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 Victoria champions its advancements for women’s football in 2023 Annual Report

Football Victoria (FV) released the 2023 Annual Report, detailing their efforts and successes last year.

In a massive year for women’s football, Football Victoria led the way in delivering improvements in both participation and infrastructure for the women’s game.

The Andrews-Allen State Government has invested an unprecedented $400 million towards developing Victoria’s football facilities over the past five years, however, 2023 would see a major push for the construction of female football facilities, as well as upgrading existing spaces to become more female-friendly.

Typifying this push was the completion of the ‘Home of the Matildas’ centre, which was constructed as part of the La Trobe University Sports Park project. The centre opened in July last year and has instantly become a symbol of women’s football and the Matildas efforts in 2023.

Again, the State Government set records, putting $42.29 million towards its construction – the largest donation ever made by any level of government for a football-specific project nationally. The centre boasts state-of-the-art football pitches (grass and artificial), twelve changerooms, a fully-equipped gym and wet recovery centre, medical facilities, and corporate spaces.

The facility has already been utilised for local, regional, national and international events, and will be the cornerstone of Football Victoria’s future efforts, serving as its official headquarters.

Further mentioned was the creation of 14 council-supported “Social Football Hubs” across the state, contributing to the enormous growth in summer football participation for females – reaching nearly 6,000 compared to just 1,900 in 2022.

Also in infrastructure, the report triumphs its involvement in revitalising recreational spaces in Ballarat. At an estimated spend of $16 million, the Victoria Park Sport & Community Facility and Wendouree West Recreation Reserve projects were completed in 2023, and Football Victoria believes this will provide the highest-quality football experience for the community.

There is less mentioned in the report about the present growth of football facilities in other regional centres, with the report mentioning that State government budgetary measures may hinder its plans in the short term.

Then-acting CEO, Karen Pearce OAM, commented on the federation’s endeavours regarding regional football within the report.

“We are currently undertaking a Regional Review to determine an optimal operating model to improve the function, efficiency, capacity, and overall football experience in regional Victoria,” she wrote via the report.

“The review has explored all key components of the football ecosystem, with some key findings currently underway.”

There is a long-term plan to construct ‘regional hubs’ consisting of 4-6 pitches and state-of-the-art facilities in the outer suburbs and rural centres of Victoria, including a redevelopment of the Gippsland Sports and Entertainment Centre in Sale.

The concentrated effort to improve football infrastructure has benefitted participation in the sport, with player registrations totalling at 82,945.

There were 4,229 teams from Metropolitan and Geelong areas that entered into community competitions last year, with player registration numbers totalling just under 54,000. The popularity of football amongst children remains strong, with 75% of this figure represented by Miniroos and juniors, with the remainder made up of seniors and over 35’s.

In addition, there was a 41% increase in coaching participation compared to 2022, and twice as much engagement between coaches and the federation on social media. This is owing to Football Victoria’s “Club Coach Coordinator Gala Day”, which championed greater access to coaching resources and accreditation.

Referee participation is less publicised across national media channels, but their importance to the growth of the game is crucial. Football Victoria has continued to invest in its refereeing facilities and academies, which helped see an increase of 350 referees compared to 2022. This includes a 50% increase in female referees.

Its accreditation and pathway programs has led to six match officials being selected on the FIFA panel – 17 reaching the A-League – and a further three joining the Football Australia Referee Academy. There were a further 67 officials who joined the successful Victorian Referee Academy in 2023.

Given the widespread success it has reported, Football Victoria will be challenged to sustain this momentum. Its efforts will have triggered interest from future sponsors and businesses, whose potential investment will play a key role in the expansion effort; especially if government spending is to be reduced.

Football Victoria President, Antonella Care, thanked the organisations current partners and sponsors in the report for their contributions.

“Our game would not survive without the support of partners at all levels of the game,” Care stated in the report.

“I would also like to thank FV’s proud sponsors for their dedication to football, and also pass on my gratitude to the many businesses who sponsor Clubs and allow them to reinvest into the game.”

Football Victoria’s improvements in participation and infrastructure – thanks to support from sponsors and government agencies – exemplify the state’s reputation as the national leader in football expansion.

AFC announce Pepperstone collaboration amidst massive Asian Cup tournament

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has welcomed Pepperstone as Official Regional Partner for the ongoing Asian Cup tournament in Qatar.

The regional deal covers China, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

Pepperstone have a clear goal with this partnership to push their brand onto Asian countries that they haven’t previously dealt with before. As mentioned in statements, both parties have a clear goal to expand their brand reach and Pepperstone’s large impact in the trading industry – collaborating with Asia’s biggest sporting tournament – is a terrific way to boost the reach.

Pepperstone was founded in 2010 in Australia and quickly grew to become one of the largest forex brokers in the world. The company provides Contract for Difference (CFD) and Forex trading, and their headquarters are based in Melbourne.

The company’s mission is to create a world of tech-enabled trading where ambitious traders can embrace the challenge and opportunity of global markets.

Pepperstone have been heavily involved in the sports industry over the past few years, signing a mega deal with the Tennis ATP Tour for ranking naming rights. The company also partnered recently with AFL club Geelong Cats and BBL team Adelaide Strikers.

AFC General Secretary Datuk Seri Windsor John expressed his excitement with the decision to partner with a big company like Pepperstone.

“The AFC is pleased to welcome Pepperstone as a regional partner of the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023. This partnership underscores the ever-growing prestige of the continent’s most prestigious men’s tournament, and we thank Pepperstone for their belief in Asian soccer.” he said in an AFC release statement.

Pepperstone Chief Executive Tamas Szabo highlighted the alignment in ambition between the two parties.

“We are thrilled to join forces with the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023, an event that resonates with millions across the region,” Szabo added in a statement.

“At Pepperstone, we choose to partner with like-minded organizations focused on a shared drive and commitment for success.”

This partnership is expected to significantly boost Pepperstone’s brand presence in Asia, leveraging the AFC Asian Cup’s prestige.

The association with a major sporting event like this will certainly increase Pepperstone’s market reach and customer engagement in the Asian region and it is overall a smart business move from the Online broker.

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