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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.”

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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.

FFA maintains commitment for Indigenous football

FFA has expressed its commitment towards a new era of Indigenous football in light of NAIDOC Week and Indigenous Football Week 2020.

Football Federation Australia (FFA) has expressed its commitment towards a new era of Indigenous football in light of NAIDOC Week and Indigenous Football Week 2020.

The recently concluded NAIDOC Week and Indigenous Football Week celebrated the history, cultures and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to Australian society.

“In the XI Principles for the future of Australian football we recognise that our Indigenous heritage must be a critical component of Australian football’s identity and story, the need for clearer pathways, and to create more opportunities for Indigenous players, coaches and administrators to play and be involved in football,” FFA Chief Executive Officer, James Johnson said.

“It’s key that FFA becomes a leader in the Indigenous space. As part of the consultation process for the XI Principles, we have spoken with the Indigenous community over the past four months.

“One of the concrete outcomes of that process will be appointment of a National Indigenous Manager in the first quarter of 2021.”

FFA’s commitment to Indigenous football is strengthened with news that Football Queensland (FQ) has shown its support to a new showcase of Indigenous football and culture that be part of an exciting triple-header in Redcliffe on 27 February 2021.

Men’s and women’s teams made up of Indigenous players from across the nation will be the feature, taking on event hosts Peninsula Power FC in two exhibition matches at AJ Kelly Park.

FQ have officially endorsed the sanctioned event and will supply match officials for both games, as well as a curtain raiser involving Peninsula’s masters team and the South Coast Jummalungs – an Over 35s side from New South Wales.

The event has also been endorsed by Football West (FW) and Football Northern Territory (FNT).

“Events such as these add to the fabric of our football community,” Johnson said.

“FFA joins our Member Federations in endorsing this event, which has been sanctioned by Football Queensland, and congratulates everyone involved with its establishment. I understand that some high-profile former Socceroos and Australian youth internationals of Indigenous heritage will be involved with the event, which will also include football clinics and a showcase of First Nations culture through football.”

FFA Head of Game Development Sarah Walsh welcomed FFA’s Indigenous football developments.  

“We are fully focused on embedding Indigenous football into everything that we do with the goal of increasing Indigenous participation in our game at both the elite and community levels,” Walsh said.

“From Harry Williams, John Moriarty and Karen Menzies, to Jade North, Lydia Williams and Kyah Simon, our game has been blessed with the talents of incredible Indigenous and First Nations footballers.

“To provide the opportunity for the next generation to continue this tradition and to strengthen Indigenous participation at all levels of the game, we need to create stronger pathways and ensure they are integrated seamlessly into our current development system.

“We want to continue to partner with great organisations like John Moriarty Football and events such as the one being held in Queensland in February as we build a pathway that takes into account the varied experiences of Indigenous peoples,” she said.

Johnson, Walsh and National Technical Director Trevor Morgan all recently attended John Moriarty Football’s Indigenous Football Week Gala Day at their Dubbo hub. The event wrapped up a week of celebrations for JMF and the FFA.

Photo credit: Football Federation Australia.

The gaping holes in Australia’s football history – Soccerscene’s exclusive interview with football writer and researcher Greg Werner

When I asked Greg Werner why he was interested in researching and recording the grassroots clubs of each and every Socceroo and Matilda, his answer was simple.

“It was born out of frustration, frustration that the largest sector of the game in this country was being ignored.”

In 2014, the Sutherland Shire based writer set about righting that ship and his journey continues to this very day. Over the last five years, Werner has ventured to all points of the domestic compass in an attempt to shed light on the origins of Australia’s representative footballers and in an effort to flesh out Australia’s footballing story.

His travels led to an unexpected publication, yet his passion to create a more in depth and detailed narrative of the Australian game has always been the most powerful driver behind what is a bold and broad reaching vision.

The trigger for the time consuming and often frustrating quest was an SBS piece on the Matilda, Servet Uzunlar. Werner recalls it vividly.

“I discovered during the segment that Unzular grew up playing in the same association in which I had spent 10 years playing & coaching. I asked myself why. If I was unaware of such a wonderful local players’ presence, how much else had escaped me?”

By extension, the key question for Werner became, “How many clubs were going completely unacknowledged for their contribution to our national teams.”

Such are the holes in the Australian footballing narrative and oft is the point made that the game existed on the national sporting landscape well before the heroics of the Socceroos at the 1974 World Cup. Equally emblematic of a poorly recorded history is the fact that many young A-League fans appear somewhat ignorant of the glory days of the NSL and the contributions made by community clubs during that period.

Greg Werner chats with former Socceroo Manager Ange Postecoglou in 2018.

Werner’s ambition focusses specifically on the individual players who have worn national colours; those whose early years of development are often overlooked and unrecorded at the expense of the contemporary concerns of the team they represented.

I put Werner’s claim that “If you are to go to just about any player’s Wikipedia entry you would think that they did not start playing until the age of 15,” to the test and in most cases, it proved correct.

Appearing as something of an enormous task, I asked Werner where he began.

“I started with what I knew from conversations on the side lines of the Shire and personal experience. The Griffiths brothers (Joel, Adam and Ryan) played at Menai, Graham ‘Arnie’ Arnold played at Gwawley Bay, Murray Barnes began at Kissing Point & my best mate Richie Bell started with Cronulla RSL.”

“Beginning with those bare bones, I realised there were only 800 more players to research,” recounted Werner with something of a tired chuckle.

“The search for answers began with Facebook, and was continued on the side lines of international training sessions, after A & W-League games, at NPL matches and even at FFA Cup and Champion of Champions finals. It also, beyond everything else, involved thousands of hours trawling through programs, magazines and newspapers going back to whenever.”

Werner has seen every major Socceroos game in Sydney since 1969, bar the disaster of 1981 and every home Matildas game since 2015.

It was the insistence of Fox Sports commentator Andy Harper that Werner’s mission would only be taken seriously with a supporting website to present the material. Now overflowing with history and memory, http://www.grassrootsfootballproject.com/ presents the accumulated research in a written and visual form.

The Grassroots Football Project logo.

Perhaps both the intention behind and the potential impact of the Grassroots Football Project is best encapsulated in Werner’s own words, “I have had the absolute honour of meeting men who were my footballing heroes and men whom I had never even heard of before the GFP.”

Such a sentiment now extends to the women’s game and no doubt the next generation of female players currently competing in junior play will be advantaged by the opportunity to read about the pioneering Matildas; those women who paved the untrodden and difficult path towards support and acceptance of the women’s game.

Werner with former Matildas Renaye Iserief, Janine McPhee, Sunni Hughes and Julie Murray.

The collated facts and data proved too enticing for renowned publisher of football books Fairplay Publishing to ignore. Werner became a co-author of the Encyclopaedia of Matildas; a visually stunning text that journeys through the history of the team and the women at the core of its success.

“It was an honour to have been given the opportunity to co-author the text and also beyond my wildest dreams. Now my dreams have shifted and I already have another book in the works and the one after that is already in the planning.”

Research has sent Werner to hundreds of gatherings in recent years.

“When Brazil toured here in 2017, I took the day off work to go to Newcastle to the first Matildas Reunion, a gathering of 60 players from all over the country. That night I added almost 20 entries to my list and had the best night of my footballing life apart from November 16th 2005. I left there at 1am to drive home to Cronulla, dealing with 40kph speed zones all the way down the freeway.

I have had the honour of spending time with some of the legends of the Australian game.”

Not seeking personal gain, Werner’s simple ambition is to “change the way the powers that be regard the most important clubs in the country,” and in turn “to make the history of our game relevant”.

It is an admirable and bold endeavour and one destined to continue.

“The GFP was never designed to be completed, for as long as internationals were being played, new players would be picked. My only aim was that their stories would be told, something which is now starting to be done. The end game would be that a plaque would be placed at the home ground of each of these clubs to make tangible their contribution.”

Something tells me that Greg Werner’s passion and energy may well make those plaques a reality. What a fitting tribute they would be to the grassroots clubs that have provided the Socceroos and Matildas with such wonderful players and people throughout Australia’s footballing history.

Why an Australian football Netflix series is needed

Netflix boast just under 200 million subscribers worldwide and have released several sports documentaries over the last few years. However, we are yet to see an Australian football Netflix series – an opportunity that should be taken advantage of.

There is a market for these types of documentaries as Netflix is not the only streaming service that features sport docuseries. Amazon Prime has produced also produced documentaries on Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.

One of the most popular football docuseries has been Netflix’s Sunderland ‘Til I Die. The show which provided a behind the scenes view of the club was one of the most watched programs on Netflix in the UK during the week of the release of the second season.

Sunderland has received global recognition off the back of the popularity of the show.

Stewart Donald, owner and former chairman of Sunderland told ChronicleLive that there are lots of reasons why the documentary is good for the club.

“My initial thought with it was, there aren’t many football clubs that can have a global brand, but if you’ve got a Netflix documentary and it goes right, you can get that out to the world and maybe you might get a few people who come along and get emotionally involved in Sunderland who otherwise wouldn’t have,” he said.

“If our name goes out to 20 or 30 million people on Netflix, or however many it might be, that can only be good for the club.”

There are several possibilities for an Australian football docuseries. The show could follow a single A-League club’s season, in the same vein to the Sunderland or Manchester City programs.

Other documentaries have focused on a season of a series or championship as a whole. Netflix’s Formula 1 docuseries Drive to Survive involves several different teams and features a different storyline each episode.

One million households streamed Drive to Survive within the first 28 days of season two’s release according to research agency Digital-i.

An A-League version of this could cover the biggest storylines and moments of the season.

Documentaries have also focused on the national team of a sporing organisation such as Amazon Prime’s The Test which documents the Australian cricket team’s redemption following the ball tampering scandal in 2018.

A series that follows the qualification process of an Australian team for a FIFA World Cup would be a particularly interesting documentary series given the high stakes involved.

The exposure gained from an Australian football Netflix series could be a great opportunity to either introduce people to Australian football or reinvigorate their love for the game.

Drive to Survive has seen an increase an interest for the sport in the US, which is not a traditional market for Formula 1.

Earlier this year Renault Formula 1 Driver Daniel Ricciardo appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah where he discussed the impact that Drive to Survive has had in the US.

“I definitely feel F1 is becoming much more of a thing here in the States. Drive to Survive put it on the map,” he said.

“I spend a bit of time in the States, and up until a year ago, not really anyone would say ‘Hi’ to me – not in a bad way, but they wouldn’t recognise me for being an F1 driver.

“And now it’s all: ‘We saw you on Netflix, it was great, Drive to Survive.’ We wear helmets, so not many people can see our faces a lot of the time.

Given the younger demographic of streaming service users, a docuseries could create a new generation of fans for football in Australia. Depending on the success of the series, it could even inspire more young Australians to play the world game.

At an event for 188Bet in March 2020, F1’s Managing Director of Motorsport Ross Brawn, said that the Netflix series had seen positive impacts for the sport.

“What we’ve discovered is it’s been very appealing to the non race fan: in fact it turned them into race fans,” Brawn said.

“Some of the promoters in the past season have said they’ve definitely measured the increase in interest in F1 that has come from the Netflix series.

“And while Netflix in itself wasn’t for us a hugely profitable venture, in terms of giving greater coverage for F1, it’s been fantastic.

While Football Federation Australia, the A-League and its clubs would not be able to demand the millions of dollars that other clubs and organisations are paid for their participation in a documentary, it could provide a cash boost for the organisations.

Ryan Reynolds has partnered with fellow actor Rob McElhenney to purchase Welsh soccer club Wrexham AFC, who compete in the fifth tier of English football, the National League.

Part of Reynolds and McElhenney’s takeover bid involves plans for a documentary series that follows the events of the team.

Bloomberg spoke to Ampere Analysis analyst Richard Broughton, who said that it would not be unreasonable for a streaming service to pay several hundred thousand pounds per hour for the broadcast rights to a show.

An Australian football Netflix series would be extremely beneficial for the sport in this country.

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