The Whole of Football Plan [WOFP] to me was an impressive report. While thin on how to achieve set goals it did establish a pathway forward and indicated a number of key objectives and development areas.
It was sobering to read many of the issues and challenges identified in the WOFP.
What impressed me was the way FFA identified an expansion program within the limits of the Australian Sporting environment to determine what is achievable.
On promotion and relegation even those most rusted on must understand for the next few years it is financially unachievable. It will come but should not come at any costs. For me what was impressive was the willingness to develop the expansion via people participation numbers and expanding how many people are actively involved even at casual park pickup game.
The key areas for me were in four categories. First the percentage of players who convert across as fans, second the cost of junior teams, third the further development of the W-League combined with a bid for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, and fourth the state federations and associations.
If I read it right the average conversation rate from players in football teams to active fans watching or attending games was 19 per cent. The average across other codes is 76 per cent. How they grow the 19 per cent will be interesting but get this much above 40 per cent and it’s a game changer for Australian sport.
While I have often praised the work carried out by various volunteers into expanding the player base, the same cannot be said for those same volunteers in charge of establishing revenue streams. Most rugby league clubs in NSW, both in the NRL and in the second tier of rugby league, have large community social clubs where revenue from poker machines fund their own sides and often the local district representative teams.
Australian park football players normally fund the local rep sides, the association, contribute to the state association and help fund the nine national teams. With 100 National Premier Leagues clubs to fund, plus nine national teams and the state and territory associations, FFA face a huge challenge to reduce the cost of playing.
Rugby league social clubs are some of the biggest in the country and those that use their various services are not all rugby league fans or supporters, sometimes not even sporting fans. However, the poker machine revenue covers a lot of rugby league costs. When a poker machine tax was suggested the reaction was huge by clubs across Australia. It often annoys me the extent of this revenue – though hats off to those that established these clubs back in the 1950s and ’60s – and it does raise a question about fairness at junior sporting levels.
The W-League is a vital peg in the WOFP, as are the four national women’s sides. The 2015 Women’s World Cup will be shown on SBS this year and FFA see the W-League and women’s football in general as a way of developing and adding to the fan-base in addition to increasing participation numbers. The saying by Brigham Young springs to mind, “You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation”.
The bid for the 2023 World Cup would be a huge boost for the women’s game and something I am sure would help football in Australia.
Finally, what to do with the costly and sometimes difficult state associations? It’s difficult to justify that they should be around in their current set-up. Given they almost have to vote themselves out of office means getting rid of them will require very clever discussion and may have to be driven by park teams, because as I understand it the district associations have control over their state bodies.
Recent media reports pertaining to sponsorship and media broadcasting rights for football indicates a code with a strong growth path in front of it.
The WOFP, as far as visionary statements go, is an excellent document for future planning and discussion. Key areas for me are increasing the number of active players to active supporters, finding ways to reduce costs, the women’s game and the state associations.
Over to the Roarers to express their thoughts.