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Nick Maikousis: National Second Division a “golden opportunity to unify football”

Long before the ‘Golden Generation’ went on to achieve stardom and represent the Australia at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, many modern household names earned their stripes during the 1990s in Australia’s National Soccer League (NSL). The division was unrelenting and highly competitive – factors many successful Socceroos credit with shaping them into the players they became.

South Melbourne FC president Nick Maikousis believes the introduction of a National Second Division will promote home-grown talent in a similar vein and play a significant role in resurrecting Australia’s youth development pathways.

“The reality is with the number of Visa players in the A-League there isn’t as much opportunity for young Australians compared to what used to exist. The view of South Melbourne and the Australian Association of Football Clubs (AAFC) working group is that the second division will predominately be made up of Australian talent,” Maikousis said.

“Introducing a second tier will mean exposing young Australian talent to regular competitive football. The quality of the game will improve as young boys and girls are given exposure and experience – the results can only be positive.”

Australia has still enjoyed recent periods of success, most notably winning the 2015 AFC Asian Cup, but during the past decade there has been a tangible decline in the number of Socceroos playing in the world’s top leagues.

Experts argue a multitude of reasons for this downturn, but a trend has emerged of young talented players moving overseas early in their careers only to become lost in the cutthroat European system, ultimately stagnating in their development.

SMFC sold a young Kevin Muscat to Crystal Palace for £35,000 in 1996. One example of many homegrown NSL players who went on to succeed in Europe.

“There were obviously inherent issues with the competition in those days, but if you look at our success during the 2006 World Cup campaign, most of the squad was produced locally before they went on to the highest levels of European football,” Maikousis added.

“Ange Postecoglou’s South Melbourne teams that won back-to-back titles in 1998/99 and then went to Rio de Janeiro for the FIFA Club World Championship in 2000 were full of Aussie players. The model that we are to create will also promote home-grown talent in the same way.”

Maikousis and others in the football world are also optimistic that a second division will lead to a mature domestic transfer market through the unification of the game into one linked football pyramid. This would allow FFA to regulate and encourage player movement, paving the way for a model that mimics those in many international environments.

“Clubs would have a financial incentive to develop their young talent as they would be compensated if A-League clubs or rival clubs acquired their players,” Maikousis said.

“Again, going back to the NSL, South Melbourne sold so many players overseas and we believe that would become part of the model in addition to player pathways, the idea that clubs develop players and are remunerated for it.”

Many football administrators would be excited by the prospect of an operation transfer market which rewards youth development, but a potential second tier would also create many additional financial benefits for Australia’s clubs.

From South Melbourne’s point of view, Maikousis believes the club already has the foundations and fanbase to compete at a higher level.

“South Melbourne would grow exponentially. We have done a lot of modelling when we were putting together our official A-League bid. In terms of sponsorships, memberships, gate attendances, and player development we believe the club would generate significant revenue,” Maikousis said.

“In our research we established through our social media channels that we have roughly 100,000 followers. This figure already ranks comparatively with some of the A-League clubs and we’re comfortable we would convert a percentage of these into members.”

“I think the critical thing to understand is the capability of these potential second division clubs. There will be significant long-term benefits because it allows South Melbourne and other clubs to better themselves and also puts pressure on the A-League clubs to continue to better themselves as it will create a competitive environment.”

During recent months there has been considerable speculation about what a potential National Second Division will look like. AAFC has formed a working group of clubs supporting a second tier, dubbing the division ‘The Championship’.

To date, 35 clubs have officially joined the group, including South Melbourne FC. The working group has publicly stated it hopes to see the second division implemented in 2022.

Maikousis (L) with SMFC captain Brad Norton and Greece legend Giorgios Karagounis.

“Progress has been very productive. We’ve had a number of AAFC meetings. The first was an invitation to all NPL clubs across Australia to see who is in a position to play in a potential second division and also to see who is prepared to fund the work that’s required,” Maikousis said.

“There are various working groups this week as well so there is more to come.”

Although the concept is still in its infancy, momentum is growing and The Championship working group is modelling and consulting with game stakeholders to provide recommendations to FFA.

“FFA is very much accepting that this is going to happen. It has been working with all the stakeholders to make sure we create a model that works for everybody. James Johnson and Chris Nikou have a chance to unify the game and I cannot think of a better way to unify football in this country than to build a system which acknowledges everyone and every club,” Maikousis said.

“FFA have asked us to consider a conference system instead of a broader European-style system. I can say from South Melbourne FC’s point of view, our preference is a traditional European-style national second division but the working groups will do the relevant work to provide recommendations based on what is best for the majority.”

While there is still much work to do, the official formation of the National Second Division now appears an achievable prospect. For more information on The Championship, please visit HERE.

FIFA’s commercial partnership structure unlocks opportunities

FIFA has introduced a new commercial partnership structure that will provide companies worldwide with increased opportunities to partner with soccer.

For the first time in eight years, FIFA has introduced a new commercial partnership structure that will provide companies worldwide with increased opportunities to partner with soccer.

Three partnership variables have been launched which include women’s football, men’s football and Esports/gaming. As a starting point, brands will now be able to negotiate dedicated partnerships with women’s football and Esports.

FIFA are building on their Women’s Football strategy implemented from 2018, by launching a dedicated women’s soccer commercial vertical to show their commitment to making soccer more accessible for women and girls across the globe. Their main aim from this vertical is to accelerate the growth and equality of the women’s game.

As for opportunities that provides for Australia, it could be a key driver for broadening the business side in women’s soccer, as well as the ever-growing Esports.

FIFA Chief Women’s Football Officer, Sarai Bareman:

“This marks a groundbreaking moment to maximise the growth of the women’s game and its marketing appeal, as we create equal commercial models across Women’s and Men’s Football for the first time,” she said.

“We’re excited about the opportunities for brands who want to support women’s sport, help accelerate women’s equality, and wish to align themselves with the unparalleled momentum around women’s football.”

A dedicated partnerships structure for Esports will allow FIFA to further broaden its gaming footprint. The structure provides exciting opportunities to participate in one of the world’s fastest growing markets.

Overall, FIFA’s new partnership structure includes the following:

  • All partners will receive extensive global commercial rights across national team tournaments.
  • Sponsors will receive global activation rights surrounding the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the FIFA World Cup and/or across all FIFAe competitions.
  • Tournament Supporters will be able to select territorial activation rights for any of the above listed tournaments.
  • FIFA partners continue to hold the highest level of association with global partner status and category exclusivity across competitions.
  • FIFA’s new commercial approach will enable brands to benefit from new opportunities to associate with FIFA’s brand for business-driven purposes

FIFA Chief Commercial Officer, Kay Madati, on the impact these changes will make:

“As we continually work to make football truly global, accessible and inclusive, we recognised the need for a nimble and customisable commercial structure that enables brands big and small, global and local, to connect with all aspects of the beautiful game,” he said.

“The new model will allow our partners to create more tailored programming and marketing activations that align directly with their strategic business goals, and connect them to the world’s most passionate fans, in the world’s most engaging sport.”

Football Coaches Australia presents ‘The Football Coaching Life Podcast’ S3 Ep 5 with Gary Cole interviewing Michael Valkanis

Valkanis

Michael Valkanis was most recently the Assistant to John van’t Schip as the Greece National Team Coach and this week has been appointed as the new Assistant Manager at K.A.S. Eupen FC. They currently play the in Belgian First Division A, the top tier of football in the country.

Michael played his junior football at South Melbourne and as a student at De La Salle College. He made his senior debut in the NSL with South Melbourne before heading to Greece to play with Iraklis and then AEL Larissa. He played for eight years in Greece before returning to Adelaide and the A-League.

His coaching journey began at Adelaide United with the youth team and then as an Assistant Coach with the first team. A new opportunity took him to Melbourne City to work alongside John van’t Schip and then a brief spell as head coach before joining John in Holland with PEC Zwolle. This was followed by the move to Greece with the National Men’s Team.

Michael served a wonderful apprenticeship as Assistant Coach in Adelaide and Melbourne, with brief stints as Head Coach at both clubs. He is now keen to stretch his wings and take on the mantle of Head Coach as his journey continues to develop.

He firmly believes that there are many Australian Coaches good enough to work overseas. Coaches, like players, need to “get out of their comfort zone”. This is another conversation full of wisdom.

Michael’s ‘One Piece of Wisdom’ was: ‘Knowing yourself. Look in the mirror and ask who am I going to be?’ ‘What do I stand for, what are my values that will come out?’ ‘This will show to the group who you are, they stand out because they are consistent over time.’ ‘Your football philosophy will come to light through knowing yourself.’

Please join in sharing Michael Valkanis’ Football Coaching Life.

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