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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.

Carlos Salvachúa: “Playing without promotion and relegation is a big problem”

Carlos Salvachúa was Victory assistant coach under Kevin Muscat, before taking over as caretaker manager. He has coached professionally in Spain and Belgium, including six years at the Real Madrid academy, overseeing the development of the club’s rising stars.

He spoke to Soccerscene from Spain about his impressions of the A-League, where it could be improved, and how Australian youth need to play more football to reach their potential.

What were your first impressions of the A-League?

Salvachúa: Sometimes the big issue is knowing if it’s a professional league or not – and definitely the A-League was professional. I’m talking about games, organisation, talking about flights or hotels, and training. I was lucky to arrive to Melbourne Victory – one of the biggest clubs there is – and everything in the club was like in Europe and in Spain. Good facilities, good organisation, and a lots of staff in the office. For me the first impression was really professional.

What was the level of professionalism like compared to other leagues you have coached in?

Salvachúa: Belgium is a hard competition. I’m talking about the games, not about organisation – it’s similar to the A-League or in Spain in the La Liga. The competition is tough in Belgium if we compare the level of the players, the games and the competition.

After leaving Melbourne Victory, Salvachúa was Muscat’s assistant coach at Sint-Truidense V.V. in Belgium.

What were the biggest challenges you faced while coaching in Australia?

Salvachúa: One of the biggest for me was the distance to play a game. It was funny because here with Atlético versus Real Madrid they travel 15 minutes to go to sleep at home, and for Victory we spend three days away to play a game, for me this was really hard. In the Champions League we spent five days away to play a game in China or in Japan. For me and and European players as well this was hard, because it was not easy. I remember the long pre-season because the schedule of FFA Cup was really hard for us. We trained two to three months before the first game in the A-League, just to play one round in the FFA Cup.

How do you think the league could be improved?

Salvachúa: For me, playing without promotion and relegation, is a problem, a big one in my opinion for the league. You need to improve the league from the basement – you cannot start the building of the house from the roof, you must start building the house from the ground up. I’m talking about the NPL. They are tough competitions, and you need to give promotion to the A-League, and I think that the competition will be better with this system like in Europe. I think a competition without promotion and relegation is only working with the MLS in USA. In Australia I think that it would be great to create another kind of competition to improve the league.

Another thing for me that is one of the biggest issues was that sometimes the players were receptive – they are professionals about training and have a good attitude to learn, but for me as a coach sometimes the players don’t know how important it is to win – compared to a draw or a loss. Without promotion and relegation, in some games as a coach, in the second half the players don’t understand how important it is to get a win over one point. I think that is probably one of the solutions to change the model of the competition.

How would you rate the level of young talent being developed in Australia?

Salvachúa: Like in other countries, you have good players with talent at 14, 15, and 16 years of age, but in my opinion they need more games. Some players arrive to A-League at 19 years old – playing 18 to 25 games – and it’s not easiest time for the coaches to start these young players in the first 11. If they are not playing every Sunday, they need another tough competition. You need competitive games with a second team like here in Spain or with the under 18s or under 19s – it depends. I think that they need more games here. A 14 or 15 year old kid normally finishes the competition in Spain with 45 official games. 45 games is more than the professionals in the A-League. I think one of the big issues is they do not have enough games and training sessions to develop the players. But the talent is there like in other countries.

National Futsal Championships to return in 2022

Football Australia has announced today the return of the National Futsal Championships (NFC) in 2022.

Football Queensland (FQ) will host the 2022 championship, followed by Football Victoria (FV) for the 2023 edition.

Football Australia CEO James Johnson looks forward to growing futsal’s footprint in Australia after outlining a vision for a national program.

“As part of our clear strategic agenda, we outlined a vision to create a national program for futsal and beach soccer by working closely with our Member Federations in a unified, inclusive and collaborative manner,” Johnson said.

“With the culmination of this process, we are delighted that Football Queensland and Football Victoria will be hosting the National Futsal Championships in 2022 and 2023 respectively.

“There is a clear appetite throughout Australia for football to increase its imprint through futsal and beach soccer. Queensland and Victoria now have the opportunity to showcase this and bring it to life over the next two years, in a way never seen before.”

By granting the hosting rights to different cities, Football Australia believes the NFC will be a national tournament.

The Gold Coast Sports and Leisure Centre will host the relaunched tournament on the 5th-9th of January 2022.

“The National Futsal Championships are a highlight of the Australian football calendar, and we are excited to stage next year’s event at the state-of-the-art Gold Coast Sports and Leisure Centre,” FQ CEO Robert Cavallucci said.

Anthony Grima, Football Victoria’s Head of Futsal, believes the announcement was a step towards achieving FV’s futsal strategy.

“This is a huge win for Futsal in Victoria and one for me that should be dedicated to the many amazing individuals who are at the heart of the Futsal community here in Victoria,” Grima said.

“Hosting the NFC will leave a lasting legacy for Futsal and football in Victoria and inspire and enable more people to take up this amazing sport.”

The recently announced Home of the Matildas features a international sized futsal pitch, and it could host the championship.

Kimon Taliadoros, CEO of FV, said this news ensures that Victoria remains the home of sport.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for the people of Victoria. By hosting the National Futsal Championships, we will further enhance the state’s ability to host events and tournaments and support the Victorian economy by bringing interstate visitors back to Melbourne to experience the wide range of products, services and experiences that this great state has to offer,” Taliadoros said.

“Futsal has been on the national agenda for some time now, with Football Australia recently having released the ‘XI Principles – for the future of Australian football.’”

The return of the NFC will allow a pathway for players to compete against the best talent Australia has to offer.

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