Over the weekend a news ltd Journalist (for want of a better description) wrote the most appalling article about our game of Football.
The article tries to say that The Adelaide loss to Gamba Osaka last week 5-0 on aggregate was humiliating and virtually guaranteed the demise of Football in this country. What a load of shit.
I was researching information to debunk the blatant untruths of this article when i received an e-mail from Ben Buckley, the CEO of the FFA which was sent to all members of the Football Family. Here it is in its entirety.
You may have noticed an article in some of Saturday’s papers which said that the Hyundai A-League and football in general is “in crisis”.
The writer (Rebecca Wilson) said the alleged “crisis” was the reason for the result between Adelaide United and Gamba Osaka in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League and that Adelaide was “humiliated”.
I thought it might be helpful to write to let you know just how wrong this view is.
For a start, I’ve always thought that a team which makes it to a final of a competition has actually performed very well.
Whether it be the NRL or AFL Grand Finals, the finals of the cricket One Day Internationals or finals of the Super 14s, it is generally accepted that the two teams competing have excelled to get that far.
Let’s put Adelaide United’s achievement in making it to the final of the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) Champions League against Gamba Osaka into perspective.
To get to the final, Adelaide had to:
(a) finish as either minor premiers or champions of the Hyundai A-League to earn the right to represent Australia in the first place
(b) come through a group stage playing six home and away matches against teams from Korea, China and Vietnam
(c) navigate through the quarter finals and semi finals, playing a further four home and away matches, against one of the most successful teams in J-League history, Kashima Antlers, and Bunyodkor from Uzbekistan, and
(d) meet another top team from the Japanese league which is widely considered the top national league in the Asian confederation.
Since 2006, we have been actively addressing the shortcomings of the sport with a long term plan for Australia to improve its technical skills and to achieve sustained success internationally.
Last year, Football Federation Australia (FFA) released the first ever national strategic framework for the development of the sport in this country.
It is a long term plan for Australia to achieve sustained success at international level within the historical context of a lack of investment in the critical area of football development over many decades.
The national football development plan sets out a comprehensive program for improving and upgrading the game at every level and for all participants, whether they be players, coaches, referees, volunteers or other administrators. The plan addresses development at two distinct levels:
- ‘game development’ which focuses on the grassroots that underpins the sport’s popular base as well as the development of talented players who may well become the next Brett Emerton, Heather Garriock or Lucas Neill, and
- ‘talented player development’ which is focussed on a nationally coordinated talent identification system involving the Australian Institute of Sport, the State Institutes, the member federations and the Hyundai A-League clubs.
Since then, we have delivered a number of the initiatives outlined in the national football development plan all of which have the aim of improving the skill levels and technical proficiency of players. These include:
- introduction of Small Sided Football which aims to improve the skill levels and technical proficiency of young players
- establishment of a National Youth League
- establishment of the Westfield W-League
- improved integration of pathways for talented players, and
- a customised development program for the top 50 talented players.
Small sided football is critical to our strategy as it gives children more touches of the ball, leading to improved skill levels. After just one year, 70,000 children are playing small sided football and this number will increase further over the next two years.
It’s one thing to produce good players, but we also need to produce good coaches.
While it’s terrific to see the ‘mums and dads’ at weekend games helping out their children’s teams, we also want to ensure those mums and dads have the skills they need also to help children appropriately as they guide them in the early years.
To date, we have:
- introduced a national coach accreditation scheme from grassroots upwards
- held our first ever national coaching conference with leading experts from around the world, for coaches from grassroots to elite
- set out minimum coaching qualifications for elite level coaches, and
- awarded the first four scholarships under our new Elite Coach Development Program – to two former Socceroo captains, Alex Tobin and Paul Okon; to another former Socceroo, Alistair Edwards; and to Nicola Williams.
In time for the 2009 winter football season, we will have a new online course available for accredited coaches to supplement and complement certificate courses.
The article also suggested that the best players go overseas.
This is a reality which has been ever-present in football for 25 years and reflects the fact that football is the truly global game.
It is almost a rite of passage for talented young Australian players to try their luck in the bigger and richer leagues around the world, just as it is for young footballers from elsewhere such as South America.
It is a reality which other sports are only now just starting to experience as the epicentre of some of the other sports shifts.
But with our large participant base, our nine national teams for men and women, and regular competitive opportunities through the Asian Football Confederation, the Hyundai A-League (along with the National Youth League and the Westfield W-League) will grow into a more and more significant competition and source of playing talent for national teams as the competition matures and evolves.
At the end of season 3 of the Hyundai A-League, average crowds were 15,350, club memberships increased by almost 100% on season 1 and FOX Sports continued to report increasing viewer numbers.
Even though there has been a small reduction in crowds to date in this season, we are light years ahead of the old national soccer league.
Expansion will not only give us the best geographical footprint of any national sporting competition in the country, but more teams will help make the competition even more vibrant and attractive.
We are expanding to ten teams next season, with the addition of the Gold Coast and North Queensland Fury, and to twelve the season after.
Even further growth of the Hyundai A-League will come from creating local heroes that young players can touch and see week-in, week-out and we are taking positive steps to ensure that we have enough quality players available.
Importantly, an expanded Hyundai A-League will also give clubs an extended season with more games which – as every coach and armchair expert knows – leads to improved skill levels, technical proficiency and match preparedness.
So, far from being “in crisis” we are rebuilding from the grassroots up.
- We are expanding the Hyundai A-League
- We are involved in regular quality competition in Asia
- 1 million Australians enjoy playing the sport
- We have launched a national plan to address technical failings
- The sport is back in the ‘black’ financially (which we will be announcing later this month), and
- We are bidding for the right to host the 2015 AFC Asian Cup and the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Thank you for your commitment to football.
We hope to see you at a Hyundai A-League, National Youth League, Westfield W-League and Qantas Socceroos match in the very near future.
Chief Executive Officer