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Will Australian football sink or swim in 2020?

A blockbuster calendar provides Australian football with huge opportunities over the next eleven months.

Last week, in what will be music to the ears of new FFA CEO James Johnson, the Olyroos passed a very important test.

The under-23 national team defeated Uzbekistan in the third-place playoff match at the AFC U-23 Championship, thanks to a solo effort from Nick D’Agostino.

Therefore, for the first time in 12 years, Australia will have a men’s football side competing at the Olympic games in Tokyo.

Discussions have already begun around who will be picked for the tournament, as Graham Arnold can also call up three over-age players for the tournament in late July.

The Copa America which Australia will be a part of this year will also factor into Graham Arnold’s decision making.

The South American continental championship also begins a month before the Olympics and the narrow time-frame between both tournaments poses a lot of questions for the Australian coach.

Will he choose a full-strength squad for the Copa America? Which tournament does he favour? Who will be the over-age players in the Olympic squad? Will the likes of Ryan and Mooy play in both tournaments? Or will their English Premier League clubs’ frown upon that?

These are good headaches to have, with exposure to these tournaments crucial for not only youth development but also to build the profile of Australia’s national teams.

Commercially, the FFA seems to be struggling in recent times with sponsors such as NAB and Caltex ending their partnerships with the governing body.

Participating in worldwide tournaments such as this can only improve the FFA’s situation, as potential sponsors see attractive possibilities.

Whilst the men’s teams may not stand a good chance of placing well in either of these tournaments, the Matildas do.

Unlike the men’s tournament, the women have no age restrictions placed on them at the Olympics, meaning Australia’s top players such as Sam Kerr, Caitlin Foord and Steph Catley are all expected to play.

Australia’s favourite national sporting team playing at the Olympics in a good time zone for Australian viewers, should lead to considerable corporate sponsorship interest.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The women’s national team are yet to qualify for the Olympics, with qualifiers for the tournament set to be held in Sydney next week.

The qualifiers were under threat due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, which was the reason the games were shifted to Sydney in the first place.

The qualifying tournament will go ahead next week, which will boost the coffers at FFA HQ, with games to be played at Campbelltown and Bankwest Stadium.

However, of greater focus to the FFA is the successful hosting of the tournament on such short notice and impressing FIFA in the year the host of the 2023 Women’s World Cup will be announced.

The announcement of the host for 2023 is due in June, with Japan, Colombia and Brazil vying for the honour (alongside Australia and New Zealand’s co-bid).

If the tournament hosting rights were to be won by Australia and New Zealand, FFA would be rubbing their hands together with glee at the long-term benefits that would have on the sport.

But first, Chinese Taipei at home on Thursday and hopefully one step closer to having both male and female teams at the Olympic Games.

And I haven’t even mentioned the road to Qatar 2022…

Philip Panas is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

Football West CEO James Curtis steps down to usher in new leadership

Football West

Football West have announced that James Curtis will be stepping down from his position as Chief Executive Officer, after more than five years in the role. As he makes his transition, Football West have now commenced their succession planning.

The decision taken by Curtis reaffirms Football West’s dedication as an organisation to fostering long-term growth through the benefits provided by leadership succession.

Football West Chairman Sherif Andrawes praised Curtis’ strong leadership and commitment to delivering a long-term legacy for football in Western Australia, since commencing in the role in 2016.

“James has been an outstanding CEO and his focus on driving long-term growth, investment and community benefit have contributed to a bright future for football,” Andrawes said.

“His commitment to working with all parts of the WA community and government to engage with football and being a leader driving diversity, inclusion and engagement has ensured football is positioned well for the future of the game.

“With significant achievements including funding for the long-awaited WA State Football Centre, securing the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in WA and establishing the Football Futures Foundation, there have been many successes during his tenure.”

Curtis conveyed that it was the right time to step down from the role and to transition leadership, with Football West strongly positioned for leveraging record growth.

“We have built a great team across Western Australia that is well positioned to continue building on our strong foundations. After more than five years in the position and rebuilding from the impact of COVID-19, we are ready for a new CEO to implement and deliver our future strategy,” Curtis said.

“I have enjoyed working closely with our Board and our valued partners across government, corporate and the football community to deliver major milestones for the game in WA and establish strong partnerships across Asia for WA football.

“We have a vibrant and passionate football community that will continue to grow on the back of strong clubs and volunteers and our dedicated Football West team.”

Curtis will continue his involvement with football as a Non-Executive Director of Football Futures Foundation – which is chaired by Nick Tana, and supporting the transition to find the new CEO.

Football West has commenced an internal and external search for the company’s next CEO.

Football Victoria promotion denial set for challenge

Football Victoria has announced that it will only be filling existing vacancies, resisting the challenge from the United Football Group of Clubs to push ahead with promotion and relegation.

Football Victoria has announced that it will only be filling existing vacancies, resisting the challenge from the United Football Group of Clubs to push ahead with promotion and relegation.

Football Victoria announced the cancellation of the remainder of the season in Metropolitan Melbourne on September 3 2021, in which it also revealed that promotion and relegation would not proceed.

Since that announcement, over 40 clubs had joined forces, assembling under the United Football Group of Clubs (United Football) banner, to challenge the decision.

As revealed by Soccerscene last month, United Football made a formal submission to Football Victoria, presenting three options for consideration by the board:

  1. Promotion and Recognition of Champions based on current standings or points per matches played method, with or without relegation.
  2. Restructure of the leagues to achieve the desired effect of promotion/relegation, completed in line with the 2021 Football Australia Performance Gap Report.
  3. Align with Football Victoria principles and fixture the outstanding games between teams who have not played against each other to complete the season and award promotion and relegation. Given the current COVID situation, it is recognised that this may be the least likely scenario.

In its announcement this afternoon, Football Victoria has seemingly turned down all three options.

“Football Victoria (FV) can confirm it will proceed with filling existing and resulting vacancies across our Men’s and Women’s State League competitions, in accordance with the 2021 Rules of Competition,” reads the statement on the Football Victoria website.

“Under item 10.4 in the Men’s State League (1-4) and item 15.7 in the Women’s State League (1-4) 2021 Rules of Competition, the FV Board confirms that vacancies will be filled using the Order of Merit process. Men’s & Women’s State League 5 competition vacancies will be filled by using the New Club Application or Team Entry process.

“With the 2021 season being deemed incomplete, only Men’s and Women’s State League vacancies will be filled in 2022, with NPL Victoria optimal league structures to be considered from the 2023 season.

“Average Points Per Game (total points divided by number of games played) at the point the 2021 season was cancelled will be used to determine final ladder positions in 2021 and inform the Order of Merit. Further detail on the Order of Merit process is available here.”

The ruling means that the current NPL Victoria structure will remain in place, whilst in the State Leagues below, only existing vacancies will be filled.

In the Men’s State Leagues, one team across State Leagues 2, 3, 4 and 5 will be promoted, whilst four teams will enter State League 5 via a new club application process.

In the Women’s competition, one team will be promoted from State League 2 to 1, two will be promoted from State League 3 to 2, three teams will be promoted from State League 4 to 3, four teams will be promoted from State League 5 to 4, whilst five new clubs will enter State League 5 via a new club application process.

The Football Victoria statement sets a deadline of 5pm Monday October 25, 2021 to implement these changes.

The United Football Group of Clubs met last night to discuss the decision, with chairperson Zak Gruevski confirming the clubs intend to take the matter further.

“The Football Victoria statement yesterday effectively dismissed the range of options put forward by the United Football Group of Clubs,” he told Soccerscene.

“As a group, we are very disappointed and believe this decision is not in the best interests of the game, particularly given indications that a restructure of the game was being considered as a reasonable outcome.

“Our clubs met overnight and we are seeking the appropriate counsel to pursue this matter further.”

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