Football Queensland (FQ) CEO philosophically backs the concept of a National Second Division but maintains his key priority is to ensure the prosperity of Queensland’s domestic clubs and competitions.
Robert Cavallucci, FQ CEO, spoke exclusively to Soccerscene following the release of the federation’s Strategic Infrastructure Plan 2020-2024 to discuss the document, and share his views on the growing impetus behind a potential national second tier.
“A National Second Division ideally is something we should have, it’s a missing piece of Australia’s football ecosystem. But before deeper considerations can be made, we are going to listen to our stakeholders to determine whether it’s ultimately a priority for them or not,” Cavallucci said.
“The financial stability and ongoing viability of our clubs is our primary concern. We are the governing body of 317 clubs, and we want to know what our stakeholders think and what they want to be involved in.”
While the notion of a second division is extremely popular, the counter argument is the Australian football pyramid requires a stronger foundation at its base before its limited resources are funnelled into another elite competition.
For Cavallucci, this means ensuring the grassroots of the game is catered for before setting his sights on a small but exclusive group of clubs.
“It’s important not to get fixated on the idea of forming the National Second Division in the short-term because realistically there is probably only three or four clubs out of 317 in Queensland that would have the infrastructure and resources to compete at that level,” he said.
“There are far greater issues that we currently need to address. Our current responsibility is to ensure the growth and continuity of Queensland’s competitions, youth pathways, participation rates for men and women, and infrastructure delivery for the Women’s World Cup.”
“At FQ we absolutely feel like these things are the biggest priority. But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t open to having a conversation with our stakeholders to canvas their views on the subject, develop relevant models and provide any feedback or recommendations to the FFA,” Cavallucci added.
To date, the Association of Australian Football Clubs (AAFC) has formed a working group of 35 clubs from around the nation which have dubbed Australia’s potential second division ‘The Championship’.
The working group, which started with 25 clubs in August, was formed to act as a means to consult club officials and provide insight and recommendations to Football Federation Australia (FFA). The group has publicly announced its aspirations to see The Championship come to fruition in 2022.
“We always welcome the opinions of our stakeholders, but ultimately any decision about models or an official second division has to be driven and delivered by the FFA and the federated system,” Cavallucci said.
“For now, FQ’s obligation is to make a tangible difference to football in Queensland by building women’s football and having high performance centres in our regions. This is absolutely fundamental for participation growth and the technical development of our kids.”
“There are approximately 180,000 participants in Queensland and it’s my role to deliver outcomes for them and all of the 317 clubs operating within our federation, not just the top few.”
FQ’s commitment to growing all levels of football in the state is evident from the release of its Strategic Infrastructure Plan.
The plan provides a detailed overview of the federation’s aims for the next years and was published after thorough data-driven and needs-based analysis.
“We were doing a truckload of quantitative and qualitative research and gained the opinions of our stakeholders through a consultation process. We have spent countless hours of research to come up with the final product,” Cavallucci said.
“The feedback so far has been extremely positive from clubs and stakeholders. FQ has never produced a document based on data and research on this level. The plan outlines what football needs right now to meet demand and what we need to do for the coming four years to ensure funding and infrastructure keeps up with the projective growth of the game.”
“We’ve brought that together along with unlocking the enormous opportunity that the FIFA Women’s World Cup presents and crucially, what legacy we hope the tournament will leave.”
The Strategic Infrastructure Plan includes the requirement to significantly improve government funding into the state’s footballing facilities.
FQ is seeking to achieve this goal through the formation of the Queensland Government Infrastructure Fund, a structured approach which aims to raise $60 million for infrastructure development projects over the next four years.
Although chronic underinvestment has caused a raft of issues for football across Australia, greater collaboration between administrators and government is starting to see a shift, something Cavallucci is hoping will continue.
“The timing of the document’s release is perfect. The state election is coming up and we will now have an official document that will help us to advocate for football at all levels,” he said.
“It’s a fantastic document and a testament to FQ as an organisation. It shows how far we have moved in a short space of time. There will be more to come over the next few weeks.”
To view FQ’s Strategic Infrastructure Plan, please visit HERE.