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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.

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.

What does record Asian qualification for Qatar 2022 mean for the region?

Socceroos

For the first time in World Cup history, a tournament will play host to a record six teams from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). The achievement follows on from Russia 2018, where the previous record was set by the five Asian teams (Iran, South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Australia) who qualified for that year’s tournament.

On a surface level it appears that the qualification of six teams to Qatar 2022 wholly reflects the region’s growing stature within world football. However when viewed in the context that Qatar is obviously assured a spot as hosts and that Australia’s result on penalties against Peru glosses over what was undoubtedly a campaign dominated by pragmatic thinking over possible effective utilisation, one must ponder the impact Asian teams as a whole will have on the tournament, particularly when looking at past editions.

According to Soccerment, an analytics platform focusing on accelerating the adoption of data analytics by a wider audience of football fans, Asian teams struggled most with shot accuracy (15% against a 29% tournament average) in Russia four years ago. In addition, it appeared Asian teams valued long balls the most of any continent in the tournament as well as hitting a collective average top speed of 27.7 – the lowest at the tournament that year.

Japan v Belgium

Of course, one has to comparatively look at the squad composition, subsequent utilisation and ultimate effectiveness of these five sides versus the teams in their respective groups. Furthermore, the flaws and generational situation of their opponents and the consequential effect has to be taken into account (exemplified best by South Korea toppling a regressing Germany). It is fair to even potentially play down Japan’s progression to the Round of 16 due to accruing fewer yellow cards than Senegal, but as a whole, teams from Asia fared far better in 2018 than in 2014 where they accumulated a total three points out of a possible 36 between four teams in the group stage (Japan, South Korea, Iran and Australia). By contrast in 2018 Asian teams secured 15 from of a potential 45 points, an 18% increase in points amassed.

Furthermore, viewing the Russia 2018 results through the context of where these teams are at ahead of Qatar 2022 is arguably ignoring the impact of the changes that have been made since. Of the six teams to have qualified only one side have retained the same coach across qualification campaigns, this being the tournament hosts Qatar, who have kept Félix Sánchez ever since his taking over of the side when they were last in their qualifying group for Russia 2018 and gone on to win the 2019 Asian Cup on home soil.

The current ‘big six’ of Asia have qualified for the tournament, and perhaps it is just reward for Asian football’s increased investment into the sport over the past few decades. In saying that, a set of countries’ ambitious development efforts does not necessarily reflect a whole region’s shared emphasis. For some nations, the development, alignment and tailoring of resources serves as a challenge they’re unwilling to take – irrespective of the passionate and parochial fan base of some club teams. When one looks at Indonesian side Persib Bandung’s nearly 20 million total followers across social media platforms and impressive crowd numbers matching the likes of mammoth Iranian sides like Tractor S.C, it feels like more could be done to improve the country’s international standing.

AFC

In terms of top-tier active support for domestic Asian leagues, the infrastructural foundations need to be laid outside of the likes of South Korea and especially Japan, where for example J-League sides select youth players from age 11, a factor which has hugely contributed to their consistent youth production line.

Often the determinative factor of a region’s influence on football is the number of names plying their trade in top-level overseas – mainly European leagues. And by this measurement, Asian football is at an all-time high with representatives from across the continent making a name for themselves at the top level of the game. When considering that 92% of the teams that reached the quarter-finals in the last three editions of the FIFA World Cup were from Europe and South America, it will be interesting to see if an Asian team pushes beyond the Round of 16 with the greater base of players based in Europe especially.

From the 2026 World Cup onwards, an increase from four to eight direct slots alongside an extra spot via the intercontinental playoffs affords Asian teams a greater chance to shine on the world stage. It is more likely than that the jointly hosted 2026 edition will provide greater evidence of Asia’s elevated levels of competitiveness when facing far better developed footballing nations.

The reality is we simply do not know how the Asian confederation’s representatives will fare until the 2022 World Cup in Qatar plays out. But nonetheless, the strides being taken by sections of the AFC region to improve their infrastructure and to foster a distinct identity will have massive long-term benefits in a manner quite possibly akin to Japan in terms of youth development. Time, as always, will tell.

Football Australia unveil Domestic Match Calendar for 2022/23

WC Qualification

Football Australia has today released the Australian Football Domestic Match Calendar for 2022/23 (DMC 2022/23) which outlines the key dates for elite men’s and women’s football competitions, alongside transfer and registration windows, for the period from 7 October 2022 to 7 October 2023.

Designed and implemented to align the game and harmonise Australia with key international football events and activities, the DMC 2022/23 provides clear windows for matches from the Isuzu UTE A-League Men, Liberty A-League Women, Australia Cup, and National Premier Leagues (NPL) to be played, enabling administrators and teams to progress their planning for Australian football leagues and competitions accordingly.

Having extensively consulted with key stakeholders including Australian Professional Leagues (APL), Football Australia via the DMC 2022/23 has regulated that FIFA international windows for men’s and women’s football will be observed throughout 2022/23, with A-League Men’s and Women’s competitions to pause while the respective Australian senior national teams are in action.

To view the Australian Football Domestic Match Calendar for 2022/23, please click here.

This move will ensure that players selected for national team representation will not miss club matches during the periods in which they are on international duty, supporting an increase in match minutes for the individuals chosen to represent the Socceroos or Commonwealth Bank Matildas.

FA DMC

Football Australia Chief Executive Officer, James Johnson, explained that the DMC 2022/23 is a significant tool for Australian football that will help the game to capitalise on several major milestones over the coming year.

“With the Domestic Match Calendar 2022/23 now finalised, staff at Member Federations, the APL, and Football Australia, as well as clubs within the Australian football ecosystem, can more thoroughly plan their activities for the period from 7 October 2022 and 7 October 2023,” Johnson said via press release.

“There are many major milestones that the game can capitalise on over the next 12-to-18 months, with the tailwinds of Australia’s participation at this year’s FIFA World Cup™ in Qatar, and co-hosting of next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup™, to help underpin interest in the A-Leagues, NPL competitions, and the Australia Cup.

“With clear windows for match activity now set, we can work collaboratively on maximising the opportunities that exist within player pathways, as well as think and act strategically about the promotion of the sport, ensuring that each area of the game has the best possible opportunity to engage fans, sponsors, and audiences both domestically and internationally.

“Pleasingly, we will see a significant amount of Australia Cup football prior to the commencement of the A-League Men season in early October. This could see our domestically-based Socceroos players being exposed to a good amount of competitive football prior to the FIFA World Cup™ in Qatar.”

“It has taken a collaborative, team effort to finalise the DMC 2022/23, and we acknowledge stakeholders from across the game for contributing to this important piece of work,” Johnson concluded.

Key dates/features of the DMC 2022/23 include:

  • Isuzu UTE A-League Men’s 2022/23 Regular Season to commence from Friday, 7 October 2022, with the 2023 Grand Final to be contested on the weekend of 26-27 May 2023
  • Liberty A-League Women’s 2022/23 Regular Season to commence from Friday, 18 November 2022, with the 2023 Grand Final to be contested on the weekend of 29-30 April 2023
  • Final match of the DMC 2022/23 to feature the 2023 Australia Cup Final on Saturday, 7 October 2023
  • National Premier Leagues 2023 Seasons to commence from Saturday, 4 February 2023 (men’s) and Saturday, 11 February 2023 (women’s) respectively
  • Placeholder between March 2023 and September 2023 included for establishment of new National Second Tier competition (men’s)
  • Player welfare windows included in both men’s and women’s calendars to ensure players can obtain rest/annual leave between seasons/elite football commitments

To view the Australian Football Domestic Match Calendar for 2022/23, please click here.

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