With the COVID-19 restrictions easing in Queensland, CEO of Football Queensland Robert Cavallucci is travelling the state to conduct club summits as part of the Future of Football 2020+ consultation process.
The strategy aims to provide a voice for people involved within the football industry. Administrators, coaches, players, and other stakeholders are being encouraged to constructively participate in high-level discussions and provide recommendations.
After conducting several summits and scheduling many more, Cavallucci spoke exclusively with Soccerscene to share his insights into the current state of investment, infrastructure, and regional football in Queensland and also to discuss some of the challenges ahead.
“We are conducting an extensive state-wide consultation process and the main purpose of it is to listen. It is about asking football stakeholders their vision of the game and ultimately, we will bring it all together in a report where we will outline opportunities across four key areas of focus. Governance, administration, competition reform, and affordability,” Cavallucci says.
One of the major goals for Football Queensland moving forward will be to amplify the level of investment that the State and Federal governments provide. With participation rates steadily increasing, Cavallucci fears the current level of infrastructure will struggle to meet the growing demand caused by more players and more staff.
“The level of infrastructure and financial support is mixed. Some areas have fantastic facilities and others have suffered from years of underinvestment,” he says.
“Underinvestment has been a systemic problem for Australian football. In the past our sport has failed to work with governments in a meaningful way. In Australia and in Queensland, we have failed to demonstrate our value and our contribution to the community. We have failed to stand up for ourselves and we have failed to make the case as to why our sport deserves significantly better investments from the government.”
“We now can demonstrate with data that we are clearly the biggest game, particularly for girls and women. We have the Women’s World Cup on the way and it is absolutely our responsibility to make the case as to why they need to support our game. There is an imbalance of investment and our infrastructure can simply not accommodate the growth, let alone the nature of the game which is changing and becoming far more inclusive and accessible than ever before.”
Although there is a need for more financial backing, recent years have seen a positive trend in the amount of wages Football Queensland have been able to allocate to staff working within the industry.
Data provided by Cavallucci reveals that for men’s football, the annual budget allotted to coaches and other staff in the state was $178,000 in 2017. This rose to $316,000 in 2018 and to more than $551,000 in 2019.
For the women’s side of the game there has also been a substantial increase of funding to meet the demand driven by participation rates. In 2018 $65,000 was being invested into staff wages, a figure which rose to more than $200,000 in 2019 and is set to increase further.
Football has long overtaken the traditional powers of Rugby League and Rugby Union as the most popular organised sport in Queensland and the successful Women’s World Cup bid will certainly add to the world game’s momentum. Football Queensland is optimistic of seizing the opportunities that are presenting themselves by implementing a level of planning and professionalism that has not previously existed.
“For the first time we have created a state-wide infrastructure plan which clearly outlines our motives for the next four years, how we plan to deliver these motives, and how we will work with the government to achieve them. It’s the first time all these types of things are being done and documented,” Cavallucci says.
“Football is the biggest and greatest sport; we are no longer going to accept playing second fiddle to other sports.”
While Football Queensland is working towards high-level reform, the current summits are also focusing heavily on regional and grass-roots football.
One of the major challenges top level administrators currently face in Queensland is the sheer vastness of the state. Townships and regions are often separated by hours of travel so providing equality in terms of competition, infrastructure and development pathways has always been difficult.
“We’re absolutely keen to develop regional football further, but Queensland is a very big state. The tyranny of distance presents immense challenges to ensure we have the opportunity for all participants to have access to the same services, pathways, facilities, opportunities for coaches, and referees. It presents enormous challenges,” Cavallucci says.
“That being said, regional football in Queensland is in a fantastic place. We have great local competitions and there has been some major growth in participation figures for across both genders.”
Cavallucci adds that a theme of the feedback, particularly from those in northern Queensland has been around restructuring the competitive zones. The state is currently split into 10 geographical zones which although designed with the best intentions may be holding clubs back.
“From our perspective, there needs to be a willingness to be open to new ideas. Many of the clubs want broader regions because they feel constrained within their geographical boundaries. The feedback around that has been really strong as the boundaries may limit what some of the more aspirational clubs are wanting to do,” he says.
The Future of Football 2020+ consultation process is expected to include more than 186,000 participants, 317 clubs, and 12 stakeholder groups. For more information or to register for a focus group, visit footballqueensland.com.au/future-of-football.