Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Australia outlines blueprint for more football reform

Football Federation Australia Chief Executive Ben Buckley has outlined to Tom Smithies of the Daily Telegraph his blueprint to give football a national structure from U-5s right through to the Socceroos and defined four key areas that the FFA had to address as national teams, A-League, football development and major events.

Covering both the national teams and the much-vaunted talent identification program, Buckley said: "We'll continue to seek excellence at national level and improve areas such as sports science and scouting. It also includes the elite player pathway and the technical direction offered to the best young players as they come through the ranks." As well as driving the expansion of the league, Buckley wants to offer a central resource to the A-League clubs from marketing to sports science that can defray costs across the existing teams. "We have to aim to improve the level of the existing eight clubs on and off the field," he said. "Part of that is an expansion strategy of the league. Over the next six months we want to decide when and where we expand. If you look at population centres where we haven't got a base, there's the Gold Coast and also western Sydney. North Queensland are in the mix and there's interest in a second Melbourne team."

Buckley insisted that having a national strategy for developing the game below the A-League and the national teams was the key to the game's long-term success. "We need a unified approach to developing the game at junior level, and as part of that changing some of the elite development pathways," he said. "The FFA and the entities that came before didn't have a national approach and we're very keen to work with the states and territories to develop that. The resources and the governance model haven't been there before. With Rob Baan as technical director, he can be the champion for reform and provide the content that gets developed into these pathways - what does our coach education program look like, what does a competition program look like for five and six year olds, what should an academy program look like for our best kids. The goal is a consistent technical approach that is consistent with the world's best - you can't do that with a fragmented approach, whether it's competition formats, coach education or club development."

A specific department will now look at the acquisition of major tournaments, preparing bids, executing the FIFA Congress. "That's going to be an ever-increasing part of what we do," Buckley said. "We know we can put a very powerful proposition forward for an Asian Cup. Events like the the AFC Awards (in Sydney in November) are important - you have all the decision makers, we can show them the infrastructure and facilities. Everyone's aware of Australia's track record at hosting major events but when you see it in the flesh it really is impressive."

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