Western United Women’s Football Integration Manager Amanda Stella: “This process is just the beginning”

Western United fielded its first ever women’s team in a curtain-raiser exhibition match against the Tasmanian state team at UTAS Stadium on Tuesday, April 19.

It was another big step in the club’s journey to the A-League Women competition. The club announced last year that it had been granted a license to join in the 2022/23 season, after the Wellington Phoenix expanded the competition to 10 sides in 2021/22.

With the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 front and centre in the minds of many, women’s football is seeing massive growth across Australia.

But a desire for development requires continued investment. In a Q&A, Soccerscene spoke to Calder United president and Western United Women’s Football Integration Manager Amanda Stella about the journey to be able to field a team at all, backed by a strong connection between two teams.

How was the experience for the girls?

Amanda Stella: It was a good hit out for the girls, where it was a 1-1 game. It was pretty close with end-to-end chances.

Our girls were very spent by its conclusion. They played Bulleen the night before, so they were feeling pretty flat and had to pick themselves up. We had a couple of last minute injuries to a few girls and they couldn’t play, so it put the load back on some of them.

It was difficult, but it was an amazing experience and they were all very grateful they got to go. However it was the worst conditions for football. It was raining, and made for some miserable weather.

How did it help the players’ integration within Western United?

Amanda Stella: That night we stayed and watched the A-League Men’s game at the chairman’s function, and got some acknowledgement from the board and the chairman. Afterwards we went and had pizza with all the staff of Western United and the board that were there, which was great.

Everyone met up for a little bit of a get together later on in the night, and a lot of the men’s A-League team came along as well.

It was a great moment for the girls and a real taste of what it will be like when the club has the A-League Women’s team up and running.

Even for the Western United commercial teams and marketing teams – to meet the girls and spend some time with them – it was very well worth having everyone in the one place.

What have been the aims of the past year?

Amanda Stella: It is about getting Western United on track with having a women’s team, and all the things that go with that. It is a little bit of an extra workload for everybody, but also a good opportunity for the club to feel what it will be like to be a complete A-League club in both men’s and women’s.

There’s lots of positives, and a lot of hard work to come, but they’re a club that is extremely ambitious and are looking for success with their A-League Women team. This development squad will help get that started.

I would be suggesting there is still plenty of positions available to current A-League Women’s players and those from overseas to lift it up, but a lot of players will come from this group which will give them a great opportunity.

How has the connection with Calder United helped?

Amanda Stella: For the girls that are involved from Calder, it gives them an extra skill session every week, which is always a big bonus.

We have had two years of not a lot of football in Victoria, so that is probably number one, and to get the experiences we did in Tasmania. Some exposure on social media, like you guys wanting stories and photos of the girls and interviews with the girls out there, that’s only a positive.

Whether they all become A-League Women players or not, I think they are all grateful for the opportunities they have had and what still may come in the future.

The first team will not look the same as the second year team and the third year team. This process is just the beginning.

The Football Coaching Life with Trevor Morgan: “Put the player first and have empathy for their situation”

Gary Cole
The latest episode of The Football Coaching Life with Gary Cole, presented by Football Coaches Australia, sees Gary sitting down with the current Football Australia National Technical Director and Australian Mens U17s (Joeys) Head Coach, Trevor Morgan.

Morgan has been a well-entrenched figure within the youth development setup in Australia football over the past few decades, having been the Director of Football at Westfield Sports High and the National Youth League Head Coach for the Western Sydney Wanderers prior to taking on his current roles since 2018 and 2020 respectively.

Morgan led the Joeys to the knockout stages of the FIFA U17 World Cup in Brazil in 2019, and has remained in that role ever since.

Trevor Morgan’s ‘One Piece of Wisdom’ for aspiring coaches was: “Pay attention to what the player needs, don’t make it too complex, try and observe as much as you impart knowledge, put the player first and have empathy for their situation, think about what motivates and challenges them.”

Please join us in sharing Trevor Morgan’s Football Coaching Life.

PFA maintains faith in collective bargaining over Domestic Transfer System stand-off

Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) remain steadfast in their view Football Australia cannot impose a Domestic Transfer System (DTS) on the local game without consensus among all parties, and that if it is to come into effect, it must be at the expense of the A-Leagues salary cap.

Last month, Football Australia moved a step closer to their favoured DTS by removing the longstanding cap on transfer fees for contracted players between Australian clubs, edging the game closer to the free market system that underpins player movement globally. 

In February, CEO James Johnson told ESPN failure to reach consensus over the DTS could lead to his organisation making ‘aggressive decisions’ towards its implementation. PFA co-chief executive Kathryn Gill told Soccerscene such a move would be undemocratic, and may no longer be appropriate in any case, post-Covid 19.

“Ultimately the transfer system acts as a tax on the employment of players. This would have a significant impact on their employment opportunities, and therefore it is a matter that requires the agreement of the players, not just consultation,” Gill said.

“We currently have a five-year CBA with the Australian Professional Leagues, signed September 2021 that is showing some encouraging signs regarding the investment in player payments, youth development and improving contractual stability.  If we are to shift towards a different strategy, we need to understand the problem we are trying to solve. 

“We’ve just undertaken a comprehensive labour market analysis of the A-Leagues and what our data tells us is that the problems we now need to solve are different from the ones we were confronted with before the pandemic.”

Gill’s PFA co-chief, Beau Busch, believes that for Football Australia to move away from the consultative nature that has served the game well through the pandemic, and for years prior, it would be damaging to the ecosystem. 

Matters that impact the employment of players are matters that require agreement through collective bargaining. In the absence of collective bargaining, we can’t create the conditions for collaboration and shared purpose and run the risk of creating regulations that are at odds with each other,” Busch said. 

“We’ve seen increasing moves from organisations like FIFA for example, trying to introduce biennial World Cups without consultation and European clubs going off to build new Super Leagues without considering the players or the fans. 

“That type of unilateral action is not in the best interests of the game and so these issues, that fundamentally affect the employment conditions of players, should be done in partnership with the players.”

Busch also pointed to FIFA’s intention to reform their global transfer system as an indicator that increased alignment may not be in Australian football’s best interests. World football’s free market has led to a chronically lopsided distribution of wealth towards those at the pointy end, while nobody could argue the trophy cabinets of clubs in Europe’s top five leagues reflect competitive balance. 

This season, Bayern Munich won their 10th consecutive German Bundesliga title; Juventus enjoyed a similar stretch of nine Serie A titles between 2011/12 to 2019/20, while PSG have lifted eight of the past 10 Ligue 1 crowns in France. Even the English Premier League, upheld by some as a bastion of competitiveness for European leagues, has seen 26 of its 29 titles shared by four clubs. 

“Globally, the justification for a transfer system is that it redistributes revenue, supports competitive balance, and encourages investment in the training and development of players. These are objectives that are obviously important to the sport, however the global transfer system has been unable to achieve them and this is illustrated through FIFA’s commitment to reforming it,” Busch said. 

“We absolutely agree that Australian football needs more players playing at the highest possible level and that whatever system is in place needs to be aligned to that aim. But with any regulatory change, research and evidence and a sound business case that underpins it is vital. 

“To date, we haven’t been presented with any modelling on what outcomes a domestic transfer system will produce, either in terms of player development, or stimulating the Australian market and football economy.”

The removal of the cap on transfer payments between clubs and potential DTS will help clubs earn their full reward for the development and on-sale of players. But if the theory is sound, it’s the opinion of the PFA that increased costs will in effect stymie player movement and force clubs to look inwards for talent, restricting the ease with which players can move between employment opportunities.

Gill is adamant that if a transfer system is to succeed, it must come in conjunction with the removal of the salary cap, which already restricts clubs from investing what they might otherwise be willing to on their squad. Aimed at maintaining competitive balance across the A-Leagues, it is not conducive to the growth of players’ value. 

“The transfer system and salary cap are trying to achieve different objectives, and attempting to impose both restraints at the same time is likely to not only be illegal but self-defeating for the game. That is why no league around the world operates with both,” Gill said.

“From a players’ perspective, having both would act as a double restraint with players having a cap on their earnings and a tax on their employment via a transfer system. Ultimately, this would not help clubs attract and retain talent.”

Despite Johnson stating ‘aggressive decisions’ may be required, and the parties seemingly gridlocked over the DTS, Gill remains hopeful that collective bargaining and goodwill can see the game forward in a unified manner.

She feels the game is a long way from requiring an independent regulator, which is set to be ratified by the UK Government to oversee football in England, off the back of the fan-led Crouch Report into the state of their game.

The Crouch Report also advocates for a reformed ‘owners and directors test’, and ‘shadow boards’ made up of fans to represent their interests and hold a golden share in legacy decisions regarding stadia, colours and crests.

“Since 1995 the PFA has been able to reach agreements with clubs and the governing body, so what history shows is that collective bargaining has been an effective vehicle for progress. We need to examine our own context, and we can certainly learn from what has occurred around the world and what led to the push for an independent regulator in the English game,” Gill said.

“What is clear is the governance framework in that country and measures such as the transfer system have failed to drive progress for the entire sport and this drastic government intervention has been a direct result of this.”

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