Western Sydney Wanderers create football program for kids on the autism spectrum

Autism Spectrum Australia and Western Sydney Wanderers

Western Sydney Wanderers have announced a collaboration with Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) to create a football clinic specifically designed for children on the autism spectrum who live in Sydney’s western suburbs.

This partnership allows the Wanderers to further connect with the Western Sydney community, something that they have been conscious of in the past, as well as specifically focusing on special needs children who need specific requirements in order to participate in these spaces.

The program, in its first year, has been designed for children aged 5-12 years and will run during the upcoming school holiday period.

Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) is Australia’s largest autism-specific service provider, with one of the biggest autism-specific school programs in the world. They are a not-for-profit organisation that work in partnership with people of all ages on the autism spectrum, and their families to deliver evidence-informed solutions that are person-centred, family-focused and customer driven.

More than 7,000 people in Western Sydney are officially diagnosed as Autistic and one of the key challenges faced by many families is accessing leisure and social activities that cater to their unique needs.

Tom Tutton, Executive Manager of Aspect Practice said the collaboration with a big professional Football club is a big step forward for the community.

“We applaud the team at Western Sydney Wanderers for initiating an inclusive program so that all children can participate in sporting endeavours, in an environment that works for them,” Mr Tutton stated in a Wanderers press release.

“Together, we have developed a soccer clinic that will foster self-confidence, skill development and importantly, provide a sense of community. The coaches are experienced in working with Autistic children and the environment and program has been assessed to ensure it will deliver an engaging experience for children on the autism spectrum, and their families.

“Sensory supports such as no whistle are in place along with a structured session and teaching approach and a visual timetable for increased predictability.”

Danny Egarchos, Community Manager at Western Sydney Wanderers, explained the importance of providing access to Football to all children in the community.

“As a local club, it is important that we ensure all members of our community – particularly our younger generation – can participate in soccer, and this means adapting programs to ensure inclusivity,” he added in the club press release.

“We are proud to work with Aspect’s Autism Friendly team and create a soccer clinic that is accessible for children on the autism spectrum. This means, children can take breaks during the clinic when required and there will be a visual story provided ahead of the clinic to help with preparation and knowing what to expect on the day. And most importantly, the focus will be on having fun.”

The Wanderers are using their large scale platform to involve a community that requires more leisure-based programs that caters to Autistic children. It is an extremely rewarding move for both parties and the benefits go directly towards the Western Sydney community, a focus that has been present from the Wanderers for a long time.

Football Queensland releases positive 2023 Annual Report including strong participation numbers

Football Queensland (FQ) have released their 2023 Annual Report which suggests state-wide growth in all areas and shows the strides it has made in its long-term strategic development across the state.

Football Queensland had a plan in 2020 to stabilise and grow its financial performances across the short-term future and were able to do that to full effect in 2023.

FQ delivered a record total revenue of $20,016,537 ($8.8m in 2020), and net assets of $5.3m, with a cumulative surplus of $2.5m.

In recent years, FQ has actively sought to diversify the organisation’s revenue streams by targeting growth in commercial income which this year saw an impressive 267% increase.

This placed downward pressure on registration fees which were reduced by nearly 30% in 2022.

As expected, a major influence in the increase of participation was the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup that inspired many around the country.

Football Queensland reported an 11.1% increase in state-wide participation post-FWWC23.

Football in Queensland is thriving, with 308 clubs and more than 300,000 players in 2023, the game stands as the state’s largest team and club-based participation sport, delivering significant social and community benefits both on and off the field.

For the first time ever, the Grand Finals of NPL Queensland and FQPL 1 Men and Women competitions were played at Suncorp Stadium which provided a platform to showcase Queensland’s top footballers on the prestigious stage.

As a result of this historic season, the digital broadcast reach and live stream viewership also experienced significant growth in 2023, particularly for the women’s competitions which recorded a viewership increase of 231.34%.

FQ have an ongoing commitment to promote women and girls in football, with dedicated programs and activations in place to reach their 50/50 gender parity goal by 2027.

In 2023, women & girls participation grew 8% on 2022 with a total of 31,239 outdoor club-based female players involved.

MiniRoos Club Girls growth was 5% with over 43,000 participants in 2023 providing an insight into how bright the future is in the state for women’s football.

There was a 28% increase in female coaches in 2023 across all different levels with development a key target for FQ.

Futsal participation had a 28% increase as well with FQ cracking over 10,000 participants for the first time.

FQ CEO Robert Cavallucci explained the encouraging numbers from the report and spoke on the future vision of FQ.

“2023 was another huge year for football in Queensland, as we worked to continue the momentum and success of the initiatives outlined in FQ’s 2023-2026 One Football Strategic plan which delivered a clear and comprehensive framework to foster growth of the game,” he said in a statement.

“Football Queensland has outlined our bold target of 50/50 gender parity in participation by 2027 and already in the first quarter of 2024 we have seen a remarkable 44% growth in outdoor female players.

“While we can attribute some of this success to the amplification effect of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, FQ’s strategic commitment and deployment of initiatives and programs in the lead up and post the event have played a crucial role in capturing and funnelling this growth in demand for our game.

“As we continue to record strong growth across the state and strive to meet the demands of our current base, it is absolutely critical that we as a governing body continue to advocate strongly for infrastructure investment in our game at a local, state and federal level on behalf of our clubs and participants.

“FQ launched multiple brand-new tournaments in 2023 to continue to strengthen the connected football pyramid, linking FQPL football tiers and maximising competitive opportunities for players, including the Kappa Pro Series and the expanded Mitre FQPL Champions League.

“The new futsal pyramid announced in 2023 aims to unify the delivery of futsal products, including the launch of the new Queensland Futsal Cup which provides further pathways for Queensland players to strive for national success.

“FQ’s ongoing focus on coach and referee support and development led to six Queensland match officials being named in the inaugural intake of the Football Australia Referee Academy, as well as the delivery of 223 coaching courses to over 2,800 attendees.

“On behalf of Football Queensland, I’d like to acknowledge the support of our Football Queensland team, Football Australia, State and Local Governments and our official partners throughout 2023, who contributed to a year marked by many historic milestones for our game.”

There are plenty of positives to come out of a year that has shaped the future of women’s football and participation in Queensland.

Queensland showed its ability to host the Women’s World Cup and will get a chance again in 2026 with the Women’s Asian Cup in a bid hopefully to again use the momentum to surge participation growth and their financial stability.

You can read the Annual Report in full here.

Football Victoria to tackle violence prevention through grants

$1.2 million has been allocated on behalf of Football Victoria (FV) towards the “Preventing Violence through Sports Grants Program”, for the continuation of 12 community-based sporting projects across the state to occur.

As confirmed by Prevention of Family Violence Minister Vicki Ward, and Community Sport Ministers Ros Spence, it will ensure that football has its place within the community.

Each respective minister will strive towards the mitigation and resolution of violence amongst families.

A supportive body under the umbrella of Football Victoria, Victorian University and Regional Sport Victoria, is a designated support team designated towards the installation of projects addressing structural and cultural hurdles experienced by multicultural communities, females and non-binary people through the participation of sports.

Football Victoria’s involvement within the Change Makers supportive initiative is exercised frequently. Within the football community, it is imperative that inclusivity is at the forefront upon all aspects for football to be a game for all to enjoy, succeed and prosper within.

The programs in which FV offer in collaboration with Change Makers are commonly in the prevention of violence. Changing attitudes, behaviours and patterns all correlated with violence are implemented in order to build a safer football community. In which has the prosperity to have further change upon a wider community.

Executive Manager of Equity, Growth, and Inclusion at Football Victoria, Karen Pearce OAM emphasised the need for additional funding to support their ongoing efforts said via press release:

“We are indebted to the Victorian Government’s funding, so we can continue to persist in producing enabling environments through education and training delivered in partnership with Victorian University and Regional Sport Victoria, and not lose the momentum of gains already achieved,” she said.

“As an organisation, we have learnt that all our equity work must be overlaid with a primary prevention approach that establishes the expectation that gender equality must be considered and prioritised in all current and future planning, service delivery and practice.”

Fiona McLachlan, Associate Director Research Training at Victoria University, celebrated the news.

“We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Football Victoria to support their sector-leading gender equity work. We have made a very conscious decision to work with Football Victoria for their openness to adopt research-informed and whole-of-sport approaches to preventing gender-based violence,” she added via press release.

The Change Makes program is created to assist clubs in the analysis of their environments, allowing for the identification and termination of aspects within the club that showcase inequity.

Showcased through a tangible evidence-based approach, education towards change can occur.

Furthermore, the drive in achieving gender equality can continue to drive in a forward direction throughout the analysis process.

Change makers have already established quite the presence within Victorian sport. FV, in collaboration with the supportive body, have successfully challenged and created necessary change within multiple facets of sport across the state.

Primarily, gender equality has remained at the forefront of their ongoing efforts, with the body acting as a means for change to entrenched, outdated practices the world has moved on from.

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