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Is grassroots soccer more important than the elite level?

Grassroots Soccer

It’s easy to live in the present, to enjoy the moment, the times that you live in. It’s even easier to keep your concentration solely on your priorities in the present. 

But what the great businesses and organisations do differently is what sets them apart from everyone else. Their ability to adapt and look forward to the future, to those who will define their business/organisation when they’re long gone. 

In the case of soccer clubs and the FFA, to keep a sustained and vested interest in grassroots is what is going to hold them in good stead in the next 20-30 years. Planning for the long term, strategically, is critical to the success of anything. 

And it all starts at that level, grassroots. Junior soccer participation numbers are at optimum levels and soccer, as a sport, has never been more popular. The A-League, for all its divisiveness, has grown exponentially and has begun attracting attention from across the world. The NPL, the second division of Australian soccer, has grown in recent years and has risen from the ashes of the NSL. 

Combine this with the fact that the Socceroos haven’t missed a World Cup since 2006, Australian soccer is in a perfect position to capitalise on youth. To motivate them to want to play soccer in the future. To try and turn Australia into a soccer powerhouse. 

It all begins at the grassroots level. Why? First impressions. It’s always about the first impressions, especially with children. The soccer ability of children needs to be nurtured at a young age, in a way that helps develop them as a player, but more importantly as a person. If done successfully and in a way that doesn’t demotivate them, the sky is the limit. 

Take for example, Paris-Saint Germain wonderkid Kylian Mbappe. At 19 years old, he won the FIFA World Cup with France, had played Champions League football, became one of the world’s most expensive players and had comparisons to the great Thierry Henry. How many 19 year old boys can say that they had a net worth of seven plus figures at the same age?  

I certainly can’t say that. And I’m 367 days older than Kylian. But what most likely differentiates him from everyone else is that he had the talent as a junior. That talent was then nurtured correctly, allowing him to unlock his potential as a soccer player. His career would be nothing without the hard work he puts in, obviously. But at a young age, his ability was recognised and then allowed the blossom under the guidance of the right people. 

And sure, meeting Thierry Henry at a young age would’ve motived him to no end. It would motivate anyone, really. But all that motivation would culminate in him understanding how hard he needed to work to get to the top. Nothing comes without hard work, that’s a fact. But through his upbringing, coaching and talent, he has been able to do what very few can. 

On the flip side of all that, we have those who had the talent, but not the work ethic. Casual fans refer to these players as ‘flops’. It’s a very harsh word to use, but they’re on the right track. 

Take Ravel Morrison. I’m sure Manchester United fans know this name all too well. Once described by Rio Ferdinand and Sir Alex Ferguson as the next big thing, Morrison always had the talent. Plus, playing for Manchester United and under Ferguson would’ve been the dream for a young player wanting to make a name for themselves. 

But Morrison, as the soccer world has come to know, didn’t have the desire to work hard. Loaned out more times than we could count, sold off to different clubs, Morrison saw his career go from hero to zero. 

After being sent out on loan by Italian club Lazio to Mexican club Atlas, Morrison decided to permanently move closer to home, signing a contract with Swedish club Ostersunds. But to say it’s a huge fall from grace would be the understatement of the year. And it’s barely March. 

Morrison could’ve been anything. An England great, a United great, a Champions League winner. He had the soccer world at his feet. But he lacked the one thing he needed most to attain all those accolades. 

The desire to work hard. 

And here we are. He’s 26, supposed to be in the prime of his career. Yet, he couldn’t be further from it. And for how much people will say he’s the definition of a ‘flop’, it’s actually quite sad. He would’ve had dreams, wanting to be the next superstar, just like any other young star. But it hasn’t come to fruition. He still has time to turn it around, but we’ve been saying it for so long now, it’s almost like beating a dead horse. One can hope. 

But he does show one thing, if nothing else. The grassroots level is critical to the development of soccer players, mentally and physically. If a player has the talent, it needs to be nurtured. If nurtured properly, it becomes a case of wanting to do the hard yards all day, every day. Some will turn out to be Mbappes, some will turn out to be Morrisons.  

But everything has a beginning. And the beginning is the most integral part of the entire process. 

Soccerscene is committed to promoting, enhancing and growing the soccer industry in Australia. We believe soccer news has captured the attention of grassroots soccer clubs, apparel and equipment suppliers – which extends to governing bodies, club administrators and industry decision makers. Many of the auxiliary products and services support the growth of the soccer industry in Australia and Asia, a passion we also share and want to express through our work.

Paramount Plus must pounce on EPL rights in Australia

ViacomCBS have begun broadcasting Australian football content in the past several weeks across the 10 Network and its free streaming platform 10 play, in the opening stages of the company’s $300 million investment deal into the game.

The majority of content, such as Socceroos, Matildas, A-League and W-League matches, will eventually be broadcast on the company’s SVOD service Paramount Plus in the coming months.

A revamped presentation of the game will be implemented across the new TV deal, as highlighted by the recent announcement that the Saturday night A-League broadcast shown on Channel 10 will also feature live crosses and a ‘goal rush’ type innovation involving the other simultaneous match, something which is currently seen in top league broadcasts around the world.

Fresh ideas such as this are welcomed, but ViacomCBS may need to look at further options to build rapport with fans of the round ball game in Australia.

One of those opportunities they should pursue, and strongly, is looking to secure the EPL rights off Optus Sport.

Optus Sport have held the rights since 2016, after beating out Foxtel at the time.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, English Premier League officials have begun talks with local media companies in regards to the broadcast rights to one of the world’s biggest sporting competitions.

Optus Sport’s existing deal ends at the conclusion of this season, with a blind auction in November set to decide who will show the league in the coming seasons.

ViacomCBS’s Paramount Plus is considered to be one of four candidates who are reportedly in the running to land the EPL broadcast rights, alongside current rights holders Optus Sport, Amazon Prime and Stan Sport.

The rights are expected to cost as much as $80 million a year, but that figure may be higher if there is a strong competitive process for them, which looks likely.

If the EPL was to be secured and shown on Paramount Plus, there would be significant benefits across the board for ViacomCBS and also for football in Australia.

Having both the EPL and A-League on the same service would place Paramount Plus as a must have service for the large majority of football fans in Australia.

The acquisition of the EPL would add a huge amount of value to Paramount Plus as a streaming product and bring over those fans who would not commit to the service for just A-League and W-League matches.

Their subscriber numbers would grow substantially, and a free-to-air EPL game on Channel 10 may be a strategic possibility, to draw even more people to sign up for the subscription service.

Alongside the original entertainment programming that they have on their service, Paramount Plus with the EPL and A-League rights, will go close to rivalling the bigger streaming platforms such as Netflix and Stan.

For Australian football, having both leagues together in the one place would mirror similar benefits the A-League had on Fox Sports when they also showcased live EPL broadcasts.

Most Australian football fans will remember Matchday Saturday on Fox Sports with great fondness, where A-League matches would precede EPL matches in what was a feast for football fans every week, all in one place.

The A-League peaked in popularity around that timeframe, and it’s plausible that a larger quantity of fans tuned into the local domestic competition before they would also watch EPL matches later in the night.

Administrators from the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) will be hoping a sense of deja vu occurs again, on a different platform this time around.

Packaging up the two leagues would provide cross promotional possibilities to continue to lift the profile of the A-League and may eventually convince fans of overseas clubs to also support a local team.

Turning general fans of football into A-League or W-League supporters is something that the APL have noted they are focusing on in the years to come, after unbundling from the FA.

Utilizing the advantages of having the Premier League rights on the same service may fast track those outcomes, but that is dependant on the willingness and commercial factors which decide ViacomCBS’s next moves.

However, for growth prospects in the local game and also in their own Paramount Plus streaming service, ViacomCBS may find this opportunity too good to refuse.

 

Football Victoria announce 2021 refund policy

Football Victoria has announced a refund policy that will provide over $1.75 million of refunds to members across the state.

The refunds are based on a formula that take into account the 2021 Football Victoria “No Season” Refund multiplied by the percentage of rounds that were not played.

Football Victoria’s refund policy allocates refunds on both a per player and team basis, with the total refunds being returned to clubs and players totalling in excess of $1.75 million.

Player refunds will be processed via clubs.

The Football Victoria statement announcing the refund policy read:

“Most of our community will recall from both the 2020 and preliminary 2021 policies, that a cost apportionment model is used to generate the relevant refunds for each competition. It is really important to note that FV’s costs are not linear to the season, with an overwhelming proportion of the work to provide football competitions completed prior to the season’s commencement. This is reflected in the preliminary version of the 2021 Fee Refund Policy released pre-season, which contained relevant refunds for a ‘no-season scenario’.

“Based on this cost apportionment model only, no refunds would be payable at this stage of the season. However, FV is acutely aware of the financial impacts to the football ecosystem and its stakeholders. Through this updated policy, we have made a strong commitment to supporting our Clubs and players, at a time when they need it most.

“As a result, we have developed a formula, as below, to deliver funds back to both Clubs and players, to support your football journey and a return to football in 2022. We have applied cost apportionment principles, as represented through the ‘no season’ refund percentages, as well as the percentage of rounds unable to be completed for each competition.”

The announcement also confirmed that Football Victoria would be establishing principles within the Rules of Competition that are better equipped to deal with the consequences of cancelled or partially completed seasons.

“We cannot help but reflect on where our game could have been, if not for the back-to-back season interruptions in 2020 and 2021. While the 2021 season cancellations across the state didn’t come as a surprise to many, we know it doesn’t make it any easier to accept, including what this means for promotion, relegation and awarding champions,” the statement reads.

“In advance of the 2022 season, the Board is committed to ensuring the Rules of Competition reflect a clear set of principles in the event of any future interrupted or incomplete seasons.

“Many Clubs have reinforced a strong desire to play football in any format, when it is safe to do so. The call of the pitch is strong and we will be working with Clubs to provide football in all ways, at venues across the state in spring and summer. We look forward to sharing more information on this shortly when we have direction from the Victorian Government.”

You can access the refund policy HERE.

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