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Robert Cavallucci: “We are no longer going to accept playing second fiddle to other sports”

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.

Football Coaches Australia presents ‘The Football Coaching Life Podcast’ S3 Ep 4 with Gary Cole interviewing Belinda Wilson

Gary Cole

Belinda Wilson began her football journey in Byron Bay on the far north coast of NSW. She is currently enjoying autumn in Zurich, Switzerland where she is the Senior Technical Development Manager, Women’s Football with FIFA. A remarkable achievement for a young Australian Coach and Administrator.

After falling in love with the game on a family holiday to the UK, Belinda returned to Byron Bay unable to play as she was a girl. At the time there were no girls’ competitions and girls weren’t allowed to play with boys. She was eventually allowed to play as a twelve-year-old in the senior women’s team.

Her coaching journey began as a teenager coaching her younger brothers’ team from U6 through to U13’s. Her talent saw her be rewarded as coach of FFNC U14 girls’ representative team.

Belinda has worked as the Coach Education Manager for AFC, been in fulltime club roles in Sweden and Denmark. She returned to Australia to work with FNSW, NSWIS and Head Coach of the Australian U17 team, also winning a Premiership with Brisbane Roar in 2013.

She was appointed as Head Coach of the Guam Women’s National Team and National Technical Director in 2017 and has also been on the FIFA Technical Panel for World Cups in 2007 and 2011 and the 2008 Olympic Games.

Belinda’s ‘One Piece of Wisdom’ was: “Don’t be afraid to take a risk. Go out there and challenge yourself to see who you are as a person but also as a coach. Take the opportunities and take a risk, the worst that can happen is you end up where you started, and sometimes that’s not a bad place to be.”

Please join us in sharing Belinda Wilson’s Football Coaching Life.

FIFA meets to discuss transfer system and match calendar

Wenger

FIFA has remained committed to the ongoing reform of the transfer system in a recent meeting with leading stakeholders and the global football community.

The meeting also saw the future of the international match calendar discussed in further detail with various perspectives contributing to the discussion regarding men’s football. Delegates from over 50 of FIFA’s member associations participated, together with members of the media.

FIFA Chief of Global Football Development Arsène Wenger was given the opportunity to outline his proposals for the future of the international match calendar during the Professional Football Conference, alongside Technical Director Steven Martens.

In addition to the mandatory rest period for players, the topic of international qualification windows was discussed as well as the retained balance of matches for clubs and leagues and the benefit scheme for those clubs.

In welcoming the participants via video message, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said:

“FIFA has included stakeholders in the decision-making process and has democratised access to information in a way that is remarkable and unprecedented. This webinar is one of many initiatives aimed at engaging with all the main actors of the game: bigger, smaller and from every corner of the world.

“Our proposal does not lead to a reduction in matches for the leagues,” Mr Wenger explained as part of a question-and-answer session with stakeholders.

“It’s more of an optimisation of the time available. It will be clearer and regrouping windows means more time available for the clubs and leagues. Time is an important factor in football. Longer breaks means fewer breaks overall, and less disruption to the season.”

Wenger summarised the demand of the member associations to compromise between the quantity of qualifying matches and the need to reduce interruptions to the club season, elaborating that playing six matches in October and two in March could be a workable solution.

“Basically, if you have two [FIFA] World Cups in four years, you will have twice the benefit scheme for the clubs. FIFA will continue to support the clubs; there’s no going back on that,” he said.

Over 500 participants to the sessions – including representatives of clubs and leagues – also had the chance to hear the reaction of FIFA Chief Legal and Compliance Officer Emilio García Silvero to the report on EU sports policy presented by Member of the European Parliament Tomasz Frankowski.

The report reinforces FIFA’s boosting of the regulatory framework through the reform of the transfer system which is a key pillar of the FIFA President’s Vision 2020-2023.

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