We are still yet to hear a full explanation from Football Australia as to why Alen Stajcic was removed from his Matildas post just…
Australia’s failure to win the Asian Cup, and the subsequent prize money of $1.4 million, may prove more costly than first thought.
Many have questioned why the Matildas are not playing in the Algarve Cup in Portugal, which is in the February international window (14-22 February), but there is a school of thought it is partly because FA have exceeded their budget. Or perhaps the appropriate phrase is, they have not reaped budgeted revenue as expected, such as the Asian Cup prize money.
Consequently, the money to fund the cost of sending a squad and support staff to Portugal may not be available.
While other reasons have been put forward including player recovery, not wanting to lose more games and dent confidence, the financial factor is a big problem for FA, who have not been in the best financial position in recent times. The breakaway from the now-independent A-Leagues hasn’t helped.
This news is sure to raise alarm bells among the Australian footballing community if true. With the World Cup 18 months away, it is expected FA would do anything they can to give our footballers the best preparation possible. Even if these means tapping into their cash reserves.
According to the balance sheet in the 2021 FA financial report, there was $20.7 million in cash at bank available. According to the profit and loss Accounts for 2021, $3.2 million was spent on travel, down from $7.2 million in 2020. These figures include travel costs for all FA employees and footballers, including men’s, women’s and youth national teams.
2021 was heavily impacted by COVID, meaning there were a lower number of games.
FA lost $5.2 million in cash in 2021, despite reporting an accounting profit of $11.8 million.
A tournament against the five strong European nations that are appearing at the Algarve Cup would have been an ideal opportunity for Australia to recover from the disappointment of missing out in India. Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Italy and hosts Portugal would have been excellent opposition for the Matildas, especially the fringe players, in preparing them for the World Cup.
It is understood players and staff fly first or business class, with business class a minimum requirement under FA’s current Collective Bargaining Agreement with Professional Footballers Australia, which was a four-year deal signed in 2019.
With several Matilda players based in Europe, this significantly increases the travel cost for players when they come home. Australia played friendlies in October and November at home last year, against Brazil and the USA respectively.
The travelling party to India for the Asian Cup included 23 players and several support staff.
The players and support staff also stay in minimum four-star hotels when they get together. With current COVID protocols and restrictions, there would be additional costs involved.
While no one can blame the players for getting what they are entitled to, one must question why FA didn’t factor this in when setting their budget.
At the very least, the budget should have been revised to factor in another international standard tournament to prepare the Matildas for a once in a lifetime event, even bearing in mind the chance they may not get all budgeted revenue.
It must be pointed out the Socceroos are also playing a number of matches that would have similar costs to the Matildas. The Socceroos are playing in World Cup qualifiers with a number of matches in Asia or neutral countries. The cost of this would be phenomenal.
While FA will likely not comment publicly – most financial questions are not answered due to commercial confidentiality – there will be several questions asked in the coming months about the planning for 2023.
Missing out on a rare international window, especially against top-class opposition, is a golden opportunity missed to prepare the team for a chance at World Cup glory.