Peter Filopoulos: There are opportunities in times of crisis

Speaking with Soccerscene, Football Victoria CEO Peter Filopoulos claims the current period presents the game with challenges but also opportunities for the future.

Filopoulos, a highly experienced administrator across a variety of sports, believes nothing in his career compares to the impact the COVID-19 pandemic is currently having.

“This is the biggest disruption that’s faced sport, not just football,” he said.

“In my time of 30 years in sports administration, I’ve never seen anything like it before.

“But I also see this crisis as an opportunity for football to position itself at the backend of this.

“To be able to build a platform for us to change the way we do business and the way we do things, that’s what I’m looking forward to.”

In unprecedented times, Filopoulos said the organisation, alongside collaborative efforts with the FFA, are filling the void for football participants through alternative means.

Initiatives which focus on the mental and physical wellbeing of the footballing community have been implemented in recent weeks.

“We’ve been driving some digital content, which is fantastic,” he said.

“We’ve introduced the #LiveLoveFootball at home campaign.This is a series of skills, videos, activities, quizzes, podcasts, throwbacks, classic moments and more.

“We’ve also got Skills Hub through FFA, that helps the grassroots football community stay active and connected through this time.

“FFA recently launched this online skills hub developed in association with all of us federations, with the #PlayAtHomeChallenge.”

With all football activity suspended until May 31 at the very least, Football Victoria has been in constant contact with local councils, in regards to supporting grassroots football clubs in the state.

According to Filopoulos, around ten councils have already provided rent relief for clubs during this period, with hopefully more to come.

“We are working with the rest of them,” he said.

“We’ve written to them and we’re speaking to them to help support our football clubs in the time of need.

“Not only on the rent relief, but also to try and access facilities post the winter season, for when we resume football activity and (most likely) encroach on the spring season.”

The state governing body has been in consistent dialogue with all levels of government on a number of fronts, including financial assistance.

The organisation recently sent all of its member federation clubs a government assistance overview for the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The Football Victoria CEO explained he is also working with other sports in a bid to garner support from government.

“We’ve all got the common challenge and the common problems,” he said.

“So, we are working as a conglomerate to lobby government.

“Government’s going to be looking towards us for social economic recovery in the backend, we need to be in a financial position to have the capability to do it, so we need the support.”

With recent suggestions a possible rebuild of the game could be close, Filopoulos believes a national second division and connected football pyramid will be a reality in the near future.

“That’s something Football Victoria are very big advocates of. (We are) working with FFA closely to try and deliver that sooner, rather than later.

“I think we’ve got a very supportive CEO and Chair at FFA, it’s a matter of now putting those plans in motion.

“I’d like to think that we can accelerate that strategy at some point, once we are out of this crisis.”

A key to that strategy in a prospective national second division is the involvement of broadcast partners, with Football Victoria having already begun talks about their own product to streaming services such as Optus Sport and Kayo Sports.

“(Discussions) are still progressing, but given that we’ve got no content really to upload or share at the moment it’s gone a little bit on the backburner, hopefully we can resume these discussions at some point.”

For now, however, planning continues behind the scenes at Football Victoria for when football does return.

“In terms of when we get back, we are looking at a number of scenarios at the moment,” Filopoulos said.

“Depending on when we can start, we believe we will be able to complete certain competitions.”

One thing’s for sure, football will bounce back.

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.

Football Queensland launches new futsal competition

Football Queensland is welcoming expressions of interest from futsal clubs across the sunshine state, for the launch of a new competition for the small-sided game, titled the F-League.

The league will be run for both men and women in a conference style, with kick off set for March of this year.

“In the 2020-2022 Futsal Strategy, Football Queensland outlined its plan to launch the F-League as part of our clear vision for futsal in Queensland,” FQ CEO Robert Cavallucci said.

“This new competition connects and integrates our futsal and football clubs while serving as the highest level of competitive futsal in Queensland.

“It opens up new opportunities for affiliated football clubs who meet certain criteria, to improve their club offering, increase their membership and get more kids playing futsal by establishing a futsal program with futsal-focused players.

“With Northern, Central and SEQ competition conferences planned, FQ is committed to unlocking the opportunity futsal presents to deliver participation growth throughout the state.”

The F-League is set to replace the SEQ Futsal Premier League for men and women, running throughout the year in an annual two-season structure.

“This is an important step in the development of futsal in Queensland,” FQ Futsal Participation Officer Trevor Edwards said.

“The F-League enables futsal to flourish all year long as we build a stronger and more sustainable competition framework.”

Football Queensland advises clubs who are interested to complete the online EOI form here by this Friday.

Football Victoria announce a new era for futsal in the state

Football Victoria have announced they are stepping up their efforts and investment in resources to govern and unite the futsal community in Victoria.

The state federation will lay the foundations for an aligned framework for the small-sided game in the coming months, with existing futsal competition providers and clubs uniting with FV to deliver a new era of positive experiences for players, coaches and referees in Victoria.

FV President Kimon Taliadoros believes the time is right to unite the futsal fraternity and claims the governing body does have an important role in taking the lead.

“Historically, football’s governing bodies have lacked certainty over what role they should play in Futsal and what leadership they should provide. But after extensive consultation with the game’s stakeholders and a deeper understanding of best practice principles, it is clear that the sport must be aligned,” he said.

“As such, the time has now come for FV, as the state’s governing body for Football, to not only embrace Futsal but to lead it, govern it and unite it.

“We understand that there has been not only great division but also great confusion, going back many years. The only way forward from here is to establish a framework that brings everyone together and provides greater clarity to Futsal centres, facility operators, councils, clubs, referees, coaches and players.

“We are excited about the opportunities that Futsal will bring to the community under this new strategy, including how integral it is to achieving our overall target of 50/50 gender participation balance by 2027.”

As part of these various changes, Anthony Grima will move into a newly-created position of Head of Futsal, alongside his existing role of Head of Commercial at Football Victoria.

Grima is an accomplished futsal referee and player over the past two decades.

“As a governing body, we have to make a genuine commitment to provide Futsal with the kind of leadership that empowers this great sport to officially develop, grow and service even more participants than it does now,” he said.

“There are approximately 40,000 players playing Futsal and ‘Indoor Soccer’ across metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria. They all need Futsal pitches to play on and competitions to participate in. We want to make sure we can partner with local councils and Futsal competition providers to ensure players, clubs, coaches and referees are provided with the best possible Futsal experiences, on and off the pitch.

“My own experience in Futsal has shown me that it is a sport with enormous appeal and potential. There are many amazing and dedicated individuals at the heart of the Futsal family here in Victoria and we now have a profound opportunity to work together for the good of the game and build something that will service the game for decades to come.”

Peter Parthimos, CEO of ‘Futsal Oz’ and ‘Series Futsal’, welcomed FV’s decision to step forward and lead the sport through a formalised structure.

“This is clearly a development that will benefit the entire Futsal community. For many years, the providers, like us, have been left to promote the game themselves but the opportunity to help create a more formal structure underpinned by a unified vision is undeniably exciting,” he said.

“We look forward to formally affiliating with Football Victoria. I know many other centres and Futsal clubs will follow suit and that’s just such a positive step forward. It’s been many years since we’ve had an opportunity to collaborate like this.

“If we all support each other and put the sport first, I believe we will put Victoria back on the map.”

FV will continue to deliver premier futsal events, including the FV State Futsal Championships, which will be held in April 2021.

In the lead up to the 2022 Football Australia National Futsal Championships, all Victorian squads will be administered and managed directly by the governing body. The federation will also hold both futsal referee and coach education courses to officially recognise and upskill futsal referees and coaches from February 2021.

Football Victoria’s formal Futsal Strategy is listed below:

  1. Formally recognise the sport of Futsal within Football Victoria’s existing Strategic Plan 2019-2022 ‘FootbALLways’ to facilitate its growth, including in schools and to foster the increase and development of players, coaches, referees, Futsal clubs and Futsal centres in the broader futsal pathway.
  2. Provide Futsal competition providers and Futsal clubs with a genuine value proposition to partner with Football Victoria via a revamped affiliation and support program to grow and develop Futsal together as a unified Futsal community.
  3. Integrate Futsal within the implementation of Football Victoria’s current Facilities Strategy and advocate for increased and improved Futsal facilities with local, state and federal government for the benefit of all Futsal competition providers and Futsal clubs across Victoria.

FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2020 draw released

The official draw for the FIFA Club World Cup 2020 has been released ahead of the tournament’s scheduled start in Qatar next month.

Six teams are participating in the tournament that runs between the February 4 and 11.

Al-Duhail SC (Qatar), Al Ahly SC (Egypt), FC Bayern Munich (Germany), Ulsan Hyundai FC (South Korea), Tigres UANL (Mexico) and the Copa Libertadores (South America) champions will compete in the World Cup – the Copa Libertadores final is scheduled for January 30.

The draw was held at FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland and was conducted by FIFA Deputy Director of Competitions Jaime Yarza.

The tournament kicks off with Tigres UANL taking on Ulsan Hyundai FC at 17:00 local time (01:00 February 5 AEDT) on February 4 at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.

Later that day Al Duhail SC and Al Ahly SC will face off at Education City Stadium at 20:30 (04:30 February 5 AEDT).

The winner of the Tigres-Ulsan clash will then play the Copa Libertadores champions – either Palmeiras or Santos in the semi-finals.

Meanwhile the winner of the Al Duhail-Al Ahly match will move on to play FC Bayern Munich.

The final then takes place at Education City Stadium on February 11 at 21:00 (05:00 February 12 AEDT).

Last week it was confirmed that Auckland City FC would be unable to participate in the tournament due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the quarantine requirements that have been put in place by the New Zealand government.

This resulted in local team Al-Duhail SC moving directly to the second round.

“The competition format remains unchanged, with the opening match forfeited,” FIFA said.

“The tournament will now be staged at Education City and Ahmad Bin Ali Stadiums, while Khalifa International Stadium, which was originally due to host two games, will not be used.”

The FIFA Club World Cup was first played in 2000 and features the winners of the UEFA Champions League, AFC Champions League, CAF Champions League, CONCACAF Champions League, Copa Libertadores, OFC Champions League plus the champions of the host nation’s national league.

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