Kat Smith accepted into FIFA Coach Mentorship Programme

FA Kat Smith

Football Australia has announced that CommBank Junior Matildas Assistant Coach and Analyst – and newly appointed Western Sydney Wanderers Head Coach Kat Smith – has been named as one of 20 female coaches to be accepted into the second edition of the FIFA Coach Mentorship Programme.

The program will see 20 female coaches from across the globe mentored by some of the leading figures in coaching, including Australians Tom Sermanni and Joe Montemurro.

Smith, who has been paired with Athletic Bilbao Women’s head coach, Iraia Iturregi, is thrilled to be presented with further opportunities to continue her development in her chosen profession.

“I am incredibly honoured and grateful to have this opportunity and am appreciative of the support of Football Australia, who championed my application to be a part of the programme,” Smith said in a statement.

“It pays homage to those that have backed me in the past and opportunities I’ve had because of their belief.  I am extremely excited about the possibility of continuing my coaching journey and fortunate to expand my expertise and experiences through accessing a global network.”

An AFC Pro-Licenced coach, Smith’s involvement in the game spans 20 years, with the now Western Sydney Wanderers head coach having been involved at all levels of women’s football.

Her football career has seen her hold positions as a Skills Acquisition Trainer, National Premier Leagues Technical Director (Green Gully FC), a Team Manager, NPL Head Coach (Galaxy United and Alamein FC), Liberty A-League Women’s Assistant Coach (Melbourne Victory), Australian Opposition Analyst for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup and CommBank Junior Matildas Assistant Coach and Performance Analyst.

With extensive experience already in varied positions, Smith is hoping that the Programme adds to her understanding of her profession for the betterment of the players she coaches.

“This opportunity, I’m hoping, brings a wealth of experience and knowledge from across the globe to open my mind to new ways of doing and thinking in the game.  With the high calibre of Mentors, it will provide challenges that lead to growth and harness courage,” she added.

“I want to explore how that knowledge can be brought back to platforms and programs here in Australia that help shape further growth initiatives in our game and allow us to better equip the next generation of athletes for the world stage.

“On a personal level, this Programme allows for that individual and professional development to happen on the job, and that’s what you want. With this set-up, you can apply new learnings and new skills and continue to develop your craft so you are having the most positive impact you can on the game.”

 

“Women’s Football Transformed” – NewCo ready to propel women’s professional football in the UK

Last November, the English Football Association (FA) revealed it would no longer be running the English Women’s Super League (WSL) and English Women’s Championship, handing the reins to a newly-formed independent organisation, NewCo.

Relatively unknown and tipped for a name-change, NewCo is led by Canadian-born CEO Nikki Doucet, a former General Manager for Nike UK/Ireland who is well versed in the world of finance and sport.

Slowly but surely, the football world is learning more about the company, its CEO, and its plans to propel the WSL and Championship to new heights.

In a statement outlining NewCo’s vision, CEO Nikki Doucet stated the company “will be a revenue-generating, for profit, standalone entity with a professional and dedicated management team.”

The 24 member clubs of the WSL and Championship will be recognised as shareholders of the organisation.

Further to this, Doucet expressed her gratitude for the FA’s role in building professional football for women, and NewCo’s intent for the future.

“They [the FA] have belief in the women’s game and have funded the proof of concept for women’s football in this country and now we’re at a stage where it’s set up to be a standalone entity to capitalise on the growth and opportunity in front of us,” she explained via the FA website.

The WSL’s primary sponsor, Barclays, is halfway through its £30 million ($58 million AUD) investment deal in women’s football that will end in 2025.

Whilst it is NewCo’s desire to maintain relationships with existing sponsors like Barclays, there is an expectation to attract new investment

Media speculation suggests that the Premier League has approved a loan of £20 million ($38 million AUD), that will be repayable once NewCo records £100 million in annual revenue ($193 million AUD).

Speaking to Sky News, Premier League Chief Richard Masters stated that if approved, the loan would symbolise an important relationship between the top tiers of men’s and women’s football in the UK.

The loan will also breathe confidence into clubs, of which some have called for league restructuring to alleviate financial pressure.

NewCo shut down speculation over the potential for the WSL to become a closed league in January, re-stating its “100%” commitment to promotion and relegation between the top two tiers.

Talks over broadcasting rights for the WSL and Championship are also underway, with existing deals between Sky Sports and the BBC concluding at the end of the 23/24 season.

At the conclusion of the 22/23 WSL season, research driven by the Women’s Sport Trust (WST) showed a 36% season–on–season increase in match viewership in the UK.

Given this major increase in viewership, and popularity of women’s football generally, one expects that Sky Sports and the BBC will renegotiate a new deal.

Likely competitors will be TNT (formerly BT Sport), and streaming service Amazon Prime, who have dipped their toes in the water with Premier League coverage in the past two seasons.

Whether a new deal will affect international viewership, particularly in Australia via streaming platform Optus Sport, remains to be known. However, Doucet has made it clear that increasing its audience network is a key goal.

“Reach and revenue is the thing that we’re trying to figure out,” she told reporters.

“I think, more than anything, it should just be as easy as possible for fans to be able to watch the league or the team or the player that they want to watch. How we can do that is what we’re exploring.”

League breakaways, particularly those in favour of profit-driven, independently-run entities, are often fraught with controversy across football’s many sub-sectors.

However, in keeping with the transparent and widely forward-thinking approach of women’s football, NewCo’s takeover of the WSL and Championship could take the development of professional women’s football to the next level.

Women’s football transformed is the tagline underpinning NewCo’s vision for the WSL and Championship, and Doucet offers no shortage in imagination for what it hopes to achieve.

“In 10 years from now, I hope you’re asking me questions around things like how do I get off the waiting list for tickets to WSL games, so we’ll have stadiums at top capacity, all the top players wanting to come here,” she proclaimed.

“I want to be answering questions around elite female athlete health and how that has transformed ‘high street’ physiotherapy. I want you to look at an all-female team and the first thing that goes through your head is “wow, that’s a high performing team’ with no hesitation.”

Further announcements about NewCo’s plans will be eagerly anticipated, as the current WSL and Championship seasons’ near their conclusion.

Central Coast Mariners academy even stronger with top-tier Portuguese side

Central Coast Mariners announced a partnership with Liga Portugal club Portimonense SAD.

The club, which now competes in the Portuguese first division, has a long history of generating top-tier players via both its academy and first-team programmes.

This collaboration is intended to mutually benefit young development for both teams, as well as general progress for Portimonense and the Mariners, making it a strategically smart move from Mariners who also have a history of producing young talent.

The contract would allow prospective Central Coast players to transfer into Portuguese first division football, one of Europe’s best divisions, while the Mariners will receive access to outstanding players from Portimonense SAD to enhance their team.

This has already begun with Mariners signing Ronald Barcellos on loan, with the goal of assisting both teams in their respective divisions while also allowing our players to continue their football growth.

Central Coast Mariners’ Sporting Director Matt Simon is eager to be working with Portimonense.

“To be able to work closely with a club of Portimonense’s pedigree is extremely exciting and an opportunity that we are greatly looking forward to,” he said via press release.

“We are clubs who see youth development as extremely important and to be able to work together on this will only benefit us both.”

Central Coast Mariners Chairman Richard Peil also commented on the partnership outlining the importance of the alliance.

“We’d love to own a network of clubs to be able to help players progress their careers and maximise their value, but that is just not realistic,” he stated via press release.

“This is the next best thing. The relationship with Portimonense is an important step in our progression to becoming a self-funding football club.”

Officials from Portimonense’s elite coaching squad are scheduled to visit the Central Coast Mariners Centre of Excellence this month (February) to begin work on the relationship.

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