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.

Dandenong Thunder to enjoy $700,000 LED lighting upgrade at George Andrews Reserve

Dandenong Thunder lighting upgrade

Greater Dandenong Council and Dandenong Thunder have recently confirmed that works have commenced for new powerful lighting towers to be built at George Andrews Reserve.

The upgrade will cost $700,000 and is being jointly funded by Greater Dandenong Council ($500,000) and the State Government ($200,000) with a plan to improve the ground’s overall quality for both training and matches. They formerly had 200-lux LED towers and they will be replaced by 500-lux towers.

For the Greater Dandenong local council, the focus was to improve the facility for the community to enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits through the increased amount of playable hours at the reserve.

Importantly, the project ensures that the Thunder have a ground that is up to professional competition and broadcast standards which means they can broadcast and host games that are viewed by a national audience, a huge step forward for the NPL Victoria club.

This broadcast upgrade also opens up the possibility to expand to national matches involving the Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City A-League women’s teams and an even more ambitious goal of hosting a Matildas game. The ground can easily hold 5000 people and the lighting and broadcasting standards will be fantastic after this upgrade.

Dandenong Thunder shared the positive implications this light upgrade has for the club.

“The new lights mean the club will be able to host a number of games, not only that but it’s a step forward to the clubs ambition to be part of the NSD (national second division),” a club spokesperson told Soccerscene.

“The support from local council has been nothing but fantastic, Dandenong want to be a sporting hub for the south east suburbs.

“With the FA cup we have seen A-League clubs play at local level clubs, having these new high powered lights we will be able to broadcast at a higher quality, no more yellow light broadcast.”

This news presents an exciting future for Dandenong Thunder and the matches played at George Andrews Reserve. The quality of training, matches and broadcasts has improved tenfold and it matches the size of the NPL Victoria side that have big ambitions.

CPKC and Kansas City Current’s major stadium naming rights deal a win for women’s sport

CPKC Stadium design

The world’s first professional female-football dedicated stadium – home of the NWSL’s Kansas City Current – will be known as CPKC Stadium, after an historic naming rights deal was agreed with the North American rail network company.

Formed as a merger between Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern rail networks in July this year, CPKC represents the first trans-North American rail network between Canada, the United States and Mexico.

CPKC has been a leading investor for women’s sports in the state of Kansas, and CPKC President & CEO, Keith Creel, was proud to announce the stadium naming rights deal.

“We are incredibly proud to sponsor the Kansas City Current and support this history-making project here in the city that is at the heart of our North American rail network,” Creel said via press release.

“CPKC has been a long-time champion of women’s sports and of investing in our communities. This stadium and this partnership with the Current will build on that legacy as together we write a new chapter here in Kansas City.”

CPKC will also hold naming rights to the stadium’s outdoor space for fans, which will be known as CPKC Plaza. This area provides entertainment for all CPKC Stadium attendees, including the KC Current’s official merchandise store.

It is hoped that the naming rights deal will kickstart further investment in women’s football across the region, which has been the cornerstone of the KC Current’s existence according to co-founders and owners, Angie and Chris Long.

“Our [KC Current & CPKC] organisations share a commitment to strive for excellence, invest heavily in our communities and raise the bar with global influence. We are extremely excited to work with CPKC on this historic agreement and know our partnership will create a long-standing positive impact!”

Further to its substantial investment in women’s football, CPKC’s establishment of a direct line between Canada, the United States and Mexico is expected to have substantial benefits for football supporters attending the 2026 Men’s FIFA World Cup.

Presently, though, the stadium naming rights deal demonstrates CPKC’s intention to be a key investor in women’s football across Kansas and North America.

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