This year at the FFA Annual General Meeting we celebrate 10 years of real hard work. It has not been easy and it has not all been smooth sailing, but the fruits of our labour can be seen every day.
Football in this country has never been in a better position.
Not even in 2006 when the Socceroos did so well in Germany was there so much recognition and excitement about the game.
And the reason for that is there has been wholesale transformation across every aspect of the game.
It can be seen week in week out across the fields, school grounds, on television sets and digital devices across Australia.
The Socceroos and the Westfield Matildas remain critical to our success as a footballing nation. They are our flagships on the international stage.
But what marks the success of the last decade is how football is engaging Australians in so many ways - the MiniRoos program, the Skills Acquisition Programs, the PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues, the Westfield FFA Cup, the Westfield W-League, the Hyundai A-League and the AFC Champions League.
Football has become part of mainstream Australia. And in turn football is putting Australia on the map particularly within Asia.
The phenomenal success of the Western Sydney Wanderers in winning the AFC Champions League is one example. And of course the AFC Asian Cup will see all eyes on Australia for the month of January.
Of all the things that have taken place in the last 10 years, I think we will look back at the entry into Asia as an absolute game-changer.
But there are many achievements in the past decade we should acknowledge.
Here is a selection of the top ten of the last 10 years
1. Financial stability. It has taken time but based on the cornerstones of broadcast revenues, commercial partnerships plus the sale of the Western Sydney Wanderers we now have a solid members’ equity We are no longer surviving on government grants.
2. Qualification for three successive FIFA World Cups and our first Asian Championship victory by the Matildas winning the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in 2010.
3. The Hyundai A-League – a national competition with full-time professional players, played in top class stadia, with every game broadcast live, sold out derbies and fans that are the envy of the other codes.
4. Our entry into Asia resulting in our hosting of the AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 and the opportunity to raise the profile of our clubs and country in the fastest growing football and economic region in the world.
5.. Our commitment to technical excellence in the area of football development and the elite player pathways for men and women – including the National Curriculum, the roll out of Small-Sided Football, the Skills Acquisition Program and the Foxtel National Youth League.
6. The PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues which I will talk more about later.
7. The Westfield FFA Cup. Something that is unique to football and through its stories of human drama and the romance of knock out competition between clubs big and small has the power to capture the imagination and attention of all sports lovers. It can only get bigger.
8. MyFootballClub. This online national registration system is another landmark achievement. Not only is it a significant administrative tool, with over 550,000 on the system, it also represents a compelling commercial proposition.
9. The development of our first Women’s Football Strategy and commitment to attaining true professional status for our best players through the Matildas program and the W-League.
10. Transformation of the governance of the game through a truly independent board and unity of purpose among our members.
While it is important to stop at key milestones and celebrate success it is important also to acknowledge the challenges.
Trust me, there is no room for complacency or sitting still.
We know what the challenges are. – We have many many mouths and too few resources to go around. But that is also our strength as a game – our key selling point.
Our current broadcast deal was an important step in achieving sustainability. The next one has to take us to another level.
For that to happen we need stability and the promise of more and more growth.
We are selling a story - our story - and it has to be one of unity of purpose.
That is why the Whole of Football Plan is such an important initiative.
As we have gone around the country talking and listening to the people who are the heart and soul of the game some things have become very clear:
- People do remember what the past was like and recognise how far we’ve come
- There is a shared pride in the collective achievements of the last 10 years
- While there is healthy debate about our future direction, there is much that we all agree upon
- There is a shared aspiration to get bigger and better in all areas of the game – the grassroots, the national competitions and our national representative teams.
The Whole of Football Plan is an unprecedented initiative. It is the first time that we will have a long term plan that is for the whole of the game.
It will ensure that all parts of the game are pulling in the same direction and importantly it will provide clarification on our respective roles and responsibilities. Or as it has been simply put - “who does what and who pays for it”. The contribution and input of our State and Territory Member Federations to the plan is essential and much valued.
I listed before a top ten of the last decade. It’s also worth noting progress on current issues in the past twelve months.
Since last year’s AGM we have together scored some important goals:
- As mentioned before the Westfield FFA Cup has commenced and more than delivered on its promise of uniting Australians through the joy of football.
- The increasing stability and value of the Hyundai A-League has been shown with the sale of the Wanderers, the license sale that paved the way for Melbourne City and the recent positive sale of 35% of the shares in Melbourne Victory.
- The Matildas have qualified for the FIFA Women’s World Cup and were runners-up in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup.
- We have comprehensively embarked on the necessary regeneration of the Socceroos and were proudly competitive against the best in the world in Brazil. There obviously have been mixed results during this rebuilding process as it takes time. But we are expecting a good showing at the Asian Cup.
- Preparations for the AFC Asian Cup have gone to plan both in terms of the tournament itself but more importantly ensuring there is a long term legacy for the game in Australia.
- We have moved to the SBS main channel to drive greater ratings in the lead up to the next broadcast deal and the quality and appeal of the competition has continued to grow.
Finally there are two achievements of the past year I would like to single out
- Firstly the National Premier Leagues have been introduced across the whole country. This reform will also emerge in the future as a major game-changer.
- Secondly all federations have now confirmed the entry of the National Youth League teams into the National Premier Leagues in every state. This secures a critical component of the player pathway.
- These two initiatives, along with the Westfield FFA Cup, will bring the tiers of football closer together and set the foundation for our long term success as a football nation.
I commend the federations for their critical role in bringing about these initiatives. We recognise the demands they have placed on federation resources, but we are also excited at what they bring in terms of the development of our players and forging greater connections between the elite and grassroots.
In particular there will be established an Advisory Committee comprising the federation presidents to meet with FFA on a structured basis.
This will provide an invaluable forum for federations to represent to FFA the interests of the football people and communities.
In closing I would like to extend my personal thanks to my fellow directors for their support and hard work throughout the year.
Thank you also to David Gallop and the FFA management team for their professional and relentless dedication.
Most of all on behalf of the board and management we would like to extend our thanks for the time, effort and belief demonstrated day in day out across the country by football people.
You are the lifeblood of the game.