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Western United to play Australia Day fixture at Whitten Oval

On Friday, newly formed A-League club Western United announced that they would host their match against Adelaide United at the Whitten Oval.

The match, set to take place on Australia Day (January 26) will mark the third AFL ground that Mark Rudan’s side has used this season as a home venue.

Previously to this, Mars Stadium in Ballarat and GMBHA Stadium in Geelong have been used.

On paper, this is a perfect move for the expansion club. Their match against the Reds will mark their first official match to take place in western Melbourne, opposed to greater western Victoria.

Their stadium in Tarneit is on course for a 2021 completion, so obviously until then, they need to make do with what’s available.

But now, they finally have a chance to play in front of the people who were their targeted demographic from day one.

The Whitten Oval is a great location in itself, having played host to large scale AFLW games and consistent seasons of the VFL. So the ground will be up to scratch for 90 minutes of A-League football.

Currently, the AFL, AFLW and VFL are in their off-seasons, so there is no risk of any clash between AFL side the Western Bulldogs and Western United.

There was only a minor risk of clash between the match and any pre-season training for the Bulldogs. But thankfully, the 2016 AFL premiers are on a training camp up north on the Sunshine Coast at the time of Australia Day.

In an article from The Age, United CEO Chris Pehlivanis and Western Bulldogs CEO Ameet Bains echoed each other’s thoughts on the prospect of A-League football at Whitten.

“We will continue to be a club for all who call the west home as we take this journey together,” Pehlivanis said.

“Relocating our round 16 fixture to Whitten Oval gives the club’s growing fanbase an opportunity to taste the A-League at another family friendly, community venue in the west.”

“Hosting A-League football at Whitten Oval is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the broad capability of our venue and to connect with a new audience,” said Bains.

“We have been able to create a unique, family-friendly atmosphere for sporting events we have hosted at Whitten Oval, particularly in the summer months at our AFLW matches.”

United’s start to the season has been a mixed bag, both on and off the field.

Many A-League fans would agree in us saying that it’s a nice breath of fresh air to have a new side, boasting new names as well as some familiar faces in the competition.

Their on field performance has been decent. They currently sit in fifth on the A-League table and despite some disappointing results as of late, they remain firmly in contention for a finals berth in their inaugural season.

That in itself is a remarkable achievement, should Alessandro Diamanti and co. get it done.

But off the field, there has been a struggle for numbers, particularly at home games.

They currently hold the second-lowest attendance record in the competition this season, averaging a measly 6,225 per game. They also hold the record for lowest attendance at a single game this season.

In their round nine encounter against Sydney FC, a mere 4,187 fans clicked through the turnstiles in Geelong as the reigning champions of the A-League ran out 2-0 winners.

Understandably, as a new side it’s tough to acquire fans from the get-go and to establish genuine connections with fans will take time. Poor on-field results would go a long way to diminishing any hopes of that.

But with time and the opening of their new stadium in the near future, it’s a simple case of staying the course for Pehlivanis and co.

This match on Australia Day in the heart of Melbourne’s inner-western suburbs could do a world of good for Western. With tickets reportedly going for as little as $6, it could be the beginning of a wonderful new relationship between them and the Western Bulldogs.

Fingers crossed for them that regardless of the on-field result, they have a good showing from their fans and any neutrals who watch them as well.

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Caelum Ferrarese is a Senior journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on micro policy within Australasia and industry disruptions at grassroots level.

Football Queensland outlines new Opportunities Paper

Football Queensland has released the Future of Football 2020+ Opportunities Paper, to build further on their goal of uniting football in Queensland.

The recently published Opportunities Paper is split into key areas, featuring an in-depth look at the member federations’ governance, administration, competitions and affordability.

In a statement, Football Queensland CEO Robert Cavallucci is delighted to lead the way and find out how to best shape the game in the future in the state.

“FQ is excited to release this Opportunities Paper as we reach another milestone in the statewide Future of Football 2020+ consultation journey,” he said.

“We have spent the last few months engaging with our 12 stakeholder groups and inviting members of the Queensland football community to have their say on the future of the game through our Club Summits, surveys and webinars.

“It’s been fantastic to personally meet hundreds of football stakeholder from across Queensland face to face and obtain deeper insights into how thousands of community members and stakeholders view the current Queensland football landscape and better understand their demonstrated desire for reform across governance, administration, competitions and affordability.

“FQ’s Opportunities Paper brings together the views of the football community through extensive feedback and begins to present possible solutions that have the power to unlock the immense opportunity and potential of the game.

“We now look forward to hearing community feedback on the Opportunities Paper as we continue the six-month consultation process throughout September and October, and prepare for the next phase with the assembly of the First Recommendations Report and FQ’s Implementation Plan, which will deliver clear objectives and pathways to make football the game of choice for all, for life.”

You can find the Future of Football 2020+ Opportunities Paper here, with the full copy available to download.

Football Queensland has also provided an initial Consultation Paper published in May, which can be found here.

30 clubs vying to be part of National Second Division in 2022

The Association of Australian Football Clubs (AAFC) have created a partner group involving 30 NPL clubs across Australia, with the aim of beginning a national second division by 2022.

The list of clubs includes former NSL powerhouses such as South Melbourne, Melbourne Knights, Adelaide City and Sydney Olympic.

AAFC Chairman Nick Galatas believes the partner group is an important step in the process towards a connected football pyramid.

“The Championship is about creating stronger clubs and expanding the football footprint throughout our country for the benefit of our entire sport,” he said.

“The oldest club in the partner group was established in the 19th century and another two early in the 20th century, while the youngest club was established in this century. That says so much about the longevity and popularity of our sport in this country.

“Of surprise to many, perhaps, are that the three oldest clubs are from Newcastle, Hobart and Brisbane.”

The AAFC will now sort through the issues of the proposed competition, with a final report needing approval from those at FFA HQ.

Galatas claims promotion and relegation is necessary throughout the tiers of football in Australia, however A-League clubs may not be relegated immediately, once the second tier begins.

“AAFC’s view is that we cannot be properly considered as a ‘football nation’ without it and having it in place is our ultimate objective,” he said.

“While promotion and relegation with the A-League will hopefully occur (a) little later, we aim for it to start immediately with the NPL below.

“We also recognise a need to get the code back on track and financially viable and that is what we believe the Championship will help in achieving. Connecting clubs from bottom-to-top and top-to-bottom will help unite the game which will help it achieve its potential.”

The 30 clubs involved in the partner group can be viewed here.

FFA trio to join AFC Committees until 2023

FFA have announced three recently appointed management members have been assigned positions in separate AFC committees.

FFA General Manager of Commercial, Tom Rischbieth, FFA General Manager of Member Federation Relations, Robbie Middleby and current FFA Technical Director, Trevor Morgan, will join the various committees until 2023.

Rischbieth will join the AFC Marketing Committee, Middleby the AFC Development Committee, whilst Morgan will be a part of the AFC Technical Committee.

FFA CEO James Johnson explained the importance of these developments.

“In the XI Principles for the future of Australian football discussion paper, we outlined a vision for Australia to become one of the leading voices in global football, and to have our people ‘hard-wired’ into regional football matters,” he said.

“Football is the world game and it is extremely important that we become an organisation which thinks globally. These latest appointments ensure that Australia is able to tap into the vast network of global football and has the ongoing opportunity to contribute ideas and energy to discussions and projects aimed at advancing Asian football.

“Along with recent new appointments to the FFA senior management team, we are also privileged to have Tom, Robbie and Trevor contribute to a fresh new strategic agenda for football in Australia and now look forward to the positive contributions they can make to the respective Committees that they have been appointed to at the AFC.

“With their passion, experience, and expertise, I trust that each will forge connections and relationships with representatives from our fellow Member Associations that serve to enhance Australia’s relations and reputation throughout AFC,” Johnson concluded.

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