hosted by Australia and New Zealand in 2023.

Gorry, Arnold and Raso spent time at the Queensland Academy of Sport (QAS) before accomplishing themselves in the Westfield W-League and internationally.

Football Queensland and the QAS combined to launch a full-time training and playing program for upcoming talents in 2018.

“Our pathway is now the envy of every female footballer in the country,” Rae Dower said, a former Matilda and current Junior Matildas Head Coach.

“We’re fully committed to evolving the program and to helping as many female players in Queensland reach their full potential on and off the field through the creation of our high-performance environment.

“We’d love to help make dreams come true for Queensland players wanting to play for the Matildas in a home FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023 and beyond.”

Football Federation Australia revealed more than 18,000 women and girls from Queensland played football in 2019, as part of the latest census findings – a three per cent increase on 2018.

“The numbers we have are very encouraging and we look forward to seeing Queensland produce many more Westfield Matildas,” FQ Technical Director Gabor Ganczer said.

“Having the FIFA Women’s World Cup on home soil will be a big moment and objective for aspirational players and we are putting a lot of resources into helping them achieve their goals, not just now but permanently.”

Football Queensland provided every local player who has represented Australia at Olympic Games, World Cups or Continental Championships since the beginning of July in 2012:

Laura Alleway, Mackenzie Arnold, Mia Bailey, Angela Beard, Georgia Beaumont, Savannah Boller, Eliza Campbell, Kim Carroll, Kyra Cooney-Cross, Larissa Crummer, Isobel Dalton, Casey Dumont, Charlotte Farmer, Ciara Fowler, Mary Fowler, Sunny Franco, Shekinah Friske, Emily Gielnik, Brooke Goodrich, Katrina Gorry, Winonah Heatley, Elise Kellond-Knight, India Kubin, Aivi Luik, Afrikah McGladrigan, Teagan Micah, Ayesha Norrie (Kirby), Hollie Palmer, Clare Polkinghorne, Kezia Pritchard, Hayley Raso, Jamilla Rankin, Taylor Ray, Indiah-Paige Riley, Arina Tokunaga, Kaitlyn Torpey, Cortnee Vine, Natasha Wheeler, Brittany Whitfield, Tameka Yallop (Butt).

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