Reflecting on my first 100 days

Today, 100 days into the job, I feel a sense of pride to be leading Australian football in all its diversity and layers.

My journey as the FFA-s CEO started on an ordinary Monday in a suit and tie, a day for meeting new staff, facing the media and writing my first open letter to the football community.

It wasn-t until two days later that the magnitude of the job confronted me. I was sitting at home in shorts on the couch, watching the Qantas Socceroos in a “friendly” against South Korea.

To be honest, I never quite understood how the term “friendly” crept into football-s vocabulary. That night in November I had very unfriendly thoughts when South Korea scored first after 12 minutes.

All the serious talk by the commentators about World Cup qualification, rejuvenation of the Socceroos and the tough road to Brazil kind of hit me. I wasn-t just another Aussie watching the football, I was the CEO two days into the job and the Socceroos were losing!

Fortunately, goals by Rukavytsya and Cornthwaite saved the new CEO from being tagged early for bringing bad luck. I don-t mind admitting my excitement at the Socceroos- comeback was partly from relief after a very intense 90 minutes.

Today, 100 days into the job, I feel a sense of pride to be leading Australian football in all its diversity and layers.

The job has spanned such a wide range of matters, from planning FIFA World Cup qualifiers to promoting junior registrations for six year olds just starting out.

In between, a Manchester United tour announcement, a Westfield W-League Grand Final, the creation of the A-League All Stars, the Australian Football Awards, watching Hyundai A-League matches every weekend, the Hall of Fame, and unveiling a new future for our semi-pro clubs in the National Premier Leagues.

Of course, seven days into the job, I was part of an announcement of new broadcast arrangements that will deliver $160 million of economic value to the game over the next four years.

Sounds like a lot, doesn-t it? That-s because Australian football always has plenty happening and is on the move. Not because of anything in particular I-ve done in the first 100 days, but because years of hard work and persistence are paying off.

You can see it everywhere you look in every measurement. There are bigger audiences engaging in venues, in TV coverage and in digital channels. More stars in the A-League. More headlines in the newspapers. More people getting connected with our game.

Most of all, there-s a growing sense of confidence and optimism for football, from the grassroots to the professional tier.

I-ve made the point that the overall strategy for football is sound, but that the task at hand is to make clever decisions about implementation.

To give you an example, one of FFA-s strategic objectives is to better connect the grassroots to the professional tier. It-s a worthy aim because having 1.7 million participants is a core strength of our game.

The implementation can be seen in two exciting projects. The MyFootballClub online registration portal gives community football a national database of all our participants.

It-s provided free to clubs and allows players, coaches and referees to register quickly and easily. MyFootballClub is adding more information on club administration and coaching courses.

We have a long way to go, but MyFootballClub puts football in the right place in the digital age.

The second important project is the National Competition Review, which has produced the new National Premier Leagues model for our semi-pro state-based competitions.

In regards to connecting the grassroots to the professional tier, the NPL is a vital conduit on the player pathway. The rising young stars from community football are indentified by NPL clubs and given the quality coaching, competitive environment and the best facilities.

The cream will find their way to the Hyundai A-League and the NCR reforms will double the compensation to the NPL clubs for producing a player to a maximum of $10,000.

We can see a strategic plan coming to life, but there-s plenty of hard work to do to make sure the MyFootballClub and NPL projects are implemented to our maximum advantage.

One of the key ingredients will be consultation. Ideas are great, but you need people to buy in and make it work.

On day one, I made an undertaking to genuinely consult football people. I-ve done that by getting out of the office as much as possible to listen to people-s stories, good and bad, and to explain my ideas for how the FFA CEO should go about things.

By season-s end I will have visited every Hyundai A-League club and met every State and Territory Member Federation.

It-s not all about formal meetings. Tonight, my 100th day in the job will finish with a Fan Forum at AAMI Park in Melbourne.

I learned so much at last week-s Fan Forum in Sydney. There was a passionate debate about the Socceroos and the urgent need to restore the team to its rightful national prominence. Many fans feel distant from the Socceroo players. It gave me plenty of insights.

I will keep getting around the nation and see as many of you as possible. I say thank you to all those football people who have been so generous in their welcome. You have made me feel like I belong in football. My goal is to make sure everyone in the game feels they belong, too.

Maybe I didn-t quite know it 100 days ago on 12 November, but I think my good fortune has been to arrive at the right time in a game that-s coming into full bloom.