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The FFA Cup should be renamed the Australia Cup in a nod to the game’s history

This past Wednesday, Football Federation Australia held its seventeenth Annual General Meeting.

One of the agenda items included a proposal which would change the governing body’s name from ‘Football Federation Australia’ to ‘Football Australia’.

FFA’s members unanimously approved the proposal and will go ahead with the plan to change its company name to ‘Football Australia’.

“Today we took another significant step on this new journey we have embarked upon when the FFA Congress unanimously resolved to change the organisation’s name from Football Federation Australia to ‘Football Australia’,” FFA CEO James Johnson said on Wednesday.

“This new name – which we will transition to over the coming months – signifies a fresh and exciting start for the game under the new strategic agenda, and a return to the roots of football in Australia.”

“I firmly believe that the opportunity for further change and positive transformation in Australian football burns brighter than ever, and with the foundations that we have set in 2020 there is much to be optimistic about,” he concluded.

What exact specifics Johnson is talking about when he refers to returning to the roots of the game in Australia is unclear, however one of the organisation’s touted changes is to re-brand the FFA Cup to the Australia Cup.

It’s a move that does make sense, as the governing body moves itself and its assets away from the “FFA” moniker.

Johnson told the SMH: “We’ll be announcing in the coming weeks a revamped FFA Cup – of course, the name change will be a part of that thinking.”

“But it will go a lot broader than just the name change … we’re looking at a different format which will be more open, a format that would allow more opportunities for clubs across the country to participate in national-level competitions.”

Putting aside possible tweaks in the format of the competition, if the change in name of the tournament does go ahead, it would be the right move.

FFA Chairman Chris Nikou inspecting the original Australia Cup. Credit: FOX SPORTS

The Australia Cup was the country’s first nationwide knockout football competition, beginning in 1962.

Yugal defeated St George Budapest 8-1 at Sydney’s Wentworth Park in the competition’s inaugural final.

Four-time NSL champions Sydney Hakoah were the only team to win the Australia Cup on two occasions.

Other winners of the tournament included George Cross, APIA Leichardt and Port Melbourne Slavia.

The cup ran until 1968, with administrators deciding the competition would be abolished due to various difficulties including interstate travel problems.

Since the cup competition was a national event, it did open up the doors for the idea of a long-term National Soccer League, which was ultimately introduced nine years later in 1977.

This is just a snippet of the game’s rich history and the return of the Australia Cup in modern day would celebrate and recognise the days of old.

It would be in unique contrast to some of the previous administrators of the game who have treated Australian football’s past with the utmost contempt.

In what could be seen as an extremely symbolic event of the way Australian football has ignored its history, the Australia Cup trophy was found in a rubbish bin in 2011 by builders who were carrying out renovations at the Hakoah Club.

Embarrassing events like this may have given James Johnson and his administration team the impetus to address these failures, with resources such as the ‘XI Principles’ document, drafted earlier this year, acting as a catalyst.

One of the principles, titled “Reset the narrative of Australian football”, has the following point as a proposed measure of change.

“Create a narrative which is contemporary, genuine, and acknowledges Australian football’s multicultural origins, its rich history and diverse football community today. It must foster unity, be football-focused and capitalise on football’s global nature for the benefit of the Australian game.”

The appropriate acknowledgment of the Australia Cup as the name of the country’s knockout cup competition, will be a small step in respecting the broader history of Australian football.

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Philip Panas is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

FA CEO James Johnson opens up on difficulties in the game and opportunities for the future

Speaking at Football Victoria’s Community in Business event on Friday, Football Australia CEO James Johnson reflected on his first 14 months in the top job of the sport, detailing the difficulties the organisation faced in 2020 and the opportunities it has in the coming years.

“I’d like to share with you what I walked into in January 2020,” Johnson told the audience in Melbourne.

“I walked into Football Australia and what I understood from the off was that the organisation had really lost a sense of unity. I believe the organisation had lost its connection with the community.”

Johnson criticised the focus of the governing body’s financial model, believing it was not looking after the best interests of the game overall.

“The business model was heavily centred on the A-League,” he said.

“That was what decision making evolved around, while other parts of the game, in my opinion, were neglected. The business model was disconnected, fractured and was inefficient. It was inefficient because of the duplication of administration. It wasn’t set up to foster growth for a thriving football ecosystem.

“The model denied the most significant part of our game, our identity, our community, our people, our stories, our diverse and multicultural base and our great national teams.

“In place of this identity, we’ve allowed a narrative to proliferate over the past 10-15 years that is divided, politicised, old soccer against new football, but this is not what our game is.”

Football Australia CEO James Johnson

The former Brisbane Strikers player admits that the game is far from perfect in this country and needs to address a range of issues.

“We have some really serious challenges ahead of us,” he said.

“We don’t own enough facilities for our growing base, we have too many players, we are turning children and families away from our code because we don’t have enough infrastructure around the country. This is a real issue.

“The performance gap that we released in 2020 tells us that the age group that plays the most minutes in our elite men’s competition (the A-League) is the age of 32. We are not giving enough opportunities for our players under 23. We also have challenges with our football pyramid, we must reconnect our pyramid so we can unleash this potential of an ecosystem.”

Since Johnson was appointed as CEO early last year, the governing body has shifted their business model allowing them to deliver strategic priorities and focus on initiatives such as: the implementation of the domestic match calendar, the proposed introduction of a domestic transfer system, a half slot to the ACL for the FFA Cup winner and more. Johnson believes factors such as these are vital to reconnecting Australian football’s national pyramid.

In his speech at the Community in Business event, the former senior executive at the AFC, FIFA and the City Football Group also strongly emphasised the importance of recognising the game’s history properly, something the game has continued to neglect in previous years.

“We have a rich history and it must be celebrated,” he said.

“There are moments in our game, that not only shaped the game, but they shaped the way that our country is. In 1974, we sent our first men’s team to the World Cup led by Rale, in 1993 Maradona came here, in 1997 Iran broke our hearts, in 2005 a famous penalty got us to our first World Cup in many decades and in 2020 we won the rights to host the Women’s World Cup.

“Our game is full of these moments and I think if you all think about those moments, people will remember where they were when they occurred. We forget that our clubs in this country predated federation. We forget that football was the first sport in Australia to have a national competition in the 70’s. We forget the first cup competition in this country was in the 60’s, the Australia Cup.

“We forget that women played football in this country as early as 1909. Nearly 42 years ago, our very first Matildas stepped out onto Seymour Shaw Park for the first Matildas match. Now, we are only a few years away from the biggest sporting event for women in the world coming to our shores.

“We forget that 99 years ago our Socceroos played their first match against New Zealand. We are one year away from 100 years.

“We forget the role that football played in the lives of indigenous children, like John Moriarty, Jade North and Kyah Simon.

“We forget that our national competitions have always been the hallmark of our game. The NSL for many, many years. Our history provides us with platforms to move forward to and to launch a bold, exciting future for our sport.”

Johnson addresses the audience at Football Victoria’s CIB event

Johnson sees the Women’s World Cup in 2023 on home soil as the perfect avenue to establish a strong future for the game.

“We are focused on creating that link between our national teams, in particular the Matildas and our community,” he said.

“Our base of 2 million participants is great, but only 22% per cent of our base are women and girls. There is a direct link between the importance and relevance of national teams and the base of community. With our national teams starting up again, you will see over the next 3 years (particularly with the Women’s World Cup) that our base will grow further and it will grow well.

Our ‘Legacy 23’ framework is an ambitious plan to maximise the opportunities that the legacy of the Women’s World Cup (WWC) will provide us. Legacy is not something that starts after the WWC, it started last month. We’ve got to try as best as possible to ensure the WWC has a long-lasting legacy, similar to what happened with the Sydney Olympics in 2000.”

The FA CEO concluded by calling on every single stakeholder to be open to change, including the governing body itself, and push forward to make the sport the best it can be.

“If we are to reach the potential of our game, each and every one of us, every stakeholder, Football Australia, Member Federations, clubs, leagues, our community need to be open to change,” he said.

“Change and innovation are the commodities that we must deal with in 2021. I’m under no illusions that Football Australia must continue to earn the trust and confidence back from our stakeholders and community. To do this, we need deeds not just words.

“Let’s seize this opportunity and put our best foot forward.”

Football Queensland’s Services Guide to shape future

Football Queensland (FQ) has signalled its intent with the release of the 2021 Services Guide - Investing in the Future of Football.

Football Queensland (FQ) have signalled their intent to help football reach its lofty potential in the state with the release of the 2021 Services Guide – Investing in the Future of Football.

The announcement marks another significant step being taken by FQ in the pursuit of assuring a positive future for the game in line with Football Australia’s own initiatives to unlock the potential of Australian football. The guide is divided into FQ’s four key Strategic Pillars – Participation, Infrastructure, Clubs & Community and Leadership & People.

By building on the solid precedent set by recent years, FQ is aiming to deliver on a number of critical key targets from this year onwards. Specifically, FQ is seeking to build their participation base to 90,000, including 22,500 female participants alongside 8,820 registered coaches and 2,200 referees.

Notably, FQ have identified women and girls as the future of football in the state. With a surge of focus on the development of the women’s game, particularly with the 2023 Women’s World Cup right around the corner, FQ want to transform interest into active involvement. FQ’s concerted effort to grow women’s football is illustrated in the guide through their establishment of female-only coaching & referee courses, alongside the employment of a full-time Participation Manager to work specifically within the women and girls space.

Additionally, FQ has pledged to provide increased support for all forms of the game, including all abilities football, futsal, Indigenous football, masters football and summer football, as well as promote an inclusive space to people from all cultural backgrounds.

FQ’s strengthening of its programs and competitions is seen by the state’s governing football body as essential to creating a connected pathway to provide ambitious players with a clear view of the top. A stronger focus on assuring access for young male and female talent to the Australian footballing pyramid aligns with Australian football’s collective desire to build up the talented pool of youth available, ultimately allowing for Queensland’s footballing youth to thrive.

Following on from the release of the ‘Strategic Infrastructure Plan 2020-2024’ document in September of last year, FQ have reiterated their desire to build self-sufficiency within Queensland’s football infrastructure with the ‘Investing in the Future of Football’ guide. This reinforces that FQ are working towards the securement of a Queensland Government football infrastructure fund equating to $60 million over four years, thereby placing an clear emphasis on ensuring the expansion of football state-wide.

Moreover, the Kappa Festival of Football marks a clear effort by FQ to put a spotlight on the budding male and female talent coming through. The tournament will see NSW’s Men’s and Women’s teams featuring alongside Brisbane Roar’s A-League and Westfield W-League sides pitted against the very best that Queensland football has to offer. The inaugural 2020 edition was a huge success and was deemed as being massively beneficial to the process of scouting and recruiting young talent.

FQ’s dedication to a shared services model in its running of the game has been a fruitful initiative, particularly in extending practical support for football participants, officials, staff, volunteers and fans across the entire state. The measure has allowed for the management and administrating of football in Queensland to be proactively run, creating efficiency through the sharing of resources across the finance, competitions, refereeing, digital and marketing departments.

“With 313 clubs and over 180,000 participants, football in Queensland is operating on an enormous scale and the FQ Services Guide demonstrates just how FQ is delivering for its members and unlocking the opportunity in the game, increasing the number of participants, referees and coaches with services, programs, knowledge and support across all areas.” FQ Chief Executive Officer Robert Cavallucci said upon the guide’s release.

“With this structure in place, we can narrow our focus on accomplishing the projects that enable us to unite the game across Queensland, introduce efficiencies that place downward pressure on fees, meaningfully engage with members and provide quality products and services.

“FQ is striving to reach these targets by improving the standard of delivery at all levels and thereby improving the overall experience for our members.

“There is now a greater emphasis than ever on bringing communities together by developing community club capabilities and, crucially, on creating the efficiencies needed to make football more accessible.

“We are finding fresh ways to bring our vision to life through initiatives such as the shared services model, making managing and administering football across the state easier and more efficient.”

To view the full copy of FQ’s 2021 Services Guide – Investing in the Future of Football, you can find it here.

FIFA appoints Chief Operating Officers for Women’s World Cup 2023

FIFA has appointed two Chief Operating Officers (COOs) for the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 in Australia and New Zealand.

FIFA has appointed two Chief Operating Officers (COOs) for the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.

Jane Fernandez and Jane Patterson have been named as COOs for Australia and New Zealand respectively, after their initial appointments last year to lead the FIFA Women’s World Cup office for their host countries.

Fernandez led Football Australia’s successful bid to host the tournament and subsequently led to her appointment as Head of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 Office (Australia). She’s was also the Head of Sport for the Australian Olympic Committee and Tournament Director of the AFC Asian Cup 2015.

Patterson worked on sports events across Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia and the UK, featuring a a wide range of world championships in netball, BMX, para-swimming and taekwondo and major events including the Ironman Triathlon and the New Zealand Open golf tournament.

She was recognised for her achievements in service to sport with a New Zealand Order of Merit in 2016. She also worked for NZ Football as Project Director for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.

Jane Patterson (right) receiving the New Zealand Order of Merit from Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae, GNZM, QSO (left) during the Investiture Ceremony at Government House Auckland in 2016. (Credit: The Office of the Governor-General)

FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura:

“Today’s announcement adds to the excitement around the ninth edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.

“We are delighted to welcome Jane Patterson and Jane Fernandez on board as Chief Operating Officers for the competition.

Their skill, experience in leading multi-talented teams and passion for football will be key to ensuring the delivery of the FIFA Women’s World Cup at the highest level.”

Football Australia Chief Executive Officer James Johnson:

“We are delighted that Jane Fernandez has been appointed to this prestigious and important position, and that her vast knowledge and skillset will continue to be utilised by FIFA for the biggest sporting event to be held on Australian soil since Sydney 2000.”

CEO of New Zealand Football, Andrew Pragnell:

“New Zealand Football are thrilled to see Jane Patterson confirmed as Chief Operating Officer (New Zealand) for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.

“Jane has done a stellar job to date as Project Director for the Initial Operating Phase and we are delighted to see her continue to bring her wealth of knowledge and experience to the tournament.”

The newly-appointed COOs will oversee the operational aspects for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 in Australia and New Zealand. It’s the first time this tournament will be co-hosted in FIFA’s history, that will feature 32 teams – an increase from 24 in France 2019.

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