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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.” 

Liam Watson is the Managing Editor at Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy, industry matters and technology.

Sky Sports extends rights to NIFL

The Northern Ireland Football League has announced that Sky Sports will be the exclusive broadcaster of Football in the region once again.

The Northern Ireland Football League has announced that Sky Sports will once again be the exclusive broadcaster of top-flight football in the region for the next three years.

The Irish League has had a long-lasting partnership with Sky over the years and the agreement will see the relationship in place until the end of the 2024/25 season.

The new agreement will see four Danske Bank Premiership fixtures and the BetMcLean League Cup final broadcast live across the UK & Ireland each season.

Northern Ireland Football Chief Executive, Gerard Lawlor:

“We sincerely thank Sky Sports for their continued backing of our game and we look forward to showcasing some of the best NI Football League matches together over the next three seasons,” he said.

“To continue to have the invaluable support of such a high-profile broadcaster shows how far our league has progressed in recent years as we bring our game to an increasing audience of loyal fans.

“The NI Football League brand is continuing to grow outside of the confines of Northern Ireland, and through Sky Sports, many football fans are now becoming more familiar with the rich history of our clubs and as well as some of the household names that have played in the Irish League.”

Sky Sports Director of Football, Gary Hughes:

“As a long-term partner to the Northern Ireland Football League, we’re delighted to extend Sky Sports’ support of the league and ensure that its entertaining action continues to be available to our customers,” he said.

“Sky Sports customers will be able to enjoy the Northern Ireland Football league alongside our ever-expanding football offering in the UK & Ireland which includes over 500 live games in 2022, from the Premier League, EFL, Scottish Premiership and FA Women’s Super League as well as international action in the form of World Cup Qualifiers, and this month’s Africa Cup of Nations – placing Sky Sports as the home of live football.”

Valencia CF presents revised stadium upgrade plans

Valencia CF President Anil Murthy has stated the club will not deliver a “low-cost stadium” after holding talks with Mayor Joan Ribó over reviving the long-running Nuevo Mestella project.

Valencia CF President Anil Murthy has stated the club will not deliver a “low-cost stadium” after holding talks with Mayor Joan Ribó over reviving the long-running Nuevo Mestella project.

Valencia’s stadium, the Nuevo Mestalla, was originally under construction in 2009. However, over the last 12 years, due to financial issues and negotiation breakdowns, construction has never been completed and the situation has become known as one of the world’s most notorious stadium projects.

Murthy presented revised plans to a Council delegation led by Ribó, with the club seeking to recommence work on the stadium in order to ensure it retains the advantages granted to it under an ATE construction license given in 2012.

The plans presented to the council include a stadium capacity between 43,000 to 46,000, expandable to 60,000. The stadium would have a second ring dedicated almost exclusively to leisure and restaurant offerings, while the roof will be fitted with solar panels in an effort to drive sustainability.

Valencia Mayor, Joan Ribo:

“Initially it is proposed for a capacity comparable to that which the (Mestalla) stadium currently has (48,500), but expandable to 62,000 spectators. But I think this is not the fundamental element,” he said.

“The fundamental element is the novelty of this second ring that has seemed to me to be a remarkable element that is not in many football stadia. They propose a roof that is made of photovoltaic panels, which is an example at that level that I want to value.

“They have assured us that they have guarantees with the bank where they have the debt, which is now Caixabank.

“They have presented us with a calendar where in June 2022 the works of the sports centre would begin, in October 2022 the start of the works of the stadium and in August 2024 the inauguration of the new Mestalla. The calendar seems realistic and possible, but if it is not met, they will listen to us.”

In December, Valencia revealed plans to use funds from LaLiga’s strategic venture, with global investment fund CVC Capital Partners to help finance the construction of its new stadium. Valencia is reportedly set to receive approximately $189 million AUD from LaLiga as part of the LaLiga Impulso venture. $125 million of which is set to head to the stadium project.

Valencia CF President, Anil Murthy:

“The meeting has been very positive. After the two meetings with the Generalitat, today we have taken an important step by formally presenting the project we have to the important institution, which is the City Council,” he said.

“We have agreed on recommencing work as soon as possible, after presenting the project to the Generalitat and the City Council.

“Nobody talks about a low-cost stadium. It’s going to be a stadium that’s going to give a lot of people a lot of hope and it’s going to mean a lot of investment in the city. It’s going to be something different and something attractive.”

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