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Robert Cavallucci to prioritise grassroots growth over National Second Division

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.

Cavallucci was appointed CEO in 2019.

“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.

Gold Coast United, once of the A-League, are one of 35 clubs which form The Championship working group.

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 contains FQ’s detailed goals for the next four years.

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.

Funding for female changerooms a top priority for NSW Government

The NSW Government has made female changerooms a top priority for funding in Round Four of its Stronger Country Communities Fund.

The NSW Government has made female changerooms a top priority for funding when $100 million is spread across regional NSW in Round Four of its Stronger Country Communities Fund.

Football has applauded the move, allowing female sporting teams in regional NSW to benefit from new and improved facilities, with 50% of the fund devoted towards female changeroom facilities and programs.

“We are delighted the NSW Government has chosen to invest in female sporting programs and facilities at such a vital time for football. The hosting of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ has sparked an even greater surge of demand for football facilities – many of which are already bursting at the seams. Investment in our facilities is vital to keep up with demand,” Football NSW CEO Stuart Hodge said.

Northern NSW Football CEO David Eland says the announcement aligns perfectly with football’s needs, following the release of a state-wide Infrastructure Strategy in March 2020. This highlighted the requirement for significant investment in facilities, especially for female football over the next decade, as there’s a projected increase in female participation.

“As the state’s largest sport, football is experiencing unprecedented increase in female football. The number of women and girls playing football has risen by 11% in the past year alone,” he said.

Football Australia CEO James Johnson highlights Football Australia’s intention of having 50/50 female participation by 2027, helped massively by the hosting of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023 and it’s Legacy ‘23 Plan.

“Our Legacy ’23 Plan is a long-term project extending far beyond the final match of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023TM and we are determined to elevate the women’s game to even greater heights – ultimately for Australia to become the centre of women’s football in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.

“To do this we have identified several time critical initiatives to kick-start Legacy ‘23 which are aligned to our XI Principles and focus on facilities and infrastructure, high performance, participation, and international engagement.

“Building and upgrading community facilities and infrastructure forms part of a key pillar of the Legacy ’23 plan, to help address the existing facilities gap we are experiencing around Australia, and also plan for the influx of 400,000 women and girls we are expecting to be playing the sport of football by 2027.

“Currently of our 2,500 football clubs in Australia, only one in five of these facilities are female friendly.

“Football is committed to working with Clubs, Local Councils and stakeholders to secure funding for the sport. It is integral for football that we ensure existing venues can be used at full capacity, with inclusive facilities, through proper planning for future growth via partnerships with government at all levels and industry partners.”

Facts on Female Football Facilities across New South Wales:

  • 24% of venues DO NOT have change facilities (248 venue)
  • 76% of venues have change room facilities (766 venues). Of these venues:
    • 76% are NOT female friendly
    • 60% have open showers and are not suitable for males or females in the 21st century
    • 48% of change rooms are in either moderate or poor condition
  • 62% of venues in NSW do NOT have a referee’s room
  • Only 36% of venues have a referee’s room
    • 73% of referee rooms are NOT female friendly
    • 44% of referee rooms are in moderate or poor condition
    • 51% of showers in referee rooms are either unlockable or open

Round 4 applications for the Stronger Country Communities Fund opened on May 1, 2021 and you can find it here.

Grassroots sport given new lease of life in Frankston

The Frankston City Council have been provided $2.9 million in funding, part of projects that the Victorian Government has been involved with.

The Frankston City Council have been provided $2.9 million in funding, in a move that forms part of the ongoing community sport and recreation infrastructure projects that the Victorian Government has been involved with since 2014 – exceeding the amount of $1 billion.

Ballam Park, home to the Peninsula Strikers Junior Football (Soccer) Club, were granted $300,000 as an investment towards a new pavilion and an installation of new lighting for two pitches to allow further utilisation of the pitches for training and games.

The club consists of around 300 registered players and a rebuilt facility will ensure that it is inclusive for female participants. This is a boost and reassurance of female participation throughout all age groups.

Players and coaches will be delighted to find that the new pavilion created by the grants will include eight new female-friendly changerooms, kitchen, kiosk, social space, referee changerooms, storage, first-aid accessibility and public toilets. On top of this, there will be new parking facilities with street lighting upgrades for patron safety.

In addition to the Victorian Government’s financial contribution to Frankston City Council’s grassroot clubs, RF Miles Recreation Reserve, home to the Seaford Tigers Football (Aussie Rules), Netball and Cricket Clubs, will receive a new pavilion too.

Following consistent growth of participation numbers for the clubs of the three different codes, they will be treated to a brand new two-storey pavilion to cater for them. This will also include female-friendly changerooms and amenities, social and meeting rooms, first-aid room and umpire changerooms.

The oval at RF Miles Recreation Reserve will consist of a reconfigured larger oval with lighting that will meet to AFL standards. Along with this a new scoreboard, a coach’s box, cricket nets and brand-new netball courts.

All was made possible through the government’s Local Sports Grants initiative. The timing of the announcement and delivery conveniently falls in line with the lifestyle recovery post-covid. As such projects will inherently create much needed stimulating and restoration of the local economies, creating new jobs and bringing communities closer together.

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