Dear Football Family,
An open letter to the Australian Football Community
Last week, the new Board of Football Federation Australia met for the first time.
The meeting was an important one on many levels.
Whilst expansion of the Hyundai A-League was a key outcome of the meeting which has rightly excited football fans, this was just one part of a longer conversation which we’d like to provide you more insight on.
It was a productive discussion which benefitted from the continuing knowledge of previous directors Crispin Murray and Kelly Bayer-Rosmarin, along with the fresh perspective of newly elected directors Heather Reid AM, Joseph Carrozzi and Remo Nogarotto.
The Board of Directors was briefed by Senior Management on the broader strategy for the organisation, a strategy which is coming to its end in 2019.
We will now commence work to build towards the next four-year plan for our game.
The first step in that process is to set out an ambitious 100-day plan which seeks to define a true unity of purpose across the football family.
The 100-Day Plan comprises the following key, but not exhaustive, elements:
• Increased and improved communication with the football family, including through Community Football Summits and a Fans Forum
• Establishment of and advancement of work undertaken by the New Leagues Working Group • Establishment of the National Second Division Working Group
• Appointment of a new National Technical Director
• Finalisation of the review of the National Club Identity Policy
• Formal commencement of the bid for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup
• Enhancing our relationships across the Asian Football Confederation and beyond • Hosting of the inaugural Women’s Cup of Nations across Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne
• Commencement of a review into the National Premier Leagues encompassing licensing criteria, youth development, training compensation and the cost of playing
• Nationally co-ordinated government relations activity throughout 2019
All this consultation and research will inform the development of a new four-year strategy for FFA and a more defined roadmap for finalisation of this plan will be provided by the end of March 2019.
The football family covers a broad section of the community, each with different priorities and interests. It is the job of the FFA Board to unite our football community, move beyond recent challenges and start to work, collectively, with a single purpose to advance the interests of the whole of our game.
On this journey, we will not travel alone. In our first 100 days, we will embark on an extensive consultation process across the country. As a first step, a series of forums, attended by Directors, will be held in the New Year. These forums will provide the opportunity to explore future plans but more importantly listen to the feedback of the football community and begin to harness its power.
The forums will include a series of Community Football Summits involving Member Federations, Zones and District Associations, grassroots clubs, NPL clubs, coaches, referees, fans, Women’s Council members and other stakeholder groups across each capital city.
Separately, in conjunction with clubs, a Fans Forum will be held to hear from those who make our game so special, those that create the atmosphere many other sports could only dream of. We need to hear from the fans of our great game. We are fully aware of the work undertaken in the off-season by the management team to improve the fan experience, but we also acknowledge that we need to grow attendances in our league competitions. For those that can’t attend these forums, we will make sure you can have your say by providing a live stream of these important events.
Further details on dates and venues, which will also be open to media, will be provided early in the New Year. We look forward to seeing you and hearing your views on our game.
Our engagement with our football family will not be limited to these forums. We recognise that the way we all communicate is changing, so we will be sure to talk and listen through regular dialogue in the media, on social media platforms and we want to make sure you are part of our journey along the way.
As I mentioned last week, our work on expansion doesn’t end with the announcement of Western Melbourne Group and Macarthur South West United as the 11th and 12th teams in the Hyundai A-League. We need to ensure both these teams are ready to excel in their first season, with the support of FFA. In considering the preferred bids, one of the key factors in our decision was the long-term growth opportunity for each club and their ability to be a driving force in growing the league. Further expansion beyond 12 teams requires careful planning and deep consultation with existing A-League Clubs and the wider football community.
An important first step in the next stage of expansion is to evolve the structure for the league in the future. The FFA management team has already undertaken a significant amount of work in this regard. FFA will be represented on the New Leagues Working Group (NLWG) by Directors Crispin Murray and Joseph Carrozzi. The NLWG will review the current model for the Hyundai A-League and identify options to establish a new operating model which gives owners, clubs, players, officials, sponsors and fans a sustainable, long-term commercially attractive proposition that will deliver continued growth for the game as a whole.
Another vital area where prompt attention is required is to build out the pathway to our professional competitions for other clubs that may aspire to be a part of them. To this end, a separate working group, to be led by Director Remo Nogarotto, will explore the establishment of a national second division. The working group will ensure that real focus is placed on this opportunity and feed its work into the NLWG whose terms of reference encapsulates all professional club football competitions. The second division working group will also contain representation from the Association of Australian Football Clubs.
These two steams of work on football competition structures will be a major priority in early 2019 and are fundamental to unlocking the future potential of professional club football in Australia.
In a year of particular political significance for Australia, we will increase our engagement across all levels of government to address some of the challenges of our game, including the issue of limited facilities across the country. As the largest community-based sport in the country, football must ensure that it is able to cater for the continued growth in participation demand at the grassroots, as well as provide elite facilities for an expanding player pathway. Much of this increasing demand for facilities is driven by booming female participation. FFA will lead a whole-of-football approach to government in order to pursue partnerships in facility investment and program funding to take into government elections in 2019.
Across all areas of the game that we work in, recognising football’s rich history will be a higher priority for the new Board. This was made evident just yesterday following announcement of the inaugural Women’s Cup of Nations, which will recognise the Matildas’ first ‘A-International’ fixture some 40 years ago against New Zealand and honour this historically significant event during the opening match-day of the tournament.
Increased engagement with Asia is central to both Australian and Asian football reaching their collective full potential. Since the AGM, we have attended FIFA, AFC and AFF events and, in my capacity as Chairman of FFA, I have been nominated to stand for election to the AFC Executive Committee. This is the first time an FFA Chairman has nominated for such a position and is a signal of the heightened importance the new Board places on ensuring the senior leadership of Australian football is deeply engaged in international relations.
As 2018 draws to a close, there is much to look forward to, in what promises to be a particularly eventful 2019.
The year will commence with the Hyundai A-League and Westfield W-League ‘Summer of Heroes’, before attention turns to the UAE for the Caltex Socceroos’ defence of the AFC Asian Cup. We wish Graham Arnold and the team all the very best and know they will do us proud.
For the Westfield Matildas, 2019 provides a real opportunity to challenge for a FIFA Women’s World Cup and we are committed to providing Alen Stajcic and the team with the best possible environment to achieve their potential.
On behalf of the Board of Directors I wish you a safe holiday season and we look forward to an exciting year ahead for football in Australia.