Will Australia ever see the FFA Cup again?

A total of 765 football clubs had registered to compete in the 2020 FFA Cup, yet a recent decision to cancel the competition may well have put its future in doubt.

Football Federation Australia arrived at the necessary yet unfortunate decision last week whilst also announcing the cancelation of the NPL Finals series due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In terms of the NPL Finals Series, the financial ramifications of the last six months will no doubt have played a major role in informing the move. Interstate travel appears an impossibility considering the losses in gate takings and sponsorship that each and every club across the country will have no doubt experienced in 2020.

A return to NPL play may well see the clubs delve even further into the red as running costs continue to remain higher than the meagre amounts being accumulated in sponsorship revenue and match day takings.

As for the FFA Cup, financial considerations will also have played a role in the decision, yet the sheer logistics of the competition and the time now available to complete it must surely have proven the final nail in the coffin when it came to FFA’s announcement.

The preliminary rounds slated for early 2020 were obliterated by the pandemic and many teams would normally have been eliminated by this stage of the calendar year. With a frantic month of A-League action now upon us in an effort to complete a season that has stretched for near ten months and NPL play ramping up as we speak, the chances of cramming cup, NPL and A-League into the most chaotic of schedules and crowning champions in all three by Christmas, appears something of an impossible task.

Sadly, the 7th edition of Australia’s much loved and long awaited cup competition has been necessarily torpedoed by the governing body. More concerning are real fears that it may be the last we have seen of it.

The FFA Cup brought something unique to the domestic game and provided Australian fans with a basic tenant of football so longed for and domestically absent. All over the world, league competitions pause frequently, as both minnows and heavy hitters take their chances in knockout play in an attempt to raise their respective nation’s cup trophy.

Such a moment says nothing about consistency, staying the course or a clubs’ dominance in home and away play. Cup competition is all about the moment and the ability to seize one, particularly when teams from lower divisions force their way into the later stages and seek to scare the heck out of their top tier rivals.

Thus the phrase, ‘cupset’.

Despite Australia’s cup having never left the hands of the A-League clubs, the competition is structured in such a way that a lower tiered team always features in the final four. In much the same way that EPL teams are kept away from each other in England’s FA Cup, Australia’s elite clubs do not meet until the late rounds, with NPL clubs in full training and competition given the chance to knock off their fancied rivals who are still to build into top form during their pre-season.

Most years, the ‘cupset’ plays out.

With suburban grounds hosting matches in mid-winter conditions, the atmosphere of the FFA Cup is both unique and inspiring. Traditional clubs draw considerable support from their communities and the subsequent lift in performance of the semi-professional teams has been evident on many occasions during the competitions’ short but impressive history.

Without stern determination to ensure its survival and return, the FFA Cup may well be another in a long line of victims that the coronavirus takes in 2020.

The cold reality for NPL clubs in a post pandemic world will be financial struggle. The sponsorship and investment challenges mentioned above will remain evident for some time, with many clubs having been openly keen to cancel the 2020 NPL season for fears of only worsening their precarious financial position.

Similar headaches lie ahead for FFA, with a newly signed Fox Sports broadcast deal destined only to cover A and W League play, Socceroo World Cup qualifiers and friendlies, as well as friendly matches involving the Matildas.

As such, those cold winter nights with televised FFA Cup play and live reports from the other fixtures taking place around the country appear gone. Fox obviously saw little return on their investment and have dropped the cup competition as they lessen their overall financial commitment to football.

Whilst many will cite the FFA’s need to take over the production costs of the domestic game and potentially on-sell content to Foxtel, Kayo Sport and potentially other providers, such an endeavour is challenging, long term and involves considerable financial investment.

Doing so in an effort to spark the A and W League may be a fair objective, however, the logistics and expense in attempting to produce the FFA Cup in-house, may well be a bridge too far, especially considering the remote locations that often play host to important matches.

In its official press release FFA expressed a clear desire to bring back #themagicofthecup in 2021, yet despite its best intentions, the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic may well make such a return near impossible.

Staff Writer
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Football Australia bolsters leadership with key new appointments

Football Australia has confirmed the appointments of Briana Harvey as General Manager of the Women’s National Teams and David Mason for the role of General Manager of the Men’s National Teams.

These strategic appointments are part of Football Australia’s ongoing efforts to strengthen and enhance the leadership and management of its national teams, ensuring both the women’s and men’s programs benefit from experienced and dedicated leadership.

Harvey has an extensive background in sports management, having held key roles at prominent organizations such as Hockey Victoria, the Australian Football League, Hawthorn Football Club, and, most recently, at the GWS GIANTS Football Club. Her diverse experience across these major sporting bodies highlights her expertise and leadership capabilities in the field.

Mason’s deep involvement with Australian football stretches back to 1998. Throughout his career, he has held numerous management positions in media and communications, football operations, and club administration at Northern Spirit, Parramatta Power, Sydney FC, and Football Australia.

His extensive experience across these diverse roles has equipped him with a comprehensive understanding of the sport’s landscape, making him a valuable asset in his new role.

For the last seven years, Mason has served as CEO of Manly Warringah Football Association and Manly United FC, one of Australia’s largest football associations. Returning to Football Australia, Mason brings with him a vast reservoir of knowledge in local, regional, and global football.

His experience is complemented by a deep familiarity with Australia’s National Football Teams, positioning him to make significant contributions in his new role.

Beginning on August 12, both Harvey and Mason will take charge of the strategic, operational, and administrative aspects of Football Australia’s Men’s and Women’s National Teams. Their responsibilities will include planning and managing budgets, as well as coordinating overall annual match schedules.

In their roles, they will ensure that all logistical and operational needs are met, driving the success and efficiency of the national teams’ programs.

Their leadership will be pivotal in shaping the future of Australian football on both the national and international stages.

Head of National Teams Gary Moretti expressed his excitement of the designation via press release.

“We are delighted to have secured the services of both Briana and David who as individuals and collectively bring a wealth of industry knowledge to Football Australia,” he said.

“Briana has a strong corporate pedigree with extensive experience within elite level sport. Her background and passion for women’s sport will be an invaluable asset to our National Teams both now and in the future.

“David is a football person and has contributed to the sport at all levels for almost three decades. In addition to his strong football acumen, David brings significant business and operational experience from his highly successful tenure as a CEO within the football industry.

“Along with Andrew McKenzie (General Manager – High Performance), the appointments of Briana and David will strengthen the management and future prospects of our National Teams as we look to create an elite performance and operational environment featuring a world’s best-practice focus.”

CEO of Football Australia James Johnson added how their experience and wealth of knowledge will ensure operation excellence via press release.

“The appointments of Briana and David are strategic moves that align with our vision to enhance the performance and success of our National Teams. Their combined experience and leadership will play a crucial role in ensuring operational excellence, so we remain competitive on the global stage and continue to inspire the next generation of football talent in Australia.”

Football Australia – National Teams Senior Management

Head of National Teams: Gary Moretti
General Manager – Women’s National Teams: Briana Harvey (commencing 12 August)
General Manager – Men’s National Teams: David Mason (commencing 12 August)
General Manager – High Performance: Andrew McKenzie (commenced 10 July)
General Manager – Football Analysis, Data and Insights (to be appointed)

The creation of four new leadership positions within the National Teams underscores Football Australia’s commitment and investment in its Senior and Youth National Teams, as outlined in the XI Principles for the future of Australian Football. Every position plays a critical role in advancing, overseeing, and ensuring the sustained success of all High Performance and National Team programs and initiatives.

Football South Australia extend collaboration with SAASL

Football South Australia and the South Australian Amateur Soccer League (SAASL) have extended their collaboration, strengthening their cooperation in developing football in the state.

There was a meeting held recently where key representatives from both organisations discussed ways to continue their growth of the game in the state at all levels.

Since the partnership began in 2018, the two parties have made a meaningful impact in the South Australian football community.

Several key initiatives have been launched through this collaboration which include:

Referee Development: Football SA’s Referees Department is now responsible for assigning match officials for all SAASL games. In 2024, the strategic emphasis by Football SA and SAASL on referees has led to a notable improvement in match official coverage for Senior Divisions in both Saturday and Sunday leagues.

Officiating Initiatives: Football SA has introduced various initiatives to recruit new referees and support young officials, such as State Championships and specialised mentorship programs. Meanwhile, SAASL is actively working on strategies to enhance their Club Referee program, offering a clear pathway for both new and returning referees.

Respect Campaign: The Armband Campaign to protect young referees has been successfully launched. Embraced by clubs, participants, and the football community, the bright orange armbands worn by referees under 18 serve as a clear reminder that these officials are minors.

Venue Support: ServiceFM Stadium has been the venue for major SAASL events, offering a professional environment for amateur league matches.

Streamlined Registration: SAASL players will keep registering via a consistent Player Registration System, which enhances administrative efficiency and ensures the integrity of player registrations.

Shared Competition Management System: Offering uniform and efficient Competition Management Processes across all competitions, enhancing efficiency for clubs, referees, and association administrators.

Enhanced Player Protection: SAASL players are covered by the National Insurance Scheme, which offers essential protection for clubs, administrators, volunteers, and participants.

Michael Carter, CEO of Football SA spoke very highly of the partnership and its effects on the game in SA.

“This extension represents more than just a renewal of our agreement,” he said in a statement.

“It’s a testament to the evolving and strengthening relationship between Football SA and SAASL. We’re working closer together than ever before, and the results speak for themselves.”

George Fotopoulos, President of SAASL and SAASL Board members and Executive Officer Darcy Evan shared a similar sentiment about the excitement of this continued long-term partnership.

“We are pleased to continue our partnership with Football SA. Our ongoing affiliation has seen a significant improvement in our Referee coverage in 2024, that is due to the collaboration and hard work of both the Football SA and the SAASL administration teams. We look forward to further opportunities the partnership will provide,” SAASL confirmed in a statement.

Overall, this partnership enhances the infrastructure, safety, and quality of football in South Australia, encouraging greater participation for players, coaches and referees which is helping the sport thrive at all levels.

Amateur and grassroots football success is the core to any good footballing foundation and this prosperous partnership continuing is a brilliant result.

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