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The need for more women coaches – Interview with FCA’s Aish Ravi

New Football Coaches Australia (FCA) Executive Committee member Aish Ravi has made it her mission to inspire more women to take up coaching roles, from the community level to the highest level of sport in Australia.

Ravi, who is undertaking a Doctor of Philosophy focusing on women’s coaching education in football, believes Football Coaches Australia is an organisation that can challenge the current status quo amongst the coaching ranks.

“I think FCA has definitely got the potential to make a lot of change in the coaching and leadership space. I’m really excited to help them enact that change,” she said.

“I’m currently doing a PHD looking at women in sport. It’s really about understanding what women’s experiences are in football and why there is a lack of them, and seeing what strategies we can put in place to change that.

“I met Glenn Warry (CEO of FCA) through my involvement of working within the Victorian NPL system and he wanted me to use my knowledge and expertise I guess, in wanting to contribute to give women a voice in FCA.

“We wanted to see how we can amplify their voices, provide more exposure for them and also see how we can increase the number of women coaches.”

A VCE Business Management and Economics teacher by day, Ravi was personally introduced to coaching when she was asked to coach the school’s football side.

After completing an appropriate coaching licence course, she would go on to manage Junior NPL teams at Heidelberg United and Bayside United, before eventually being offered a position to coach the women’s senior team at Bentleigh Cobras.

“We ended up winning the championship in my first season (at Bentleigh) in 2019 which was really exciting,” Ravi said.

“Now we are just trying to regroup and see if we can do the same thing this year.”

Ravi’s passion for coaching is helped by her enthusiasm for working with younger people.

“I really enjoy working with them in a holistic way, so getting to know them and understanding what their interests, motivations and desires are to help them achieve their best,” she said.

“That combined with the love of football, is really why I enjoy coaching football in particular. It’s the world game and once you understand and know that, you can talk to so many people from so many different places. It’s something I get a lot of excitement and enjoyment from.”

FCA Executive Committee member Aish Ravi.

Despite these positive experiences in football, Ravi would still see the coaching game in general dominated heavily by males, something that she believed needed to be addressed.

In response to this, she would go on to co-found the Women’s Coaching Association (WCA) last year with fellow PHD candidate Julia Hay.

“I coach football, but I also play Australian rules and cricket, so I’m quite heavily involved in the community with sport in general,” Ravi said.

“Julia has an Australian Rules background and from talking and sharing our experiences we realised that a lot of the barriers women face coaching football (from my perspective), were actually also similar to that of other sports.

“Sports such as Australian Rules, Cricket, Hockey, Netball all shared common challenges. So, we founded WCA, really to get all the sports together, not just for football.

“We wanted to really bring it together for the coaches, in particular women coaches, but also men who are coaching women.

“We would like to see how we can first of all attract more women and girls to coach sport, how we can develop the women and girls who are currently coaching a team in these sports and also sustain a career.

“They are the three real objectives we have.”

According to Ravi, events like The Women’s World Cup in 2023, the biggest sporting event to be held on our shores since the 2000 Olympics, will hopefully act as a catalyst for necessary social changes in women’s sport. Not only at a coaching or playing capacity, but also at a leadership level.

“It’s a really important event,” she said.

“Sport is the most powerful social institution. It’s great that the Football World Cup is the world’s largest women’s sporting event and it’s awesome that it’s at our home.

“If the Matildas have success that’s great, that can show the young girls and women that they have a pathway, a career, that’s celebrated and respected and perhaps they can succeed in.

“But It’s also vital that we have women leaders that are visible and succeeding, that sends an equally powerful message that there are also career opportunities off the field.”

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.

Is Australia ready for a two-year World Cup cycle?

Battle lines are being drawn between FIFA and key stakeholders, as it remains to be seen whether Australia will support the push for a two-year World Cup cycle.

FIFA’s minutes from the 71st Congress, where Saudi Arabia put forward the motion to study the viability of a two-year cycle, doesn’t include what member federations voted for in the motion.

Football Australia hasn’t stated publicly whether they were one of the 166 nations who voted for the motion, or whether they support the plans.

Football Australia is instead adopting a wait-and-see approach, to avoid taking a position before any proposal for changes are put forward after the viability study is completed.

Two-time A-League Coach of the Year Ernie Merrick believes the push from FIFA for a two-year World Cup cycle is because of business and money.

“It’s about profit and loss. It’s not about the people in the sport really, and FIFA are always competing with their confederations, of which there are six, and FIFA only have one event where they make substantial money from revenue and that’s every four years,” Merrick said.

“So in effect FIFA loses money for three years, and then the fourth year and makes massive profits mainly from broadcast, ticket sales, and sponsorship from a World Cup.”

The majority of FIFA’s $8.7 billion in revenue between 2015-2018 came from the 2018 Men’s tournament.

The commercial value of another World Cup every four years is incredibly attractive to the governing body as a way to boost its already full coffers.

Australian football will struggle to keep up with other countries if the World Cup is hosted every two years, according to Merrick.

“At the same time a lot of countries, including Asian countries, are spending an enormous amount of money on facilities and preparation setups for national competition. We all know of England’s setup, which is huge at St George’s Park, and here we don’t have a designated specific setup to prepare national teams,” he said.

“There’s a lot of infrastructure that will have to change to give Australia a chance to qualify on a regular basis. We certainly have good players and good coaches and we can compete with anyone regarding players, coaching and strategy but when it comes to the sort of money involved in preparing a national team, friendly games, and the amount of travel involved, Australia is really going to suffer.”

Michael Valkanis – former A-League coach, player and current Greece assistant coach – believes that without aligning with FIFA international dates, it means the A-League will struggle to adapt to a two-year World Cup cycle.

“We saw the effects of the Socceroos going away to play, and it always makes it difficult on A-League coaches and teams to support that.” Valkanis said.

“You can see the effects it can have on finals games, and we’ve been crying out for a long time that we become parallel with the rest of the world with international dates.”

Some of Australia’s biggest competitors in the AFC are showing ambivalence towards the concept.

“It would depend on how it would all be organised,” a Korean FA official told Deutsche Welle.

“If we want to have consistent success then we need to play as many competitive games against South American and European teams as possible. At the moment, we play one or two games every four years if we qualify. It’s not enough.”

While the viability of a two-year World Cup cycle is being studied, it is unclear how determined FIFA is to implement such a radical change to the football calendar against intense opposition from some of its members.

Merrick believes the end result could be FIFA demanding a portion of the confederation’s revenue.

“I think four years is probably a better situation at the moment – maybe three years down the track – but I think confederations will have to come to an arrangement with FIFA, and FIFA will want to take some of their revenue somehow through licensing,” Merrick said.

Those involved in international football already believe that the best model is the one we have currently, something that Valkanis is a strong fan of.

“I am a traditionalist. I think the World Cup is something special that stands out from any other competition in the world,” he said.

“The only other event that comes close is the Olympic Games, and to change the format so we see it every two years instead of four, I don’t think it leaves it the same. It is special the way it is.”

Football Australia CEO James Johnson will have a challenge on his hands navigating what a change in the World Cup’s schedule means for Australian football, as FIFA continues to push for increased revenue from the game.

Football Coaches Australia welcomes Sports Integrity Australia independent investigation

FCA

Football Coaches Australia (FCA) welcomed the broad independent investigative mandate provided by Football Australia to Sport Integrity Australia, encompassing four different areas – harassment, bullying, intimidation and discrimination.

FCA encourages current and former players, administrators, referees and coaches, as well as parents and others involved in football in Australia to come forward through this process to enhance the positive cultural development in our sport.

FCA President Phil Moss stated: “As an organisation we have sought transparency, due process and procedural fairness from day one, so we fully support an independent and wide-ranging investigation into the culture of football in Australia.

“We must, as a game, hold ourselves to the highest of standards.

“The culture we live every day, how we treat each other and ensuring we are setting up the next generation to enjoy our great game is of paramount importance and entirely non-negotiable.”

Newly elected FCA Vice President Sarah West endorsed Phil’s statement:

“Everyone in our sport, from professional players, coaches, referees, administrators and staff through to those involved at the grass roots, has the right to participate in a positive and safe environment and to be treated with respect and fairness.

“There is no place in our game for abuse or harassment of any kind. This unacceptable behaviour harms people and diminishes the game.

“As coaches we have a duty of care to those we are entrusted to work with and must endeavour to always create environments which provide safety, trust and inclusivity so that everyone can enjoy the beautiful game on and off the pitch.”

Media inquiries can be directed to FCA Chief Executive Officer, Glenn Warry, on +61 417 346 312

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