Despite a challenging 2020 for football across the country, a small silver lining to emerge on the extremely dark cloud that COVID-19 cast was the opportunity for administrators to implement off-field reform.
In an exclusive interview with Soccerscene, Football Queensland CEO Robert Cavallucci met to discuss the organisation’s strong end to the year and his aspirations for 2021.
“As disrupted as last year was due to COVID-19, it gave us an opportunity to push hard on news. We implemented a lot of competition and league reforms, and introduced new products across the board,” Cavallucci said.
“We had so many positive things coming out and projects being delivered along with the supplementary work around infrastructure, facilities, and accessibility. It’s hard not to suggest that the year was incredible for Football Queensland and we are really optimistic about building on that.”
Among the major initiatives set to commence in 2021 and expand further in 2022, is Football Queensland’s strategic plan to create a connected competition model.
Announced in October 2020, the plan aims to create one linked football pyramid where a promotion/relegation system exists from the National Premier League (NPL) all the way through to community level.
“How the model links the more advanced end of the competitive environment with the community end is a huge step for football in Queensland. We did the heavy lifting on connecting the leagues through 2020 and it’s one of the most exciting highlights for me personally,” Cavallucci said.
“Through promotion and relegation into and out of FQPL 2, clubs across Brisbane, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, and South West Queensland will have the opportunity, from 2022, to compete for promotion into the new third tier and beyond.”
“It provides the mechanism for aspirational clubs, players, and coaches have a clear path from where they are to where they want to go. That has always been limited by the competitive structure in the past.”
Included in the reform is the replacement of the Under-20 age group with a new Under-23 age group across NPL, FQPL 1 and FQPL 2.
The change is designed to generate the opportunity for more competitive match minutes for young footballers, an issue which has plagued Australian football in the past.
In addition to sweeping structural changes set to take place, Football Queensland has made positive advancement to women’s football, something Cavallucci is extremely keen to build on.
The Kappa Women’s Super Cup was announced in November 2020 and is set to commence in early 2021. The knockout style tournament will follow a similar structure to the widely lauded FFA Cup.
“Another key step was to address the failures of the past. Women traditionally haven’t had the same opportunities as men when it comes to football,” he added.
“We have the Women’s Super Cup commencing this year and it will provide female teams across the state to engage in a knockout-style tournament, similar to what the men have had. There’s no better time to introduce the tournament than with the FIFA Women’s World Cup coming up and with 2021 marking the 100-year anniversary of the earliest recorded public women’s football match in Queensland.”
“They are probably the two most exciting steps for me. Connecting the football pyramid and the work we have been doing in the women’s space.”
Football Queensland’s strategic plan to promote accessibility and inclusion will also encompass Futsal. The federation is aiming to grow the five-a-side game through its 2020-2022 Futsal Strategy, which can be found HERE.
The push to promote Futsal will begin with the F-League, a new conference style futsal competition for that will kick off in March. In a similar style to the competition reforms, the change will aim to take the sport to a new level by connecting Futsal competitions around the state and providing a new elite Futsal competition for men and women.
“We’ve always managed our state’s Futsal rather than outsourcing it, we are embracing Futsal as its own game and it deserves to be treated as such. People don’t realise the participation and growth opportunity for Futsal,” Cavallucci said.
“It’s not just a game for outdoor players to enjoy in the off-season. There are Futsal-only players and now we have the framework in place to strategically grow the sport. We want to promote Futsal coaching courses, refereeing courses and other similar initiatives because Futsal is different and nuanced.”
With improvements to accessibility, infrastructure, competition format, and women’s football already in motion, Cavallucci added that there is still plenty more to come from Football Queensland for 2021.
“Hopefully, COVID-19 will be out the door now for good and we can have a fairly stable year in 2021. We focused heavily on competitions last year and this year we can focus more on the back-end of the game.”