Football Federation Australia (FFA) will head out on a nation-wide tour in the coming months to hear from fans, coaches, players, club presidents and referees to help develop a four-year strategic plan that will “shape the future of the game” in Australia.
The series of community forums, which will start this week in Brisbane and conclude in the nation’s capital on 8 May, provides an opportunity for local football voices to be heard.
A-league expansion has been left off the meetings’ agendas, but topics of discussion will include NPL structure, youth development, facilities, government funding, junior participation programs, and development of coaches and referees.
FFA chairman Chris Nikou said the new board has committed to “extensive consultation” with the soccer community and emphasised he wants their feedback so they can continue to improve the game. Nikou is adamant the board will use the feedback from the forums to help guide the development of the next four-year strategic plan.
So what topics should people be raising at the ACT community forum?
Over the past few days, I have spoken to members of Canberra’s A-league bid team, club board members and presidents, and local footballers to get a grasp of what the local football community really cares about and what topics they want discussed at the forum.
This list is not comprehensive and I have tried my best to hear as many voices as I can in the community. So here are the top five questions that Canberra wants FFA to answer:
Will the FFA help improve football fields throughout the ACT?
An audit of facilities with member federations identified a $500 million facilities funding gap across the country, with the FFA believing football is being held back by inadequate facilities and the sport has outgrown the available facilities. The FFA said it will have discussions with governments to help deliver improved facilities and programs which can help improve participation even further. Gungahlin United have outgrown their home field’s capacity in Harrison, as the club continues to see more people register in the growing area of Canberra. The club has use of six fields, which club officials say is four fields short of what they need.
Where does all the money go?
What’s happening to the money? FFA announced last year that national registration fees would be increasing for the first time since 2013, with an increase of $1.40 a year for junior players (to $14 up from $12.60) and $8.00 a year for senior players (to $30 up from $20).
Why did senior Canberrans players have to pay an extra $8 on their FFA registration fee? Did that go to cover costs from our unsuccessful 2018 World Cup campaign, as the rumours have indicated? Some people believe it’s a case of the grassroots subsidising the top end of the game, hurting families who struggle to pay the costs of registering their kids to play football.
How can we attract more young girls to start playing football?
Despite the ACT having the highest youth participation in the country, with 30 per cent of the 5,000 registered being young girls, clubs are still concerned and are struggling to recruit more girls to the game. Clubs struggle to fill underage categories across the competitions, therefore forcing some girls to play in higher age categories. Capital Football has indicated that it wants to see an equal 50 per cent of participation across the two genders, and club officials want to see how the FFA can help.
Will FFA help ACT clubs reduce costs (including ground fees) to play football?
‘Crippling’, ‘too expensive’, and ‘exorbitant’.
These are some of the ways the football community describe the way they feel about the cost to play football. Club officials are concerned they will lose young footballers to other sports. Ground fees remain a concern for many clubs, which many say is nobody’s fault and is the nature of the beast. One club official thinks having clubs own their own fields would be a more financially stable way of reducing costs to play for juniors and seniors. Does the FFA have the answer and can they help remains to be seen…
Why did we not get an A-league club?
Regardless if this question is on the agenda or not, this question is sure to be asked. Canberra fans are still furious and await an explanation as to why FFA decided to add third teams in Sydney and Melbourne to the A-league instead of a club in the ACT.
Though FFA said they will hold a separate Melbourne forum for discussion surrounding expansion, Canberra’s bid team is encouraging locals to sign up for the local forum to turn up and send a clear message to the FFA.
In an email sent to the 8,000 members, Michael Caggiano and Bede Gahan are imploring members to use the ‘additional topics’ field to raise how important this issue is to the people of the region. It remains to be seen if FFA will stonewall expansion questions during the meeting. The 8th of May can’t come quick enough.
Registrations to the fan forum on 8 May will be accepted until venue capacity is reached, so be quick. Register by clicking here.
What other questions do you want the FFA board to answer? Have your say below.