The coach speaks: One on one with Alen Stajcic

It was perhaps apt that my chat with former Matildas and now Central Coast Mariners manager Alen Stajcic was interrupted by an urgent call from the top brass in Gosford; such is the chaos of the times.

Stajcic agreed to chat about all things football in the present climate and the repercussions for the short and long term future of the game in Australia. I opened by asking the 46-year-old whether he held fears for the future of the game, both domestically and abroad.

Citing what he referred to as “the new normal”, Stajcic predicted considerable challenges on both landscapes as football enters a recovery period.

“It was pleasing to see most governments place health concerns over those of their economies, yet the financial implications of that will see football take a hit as well; being merely a microcosm of the world,” he said.

Rather astutely, Stajcic pointed out that, “At times like this it is the vulnerable and weak that will be exposed”. Once again referring not only to our communities, but also to the precarious financial position in which Australian football now finds itself.

I probed the former Sydney FC W-League manager as to the ramifications for the women’s top tier. He referred to the $16344 minimum wage and a likely decrease to it; in line with what their A-League counterparts will no doubt experience.

Stajcic recalled the early days of the league when “W-League clubs were primarily funded by the federations”. When the clubs themselves took over the funding and administrative arms in subsequent years, their reliance on broadcasting revenue became as paramount as that of the A-League competition.

Hence, with the existing broadcast deal between FFA and Foxtel seeming insecure and likely to be reshaped, Stajcic sees the immediate impact on both leagues as “significant and potentially life changing” for many players, coaches and staff.

I asked whether there could be something of a silver lining in international football, with a potential correction of wages that have spiralled to absurd levels in recent times. Whilst in notional agreement in regards to the EPL, LaLiga, Serie A and other major leagues, he also expressed a concern that a hypothetical 20 per cent correction could have disastrous implications for the A-League. Stajcic was adamant of the importance in “sustaining full-time professionalism in Australia.”

With many ex-Socceroos currently throwing their hat into the opinion ring and FFA convening the rather aptly named think tank, Starting IX, I quizzed Stajcic on the past. I wanted to know whether he felt the added weight currently being given to past players’ views was a help, or in fact a hindrance to the financial and structural challenges that lay ahead.

Stajcic was clear and categorical in his response, citing dangerous appointments of the past, where non-footballing executives were frequently appointed to prominent positions at FFA. He is hopeful for and thankful that James Johnson has taken the reigns and was clear in his desire for the governing body to emanate a “clear football voice with football people making the decisions that impact the game.”

According to Stajcic, a sticking point in the domestic game lies in the pathways to the elite level. “The pathways for young and promising players were far better in the NSL days. Outcomes are a direct result of those pathways.”

No doubt, that issue may well be placed on the back burner for the short term future, as Johnson and his board attempt to navigate their way through the mess that is COVID-19. However, Stajcic sees it as vital if Australia is to begin producing a greater array of elite level professionals, capable of playing in the world’s top leagues.

With the A-League eyeing a month long feast of football in August, I asked Stajcic how he would approach preparing his squad with fitness levels and continuity serious considerations.

“Due to the restrictions we have had in Australia, I think you will find many clubs will be in different situations, depending on the access to facilities the players had and will have within their own jurisdictions. Clubs will also have different goals and objectives when we return. A club like the Mariners are obviously looking to continue the rebuild, others may do the same.”

I rounded out the interview by asking the man still heavily invested in the fortunes of the Matildas, whether the Australia/New Zealand bid for the 2023 Women’s World Cup will seem more or less attractive to FIFA in the aftermath of the pandemic.

He replied, “I’m not sure how it could seem less attractive. There is little need to develop infrastructure as our stadiums can cope comfortably with such an event and Australia does seem more advanced in its recovery from COVID, compared to Brazil, Japan and Colombia who are also bidding for the event.”

With reports from Japan suggesting the pandemic still has some way to run its full course and Brazil having tragically lost over 11,600 citizens, Colombia and Australia may now well loom as the favourites in the race.

Hopefully Stajcic is correct in his summation of the potential success of the bid and that FIFA also see the benefits of hosting a World Cup down under for the first time. It would be one of the biggest sporting events in Australia’s history; one drawing revenue, investment and interest.

All stakeholders know just how important each of those things are in the business of football, Alen Stajcic included, particularly within the uncertain financial future that football in Australia must now navigate.

Staff Writer
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Football Coaches Australia and XVenture collaborate with Football Victoria to elevate coaching development

Football Coaches Australia (FCA) and XVenture (XV) have forged a ground-breaking partnership with Football Victoria (FV) to enhance the calibre of football coaching in the region.

This collaboration aims to empower and bolster football coaches through a strategic alliance with FV’s Club Coach Coordinator (CCC) programs, available at various levels.

The FV CCC packages encompass Basic, Bronze, Silver, and gold levels, each offering unique benefits:

Basic Package: Clubs enrolled in FV’s Basic CCC program will receive online resources and content along with monthly check ins via email with their FV program manager supplemented by FCA XV Essential Skills content on Leadership and specialized guidance on supporting teenagers.

Gold Package: At the other end of the scale, Gold CCC package, FV provides monthly sessions plans from the online platform with 3 club visits from program manager throughout the season to work with the CCC and coaches at the club.  alongside the prevailing advantages. CCCs at this level will unlock three modules within the FCA XV Essential Skills Program. Moreover, nine coaches within the club will receive access to the Foundations of Essential Skills Module.

Gold CCC package holders will enjoy an extraordinary opportunity, granting their entire community access to an exclusive webinar featuring top EQ and mind coach, Mike Conway. Conway, renowned for his pivotal four-year coaching role contributing to Australia’s historic FIFA World Cup Campaign in Qatar 2022, brings unparalleled expertise.

FCA CEO, Kelly Rourke, expressed her excitement about the partnership, stating:

“We’re thrilled to be able to work with Football Victoria as part of their innovative Club Coach Coordinator program, designed to provide coaches of any level access to a diverse range of resources and expertise. All for the improvement of the game.”

FCA President Gary Cole echoed Kelly’s sentiments:

“We are so pleased to partner with Football Victoria on this new Club Coach Coordinator program. Ongoing Coach Education is important and providing these wonderful online tools to help Clubs, Coordinators and Coaches is a great way to assist,” he said.

“FCA/XVenture College has helped almost 900 coaches from 20 countries with valuable ongoing growth and development opportunities and this relationship with Football Victoria is another fantastic initiative. Better Coaches, Better Players!”

Craig Moore, FV Coach Education Manager, emphasised the significance of this collaboration, remarking:

“I’m thrilled as this is a fantastic opportunity to strengthen our CCC Program with two organisations that are setting the standards for coach support and development in this country and beyond. I can only see better times for our coaches in the future with this collaboration.”

For further information on Football Victoria’s CCC programs and to seize this unparalleled coaching advancement opportunity, kindly contact Football Victoria’s CCC program Manager Rob Taylor at Robert.Taylor@footballvictoria.com.au.

This alliance marks a pivotal stride in football coaching, empowering coaches to nurture their skills and lead with excellence.

“Women’s Football Transformed” – NewCo ready to propel women’s professional football in the UK

Last November, the English Football Association (FA) revealed it would no longer be running the English Women’s Super League (WSL) and English Women’s Championship, handing the reins to a newly-formed independent organisation, NewCo.

Relatively unknown and tipped for a name-change, NewCo is led by Canadian-born CEO Nikki Doucet, a former General Manager for Nike UK/Ireland who is well versed in the world of finance and sport.

Slowly but surely, the football world is learning more about the company, its CEO, and its plans to propel the WSL and Championship to new heights.

In a statement outlining NewCo’s vision, CEO Nikki Doucet stated the company “will be a revenue-generating, for profit, standalone entity with a professional and dedicated management team.”

The 24 member clubs of the WSL and Championship will be recognised as shareholders of the organisation.

Further to this, Doucet expressed her gratitude for the FA’s role in building professional football for women, and NewCo’s intent for the future.

“They [the FA] have belief in the women’s game and have funded the proof of concept for women’s football in this country and now we’re at a stage where it’s set up to be a standalone entity to capitalise on the growth and opportunity in front of us,” she explained via the FA website.

The WSL’s primary sponsor, Barclays, is halfway through its £30 million ($58 million AUD) investment deal in women’s football that will end in 2025.

Whilst it is NewCo’s desire to maintain relationships with existing sponsors like Barclays, there is an expectation to attract new investment

Media speculation suggests that the Premier League has approved a loan of £20 million ($38 million AUD), that will be repayable once NewCo records £100 million in annual revenue ($193 million AUD).

Speaking to Sky News, Premier League Chief Richard Masters stated that if approved, the loan would symbolise an important relationship between the top tiers of men’s and women’s football in the UK.

The loan will also breathe confidence into clubs, of which some have called for league restructuring to alleviate financial pressure.

NewCo shut down speculation over the potential for the WSL to become a closed league in January, re-stating its “100%” commitment to promotion and relegation between the top two tiers.

Talks over broadcasting rights for the WSL and Championship are also underway, with existing deals between Sky Sports and the BBC concluding at the end of the 23/24 season.

At the conclusion of the 22/23 WSL season, research driven by the Women’s Sport Trust (WST) showed a 36% season–on–season increase in match viewership in the UK.

Given this major increase in viewership, and popularity of women’s football generally, one expects that Sky Sports and the BBC will renegotiate a new deal.

Likely competitors will be TNT (formerly BT Sport), and streaming service Amazon Prime, who have dipped their toes in the water with Premier League coverage in the past two seasons.

Whether a new deal will affect international viewership, particularly in Australia via streaming platform Optus Sport, remains to be known. However, Doucet has made it clear that increasing its audience network is a key goal.

“Reach and revenue is the thing that we’re trying to figure out,” she told reporters.

“I think, more than anything, it should just be as easy as possible for fans to be able to watch the league or the team or the player that they want to watch. How we can do that is what we’re exploring.”

League breakaways, particularly those in favour of profit-driven, independently-run entities, are often fraught with controversy across football’s many sub-sectors.

However, in keeping with the transparent and widely forward-thinking approach of women’s football, NewCo’s takeover of the WSL and Championship could take the development of professional women’s football to the next level.

Women’s football transformed is the tagline underpinning NewCo’s vision for the WSL and Championship, and Doucet offers no shortage in imagination for what it hopes to achieve.

“In 10 years from now, I hope you’re asking me questions around things like how do I get off the waiting list for tickets to WSL games, so we’ll have stadiums at top capacity, all the top players wanting to come here,” she proclaimed.

“I want to be answering questions around elite female athlete health and how that has transformed ‘high street’ physiotherapy. I want you to look at an all-female team and the first thing that goes through your head is “wow, that’s a high performing team’ with no hesitation.”

Further announcements about NewCo’s plans will be eagerly anticipated, as the current WSL and Championship seasons’ near their conclusion.

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