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Two-time Women’s World Cup winner Tony Gustavsson to lead Matildas

FFA has tonight announced Tony Gustavsson has been appointed as the 14th Head Coach of the Westfield Matildas.

The Swede has enjoyed a storied 21-year coaching career, including winning two FIFA Women’s World Cups as Assistant Coach of the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT).

Gustavsson was formally welcomed to the role on Australian soil on Tuesday, visiting Australia House in London.

“I am extremely proud and happy to have been appointed Head Coach of the Westfield Matildas. I feel that my 21 years of coaching experience has put me in the position to be ready for this,” Gustavsson said.

“I have always said that the Matildas have the potential to be one of the best teams in the world and that is one of the reasons that I wanted to get on board with this job. I have been in the pressure cooker a lot of times and in an environments that demand success. These experiences will be beneficial as we do this together with the fans, the stakeholders, the players, and the staff as a team.”

The 47 year old has also enjoyed success at club level, leading Swedish club Tyresö FF to the domestic title in 2012, runner’s up in 2013, and to the UEFA 2014 Women’s Champions League Final in 2014.

FFA Chairman Chris Nikou was thrilled to welcome Gustavsson to the role, which in addition to the World Cup in 2023 will involve leading the Matildas to two Olympic Campaigns and the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup in India.

“We are delighted to have secured the services of Tony Gustavsson, who has been appointed following a robust and well-governed process, which was administered by a selection panel with strong football acumen and expertise in the women’s game and sport more broadly,” Nikou said.

FFA Chief Executive Officer James Johnson was also pleased to announce the appointment, saying that Gustavsson’s intimate knowledge of global football, experience at major tournaments, and strong history of success would be invaluable factors to lead the team forward.

“Tony arrives at the Westfield Matildas and FFA boasting a wealth of experiences in the international game and a strong track record of success,” Johnson said.

“Having worked closely with some of the best female footballers and coaches in the world and, through his time with the USWNT, he has developed an excellent understanding of what it takes to prepare for and perform in the intense, high-expectation environments of major international tournaments. We believe that in Tony, we have appointed a coach who will not only surpass the benchmarks and criteria we set as an organisation, but the standards that are expected by our players, football community and fans.”

“Throughout the process it was evident that Tony is eager to buy in to what we are working to build with the Westfield Matildas – an uniquely Australian team with a strong identity that is recognised as world class both on and off the pitch. We want to elevate our Westfield Matildas even further as a unifying symbol of the game to inspire all Australians, young and old. We believe that the combination of Tony’s persona and his experience make him the right person to help us do this. Importantly, Tony has also demonstrated a strong desire to positively influence the broader Australian football landscape by working closely with elite Australian coaches including Mel Andreatta, Rae Dower, and Leah Blayney to enhance their skillsets and help bring the next generation of female players through the development pathway over the crucial four year period ahead.”

 

FFA to be renamed as ‘Football Australia’ following AGM

FFA will be known as ‘Football Australia’ following unanimous Congress support in the 17th Annual General Meeting.

Football Federation Australia (FFA) will be known as ‘Football Australia’ following unanimous Congress support in the 17th Annual General Meeting (AGM).

The backing came after a consultation process as part of the development of the XI Principles for the future of Australian football. 

The AGM was held via video conference on Wednesday afternoon (AEDT), alongside the release of FFA’s 2020 Annual Review.

FFA’s Members voted to re-elect Mr Chris Nikou to FFA’s Board of Directors, while Mr Stefan Kamasz was elected to the Board.

FFA Members also approved Football Coaches Australia’s (FCA) application to become a Provisional Member of the FFA Congress.

Following the AGM, Nikou was installed by his fellow Directors to the position of FFA Chair – a role he has fulfilled since November 2018.

“In extremely difficult circumstances, throughout 2020 as a Board, Management, and Staff, we have continued the important work of implementing the critical structural changes to our game that were agreed in 2018,” Nikou said.

“Our Board has been focused on taking the necessary steps to ensure the protection, enhancement, and continued growth of our game, whilst empowering FFA’s administration to chart a new path forward.

“Increased collaboration with the game’s stakeholders has seen the development of a range of initiatives that will underpin the game’s future development. Significantly, we are close to finalising the unbundling of the professional leagues from FFA. This development will mark a new era for the game in Australia.

“FFA’s commitment to working hand-in-hand with all of the game’s stakeholders to grow the game has never been stronger or more necessary.

“Finally, I would like to extend a warm welcome to new FFA Director Mr Stefan Kamasz, and look forward to his contributions to a Board which meets FFA’s ‘40/40/20’ gender representation principle and boasts a diversity of skills, expertise, and experience.”

FFA Chief Executive Officer, Mr James Johnson, said that FFA, through initiatives such as the XI Principles for the future of Australian football, has been able to establish a strong platform to launch the game into its future.

“Despite the challenges of the year, 2020 has witnessed many highlights for Australian football,” he said.

“Among the headline moments, we won the right to co-host the next FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in 2023, saw both Men’s and Women’s teams qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, and launched the XI Principles for the future of Australian football, a new strategic agenda and 15-year vision for the sport.

“It is clear that we have already begun to change Australian football, and we are very well placed to capitalise on the opportunities before us.

“2021 will provide the opportunity to build on the momentum we have generated this year, and shapes as a year of implementation as we focus on bringing the XI Principles to life.

“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’.

“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.”

FFA’s 2020 Annual Review includes financial and strategic updates, as well as reviews of performances and events from Australia’s national teams and competitions throughout the year. You can find it here.

Football Queensland awards four teams with FQ Club Shields

Football Queensland have issued their first FQ Club Shields to four teams across the sunshine state.

The clubs to receive the accolade are Brisbane City, Brisbane Strikers, Lions FC and Gold Coast United.

The FQ Club Shield initiative was announced in June, serving as a visual representation of how clubs are performing based on a number of factors including extensive technical assessments.

“The FQ Club Shield initiative has been developed to improve accountability, transparency and visibility across a club’s technical performance and achievements while giving them a platform to celebrate success and growth in a meaningful way,” FQ CEO Robert Cavallucci said.

“We congratulate Brisbane City, Brisbane Strikers, Lions FC and Gold Coast United on completing their assessments in partnership with our FQ Club Development Unit and becoming the first clubs to receive their FQ Club Shields, with the remainder of National Premier Leagues Queensland Men’s, Women’s and Football Queensland Premier League clubs to receive theirs in the coming weeks,” he continued.

“FQ will continue to roll this initiative out across clubs as we support them in building capacity and improving technical development standards.

“Assessments are undertaken continually with star ratings provided annually. Up-to-date FQ Club Shields will be displayed on the Football Queensland website where players and parents can view them.”

The Club Development Unit critiques clubs on their planning, delivery and development outcome measures.

It also takes into account factors such as training and game observations, as well as an assessment of coaching standards.

“It is important to note that achieving any of the Gold, Silver or Bronze rating categories demonstrates considerable effort and consistent work and quality delivery by clubs’ administrators and technical staff,” FQ State Technical Director Gabor Ganczer said.

“The FQ Club Development Unit is continuing to ensure that both the players involved in these programs and the clubs themselves are well supported in their development.

Fixing Australia’s youth development starts with revamping the Y-League

A lack of consistent talent-production has cast the spotlight over Australia’s youth pathways in recent years, a topic that has generated robust discussion in football circles.

With many in the industry calling for change, it was a welcome sight when in July, Football Federation Australia (FFA) released its ‘XI Principles’ discussion paper. The document was generally well-received and among the key issues James Johnson and his team addressed was the requirement for a systematic revamp of Australia’s youth system.

According to principle five, FFA will seek to ‘Create a world class environment for youth development / production by increasing match minutes for youth players and streamlining the player pathway.’

Reinvigorating Australia’s youth football pathways will require a long-term, systematic approach to be successful but one thing is certain – young players simply need more competitive minutes.

And that starts by revamping the Y-League. As it stands, 10 clubs make up Australia’s national developmental and under-23 reserve league, forming two conferences.

In principle, the league fits a purpose, but in practice the system is not providing anywhere near enough high-level football for youngsters, certainly not since structural changes were made that hamstring the progress of Australia’s youth prospects..

Gary van Egmond was appointed Young Socceroos manager after the team failed to qualify for three consecutive Under-20 World Cups.

The 2015-16 season saw a new format introduced whereby the Y-League’s regular season was reduced from 18 games per team to a meagre eight (with potential for nine including a grand final).

Part of this reduction in games was due to budget cuts, another part due to FFA’s desire for players to use the NPL system as a developmental tool. On paper this seemed reasonable, but it has proved counterproductive, as talented youngsters are often torn between multiple commitments, causing a severe lack of continuity.

Although A-League clubs can enter their academy teams into their respective state’s NPL competition, elite players are playing a mixture of Y-League, NPL and the A-League games, the latter usually in a substitute or benchwarmer capacity.

This lack of consistency is creating a massive void in player development during what are some of their most critical years.

Earlier this year, Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) published an extensive report reviewing the national youth competition through historical analysis and player surveys. In an interview with pfa.com.au regarding the report, Guinean born Australian youth-level star John Roberts had the following to say.

“The Y-League is only eight games, and sometimes you don’t play eight, maybe it’s just four or five because you’re trialling with the first team or you’re the 17th or 18th man and you don’t get to play. In my opinion, for young players I think the youth league needs to go to a full season because I just think it will benefit us young players, it will give us more opportunity when we’re not playing.”

“But after the youth league finishes, you have to wait a while and then play NPL1 or NPL2 or just wait for your opportunity in the A-League.”

“You have to play regularly in higher competitions. If you’re playing NPL1 or NPL2 and you get called up into the A-League, the intensity of the game is too different because you’re not used to that and you don’t play in a high enough competition.”

The full interview with Roberts can be found here.

Striker John Roberts spoke about the limitations of the Y-League.

Among the notable results published in the report were that 90% of players believe the Y-League season should be extended and that only 20% of players who have graduated from the Y-League over the past five years went on to make an A-League appearance.

The findings led PFA Chief Executive John Didulica to state “In its current format the Y-League does not meet the needs of the players, A-League clubs or Australian football.”

The lack of youth production has predictably influenced the national setup, with Australia’s Under-20 team failing to qualify for the FIFA Under-20 World Cup for a record third consecutive time.

With the Y-League’s structural changes in 2016 clearly not having their intended impacts and FFA’s 2017 closure of the AIS, changes need to be made.

The solution may simply involve favouring the decentralized, academy-first approach which FFA has created but designing an environment which complements it. Something akin to the National Youth League of 1981-2004.

Extending the Y-League to run parallel to the A-League as a genuine reserve grade competition would allow players to fully commit to their academy side. This would mean ample minutes, plus a guarantee of continuity that does not currently exist for players who are forced to rebound between Y-League, NPL and occasionally A-League clubs.

While in theory this could harm NPL teams if their talented youngsters are poached by academies, it could create a perfect opportunity for FFA to implement new rules and regulations surrounding player transfers and compensation that would form part of an improved transfer system.

This is something the federation has stated it wishes to achieve through principle number three, in which FFA states in intention ‘To establish an integrated and thriving football ecosystem driven by a modern domestic transfer system’.

Designing a formal compensation system to parallel a legitimate under-23’s full season competition would kill two birds with one stone, rewarding grassroots clubs for producing talent while giving young players the consistent exposure to competitive football

There are undoubtedly factors, mainly commercial, which would dictate the validity of these ideas, but the game’s top administrators do need to act, or Australia will face the risk of losing its next generation and fading from international football relevance.

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