Is the time finally right for Australia to host the FIFA World Cup?

In a story that caught the eyes of the Australian football community last week, sport and government officials are said to be planning a bid to host the 2030 or 2034 FIFA World Cup down under.

The idea to host the world’s biggest sporting event in Australia is a key part of a strategy that looks to bring a selection of major events to the country, on the back of Brisbane securing the 2032 Olympic Games.

FA CEO James Johnson explained that the governing body has not yet decided to bid for the World Cup, but suggested it is a part of the vision they have for the game.

“It’s an aspiration (hosting the World Cup), that’s part of our vision,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“The next time I think we could realistically host it is 2034 because 2026 is in North America, 2022 is in Asia, 2030 – I think – will go to Europe or South America. There’s an opportunity to bring the World Cup back to Asia, the Asia-Pacific area, in 2034.”

A factor which should strengthen Australia’s case to be the home of a future World Cup is the hosting of the upcoming Women’s World Cup in 2023.

In a pattern which Australia is hoping to follow, Canada hosted the Women’s World Cup in 2015 and used it as a stepping stone to eventually win the right to host part of the 2026 World Cup, alongside Mexico and USA.

Australia, alongside co-hosts New Zealand, are set to sell a record number of tickets for the 2023 tournament.

FIFA have opened an office in Australia to assist with the dealings in the build-up to the 2023 Women’s World Cup, which gives FA access and the opportunity to open dialogue with FIFA administrators and pursue their future ambitions.

The FA CEO knows however, it is imperative that Australia delivers a world class tournament to stand any chance of winning the right to host a future World Cup.

“What I can say is we’ve got an opportunity with the 2023 Women’s World Cup – I think we will deliver an outstanding tournament. If we can deliver the best ever Women’s World Cup tournament, it does put you in a good position to take on more FIFA competitions,” Johnson said.

Australia was awarded the 2023 Women’s World Cup under a new FIFA voting process, which is also set to give the country more of a chance to win a further vote this time around in 2030 or more likely 2034.

Under Australia’s previous World Cup bid in 2010, they secured a singular vote from FIFA’s council.

However, the new voting method gives all 211 national member associations a chance to vote, rather than the previous secretive process which was conducted by FIFA council members.

Australia may have further success with this system due to the transparent nature of it and minimization of influence from FIFA’s top dogs.

One of those head honchos is Gianni Infantino, president of FIFA, who has steered the ship in the organisation after replacing Sepp Blatter in 2016.

Johnson believes Infantino’s approach to competitions would mean Australia is going to have to find a partnering country for any future bid for a World Cup.

“If you look at the way Gianni is wanting to run his competition strategies, he wants cross-nation competitions. I don’t see any future World Cups being run by one country,” said Johnson.

“It is something that would need to be done with other countries in the region, both in the Asia and probably Oceania region.”

FA have previously held discussions with Indonesia about hosting a World Cup and they, alongside New Zealand, are the most likely candidates to partner with Australia if they bid.

Sharing the bid with another country like Indonesia will have its benefits, such as improving relations between both countries and also halving the costs of an expensive exercise.

There will be difficulties that need to be worked out, but this may be Australia’s best chance to host a World Cup in the foreseeable future.

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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.

Joe Montemurro’s move to Lyon showcases elite coaching talent from Australia

Joe Montemurro has become the first non-French coach to take over Olympique Lyon Women’s team in their 20-year history after a two-year deal was struck with the legendary Australian coach.

The former Juventus and Arsenal head coach takes over the reins from Sonia Bompastor who left at the end of the 2023-24 season to manage WSL club Chelsea.

Montemurro’s resume in the women’s game is truly unmatched, leading Juventus to five trophies over a three year stretch including a treble in his maiden season. Before that he had a revolutionary coaching spell at WSL giants Arsenal, with whom he claimed the 2018 League Cup and the Women’s Super League the following year.

Montemurro is just another of many top Australian coaches produced from home soil, with his youth squads and A-League Women’s experience in Melbourne shaping the genius he has become today.

However, a hot topic in the Australian coaching community has been the lack of opportunities abroad for many local coaches whether it be due to the lack of pathways up the ranks or the AFC/UEFA licencing issue that has locked out managers from going abroad.

In a country that has produced plenty of elite manager talent, there are 14 managers in head coaching roles abroad, with only four of those in Europe (Oxtoby, Postecoglou, Montemurro, and Wehrman). It’s simply not enough.

Names like Jeff Hopkins and Ante Juric, who have plied their trade in Australian women’s football with many titles each are left to ponder the opportunity of coaching abroad without their UEFA licence acquired.

Both Montemurro and Oxtoby in particular have been pioneers in the women’s game regarding the seamless transition from Australia to European success, and the consistent successes of the former will surely legitimise women’s football more in this country and increase opportunities for the next generation of coaches who start locally and experience early success.

With this move, Montemurro also unfortunately rules himself out of the coveted Matildas manager position that he was certainly one of the leading contenders for. It was a story of poor timing with Australia’s best ever women’s football coach left to wait too long for Gustavsson to make way.

Montemurro also ended up on the final three of the shortlist in the USWNT’s pursuit of a new manager with the Olympics arriving soon, however legendary Chelsea manager Emma Hayes was selected to take over.

However, it could be for the better, with Lyon’s sky high expectations something that Montemurro will be very familiar with because of his time at both Arsenal and Juventus.

Lyon have won the French league 17 times in the last 18 seasons, making the league title the minimum requirement for Montemurro, who has really been brought on board to get them back on top in Europe after they lost to Barcelona in last month’s Champions League final.

Montemurro’s move to Europe’s elite is another step forward in his career and again showcases an example of local coaching success translating into roles in Europe, something that has not been seen enough for football in Australia.

PFA release Matildas report on the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup outlining success

Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) have published a new report on the Matildas and the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup that showcase positive numbers regarding the growth of the women’s game.

After a successful World Cup and a record-breaking A-League Women’s campaign in many areas, this comprehensive report is a guideline to FIFA and the AFC on how to tackle the current problems and challenges.

The report presents four pivotal recommendations that they believe will significantly contribute to the ongoing growth and success of women’s football. These include:

– A-League Women Professionalisation

The report suggests that it is imperative that the A-League Women adopts full-time professionalism as soon as possible to allow players to maximise their potential and produce the next generation of Matildas.

It currently lacks in that department compared to the top European leagues and is under threat from falling behind.

The A-League Women’s league has provided a crucial development platform for Australian football’s most successful, valuable, and powerful assets.

Every Matilda named in the World Cup squad had played in the A-League Women’s competition, playing a combined 1,953 matches prior to the World Cup.

– Equal World Cup Prize Money

Prize money for the 2023 Women’s World Cup was one quarter that of the 2022 Men’s World Cup. FIFA has suggested it intends to equalise prize money for the 2026-2027 cycle, but it has added a caveat that this is contingent on commercial outcomes.

However, the PFA pushes for FIFA to start their commitment now in order to build a foundation that will breed marketing and commercial success rather than wait.

The evidence from this recent World Cup suggests commercial success and potential is there if the funding gets lifted to allow it to grow.

– Increased Club Solidarity Fund

The report’s third recommendation, an increased Club Solidarity Fund, is an urgent call to action.

The Women’s World Cup Club Solidarity Fund for 2023 was US$11.5 million, just 5.5% of the men’s 2022 fund.

A substantial increase to the Women’s World Cup Club Solidarity Fund for 2027 would provide a massive stimulus package to women’s football and unlock investment in the environments where players spend the majority of their time.

The PFA consider this to be an imperative move.

– Player input into Scheduling

As the women’s football calendar expands, the report emphasises the importance of including players in decision-making processes.

In the report, it suggested FIFPRO found that 60% of World Cup players felt they did not have enough rest after the tournament before returning to club duties. Caitlin Foord and Steph Catley played for Arsenal just 17 days after the World Cup final.

Ensuring player welfare and competition integrity will create a sustainable and thriving environment for women’s football.

In the Executive Summary, it outlined many statistics and facts to come as a result of the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

Funding

The tournament generated a significant amount of money for a range of stakeholders. Football Australia (FA) estimated the tournament provided $1.32 billion in economic benefits to Australia.

FA’s Legacy ’23 strategy unlocked $398 million of government funding for women’s sports facilities and programs, of which two thirds would primarily benefit football.

‘The Golden Generation’

The home World Cup aligned with the peak of the Matildas’ golden generation of players. Fifteen of the squad were also part of the 2019 World Cup. The eight players aged between 28 and 30 played 59% of the Australia’s match minutes at the tournament. The data flags that there is a challenging period of transition on the horizon.

A-League Women’s growth

A-League Women clubs have also benefited from an organic increase in attendances and memberships as a result of the World Cup’s success.

This includes holding records such as Average attendance, Total attendance, Most in a single game, and Most memberships in league history.

CBA Competitive Advantage

Nearly two thirds (64%) of the Matildas felt their Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was a competitive advantage at the World Cup. The CBA guaranteed world class conditions in the four years preceding the tournament (equal to the Socceroos).

Great conditions

The player survey found generally positive feedback about the conditions, facilities, and environment during the World Cup camp.

The legacy and impact this World Cup has left this country is immense, with the numbers in the report suggesting many avenues like the future of the Matildas and the domestic league are progressing at an alarmingly high rate.

Conclusion:

The four recommendations made by the FA do suggest change is imperative and the product still has a long way to go before it maximises its commercial and on field growth but overall the report was quite positive.

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