Winner of FFA Cup to qualify for AFC Champions League

Football Federation Australia (FFA) today announced that any team who wins the FFA Cup from 2021 will be granted entry to one of the AFC Champions League preliminary round slots among key changes to Australia’s largest annual club-based sporting competition.

After Covid-19 halted proceedings this year, the FFA Cup will return in 2021 with adjustments made to improve and enhance the excitement associated with the competition, particularly as clubs from all levels have the chance to make their mark against Asia’s best.

Here are all the details for the 2021 FFA Cup:

  • Preliminary Rounds to be held between February and July next year, with the Final Rounds planned to be played between July and November – match details to be confirmed.
  • FFA Cup Semi-Finals & Final earmarked to be on stand-alone weekends for the first time. Final to be played at neutral venue.
  • FFA Cup Final Rounds will feature an open draw for the first time – generating more competitive tension and uncertainty.
  • FFA Cup 2021 winner to be awarded a preliminary round slot representing Australia in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League*.
  • FFA Cup Final Rounds Slot Allocation for A-League clubs and Member Federations to remain unchanged.
  • FFA Cup Final Rounds Play-Off matches between the bottom four (4) placed A-League clubs from the A-League 2020/21 season will be played to determine the final two (2) A-League teams to enter the Round of 32.
  • Wollongong Wolves (NPL 2019 Champions) will be granted entry into the FFA Cup 2021 Final Rounds. Wollongong missed out in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Principle IV of our XI Principles speaks to the ongoing optimisation of Australia’s competition structures and ensuring that Australia’s football pyramid is aligned and connected,” FFA Chief Executive Officer James Johnson said.

“The FFA Cup is unique amongst all other sporting competitions in Australia in that a team of builders, electricians and office-workers might get the chance to compete against five-time A-League Champions Sydney FC.

“These changes to the FFA Cup from 2021 onwards demonstrate FFA’s commitment to not only enhancing the FFA Cup for the enjoyment of our football community, but to provide players and clubs at all levels of the game with the opportunity to aspire to represent Australia on the global stage.

“Playing the FFA Cup Final on a stand-alone weekend will enable the FFA Cup Final to develop its own identity within the national football calendar, and we envisage that an array of events – such as a national football conference or a national football weekend festival – can in the future be held in parallel with the FFA Cup Final.

“Furthermore, we believe that by connecting the FFA Cup Final with a variety of supporting football-focused events, we can engage a wide cross-section of the football community and make the event an increasingly attractive proposition to host cities and Governments.”

765 clubs had registered for the 2020 version of the FFA Cup and Johnson is confident these clubs will return.

“Next year’s FFA Cup Preliminary Rounds will be held much like in years gone by, however we are moving to adjust the structure of the Round of 32 – where professional A-League clubs enter the competition – into four geographic Zones,” he said.

“These Zones will promote local rivalries and competitive tension, and for the first time will feature an open draw to determine matches.

“The open draw will continue to feature right through to the semi-final stage, ensuring that there’s absolute uncertainty when the draw for each round of the competition is staged.” 

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Liam Watson is the Co-Founder & Publisher of Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy, industry matters and technology.

Football Queensland releases positive 2023 Annual Report including strong participation numbers

Football Queensland (FQ) have released their 2023 Annual Report which suggests state-wide growth in all areas and shows the strides it has made in its long-term strategic development across the state.

Football Queensland had a plan in 2020 to stabilise and grow its financial performances across the short-term future and were able to do that to full effect in 2023.

FQ delivered a record total revenue of $20,016,537 ($8.8m in 2020), and net assets of $5.3m, with a cumulative surplus of $2.5m.

In recent years, FQ has actively sought to diversify the organisation’s revenue streams by targeting growth in commercial income which this year saw an impressive 267% increase.

This placed downward pressure on registration fees which were reduced by nearly 30% in 2022.

As expected, a major influence in the increase of participation was the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup that inspired many around the country.

Football Queensland reported an 11.1% increase in state-wide participation post-FWWC23.

Football in Queensland is thriving, with 308 clubs and more than 300,000 players in 2023, the game stands as the state’s largest team and club-based participation sport, delivering significant social and community benefits both on and off the field.

For the first time ever, the Grand Finals of NPL Queensland and FQPL 1 Men and Women competitions were played at Suncorp Stadium which provided a platform to showcase Queensland’s top footballers on the prestigious stage.

As a result of this historic season, the digital broadcast reach and live stream viewership also experienced significant growth in 2023, particularly for the women’s competitions which recorded a viewership increase of 231.34%.

FQ have an ongoing commitment to promote women and girls in football, with dedicated programs and activations in place to reach their 50/50 gender parity goal by 2027.

In 2023, women & girls participation grew 8% on 2022 with a total of 31,239 outdoor club-based female players involved.

MiniRoos Club Girls growth was 5% with over 43,000 participants in 2023 providing an insight into how bright the future is in the state for women’s football.

There was a 28% increase in female coaches in 2023 across all different levels with development a key target for FQ.

Futsal participation had a 28% increase as well with FQ cracking over 10,000 participants for the first time.

FQ CEO Robert Cavallucci explained the encouraging numbers from the report and spoke on the future vision of FQ.

“2023 was another huge year for football in Queensland, as we worked to continue the momentum and success of the initiatives outlined in FQ’s 2023-2026 One Football Strategic plan which delivered a clear and comprehensive framework to foster growth of the game,” he said in a statement.

“Football Queensland has outlined our bold target of 50/50 gender parity in participation by 2027 and already in the first quarter of 2024 we have seen a remarkable 44% growth in outdoor female players.

“While we can attribute some of this success to the amplification effect of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, FQ’s strategic commitment and deployment of initiatives and programs in the lead up and post the event have played a crucial role in capturing and funnelling this growth in demand for our game.

“As we continue to record strong growth across the state and strive to meet the demands of our current base, it is absolutely critical that we as a governing body continue to advocate strongly for infrastructure investment in our game at a local, state and federal level on behalf of our clubs and participants.

“FQ launched multiple brand-new tournaments in 2023 to continue to strengthen the connected football pyramid, linking FQPL football tiers and maximising competitive opportunities for players, including the Kappa Pro Series and the expanded Mitre FQPL Champions League.

“The new futsal pyramid announced in 2023 aims to unify the delivery of futsal products, including the launch of the new Queensland Futsal Cup which provides further pathways for Queensland players to strive for national success.

“FQ’s ongoing focus on coach and referee support and development led to six Queensland match officials being named in the inaugural intake of the Football Australia Referee Academy, as well as the delivery of 223 coaching courses to over 2,800 attendees.

“On behalf of Football Queensland, I’d like to acknowledge the support of our Football Queensland team, Football Australia, State and Local Governments and our official partners throughout 2023, who contributed to a year marked by many historic milestones for our game.”

There are plenty of positives to come out of a year that has shaped the future of women’s football and participation in Queensland.

Queensland showed its ability to host the Women’s World Cup and will get a chance again in 2026 with the Women’s Asian Cup in a bid hopefully to again use the momentum to surge participation growth and their financial stability.

You can read the Annual Report in full here.

Football Victoria to tackle violence prevention through grants

$1.2 million has been allocated on behalf of Football Victoria (FV) towards the “Preventing Violence through Sports Grants Program”, for the continuation of 12 community-based sporting projects across the state to occur.

As confirmed by Prevention of Family Violence Minister Vicki Ward, and Community Sport Ministers Ros Spence, it will ensure that football has its place within the community.

Each respective minister will strive towards the mitigation and resolution of violence amongst families.

A supportive body under the umbrella of Football Victoria, Victorian University and Regional Sport Victoria, is a designated support team designated towards the installation of projects addressing structural and cultural hurdles experienced by multicultural communities, females and non-binary people through the participation of sports.

Football Victoria’s involvement within the Change Makers supportive initiative is exercised frequently. Within the football community, it is imperative that inclusivity is at the forefront upon all aspects for football to be a game for all to enjoy, succeed and prosper within.

The programs in which FV offer in collaboration with Change Makers are commonly in the prevention of violence. Changing attitudes, behaviours and patterns all correlated with violence are implemented in order to build a safer football community. In which has the prosperity to have further change upon a wider community.

Executive Manager of Equity, Growth, and Inclusion at Football Victoria, Karen Pearce OAM emphasised the need for additional funding to support their ongoing efforts said via press release:

“We are indebted to the Victorian Government’s funding, so we can continue to persist in producing enabling environments through education and training delivered in partnership with Victorian University and Regional Sport Victoria, and not lose the momentum of gains already achieved,” she said.

“As an organisation, we have learnt that all our equity work must be overlaid with a primary prevention approach that establishes the expectation that gender equality must be considered and prioritised in all current and future planning, service delivery and practice.”

Fiona McLachlan, Associate Director Research Training at Victoria University, celebrated the news.

“We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Football Victoria to support their sector-leading gender equity work. We have made a very conscious decision to work with Football Victoria for their openness to adopt research-informed and whole-of-sport approaches to preventing gender-based violence,” she added via press release.

The Change Makes program is created to assist clubs in the analysis of their environments, allowing for the identification and termination of aspects within the club that showcase inequity.

Showcased through a tangible evidence-based approach, education towards change can occur.

Furthermore, the drive in achieving gender equality can continue to drive in a forward direction throughout the analysis process.

Change makers have already established quite the presence within Victorian sport. FV, in collaboration with the supportive body, have successfully challenged and created necessary change within multiple facets of sport across the state.

Primarily, gender equality has remained at the forefront of their ongoing efforts, with the body acting as a means for change to entrenched, outdated practices the world has moved on from.

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