Football Federation Australia is going from strength to strength in their efforts to promote and enhance the sport in the country. In recent weeks we have seen the relentless effort placed on their bid to host the World Cup. We have also had a long and rich history of football in Australia being brought to us by the recently published book of Peter Kunz, Chronicles of Soccer in Australia – Foundation Years 1859 to 1949. Now the Football Federation of Australia announced their official heritage committee to record and reflect the history of the sport in the country.
The FFA Heritage Committee
The FFA started through Chris Nikou, FFA Chairman, that one of the main priorities of the new Board of Directors, is to recognize the history of the sport in their country. They also want to centralize the memorabilia which individual collectors have collected over time, to start building a football museum. The Committee’s focus will be placed on promoting the social, economic, historical and cultural heritage of football’s significance in the country. The Committee members will include members of the football community who have in the past shown interest in committing themselves to acquire a more excellent knowledge of football’s history. These would consist of names like Bonita Mersiades, from the publishing world, Fox Sports’ Andy Harper and Simon Hill, Peter Katholos the former Socceroo and Chairman of the Johnny Warren Football Foundation, Jamie Warren. Remo Nogarotto, FFA Director, will be in charge of the Committee.
The Need to Celebrate a Rich History
The Committee’s focus will be set on celebrating the rich history of the sport in the country. The historical milestones along the journey of more than 160 years need to be correctly identified, recognized and celebrated. For this purpose, a Historical sub-committee are there to ensure that the facts are accurately represented. Peter Kunz is undoubtedly part of this Committee. It also included Garry McKenzie of the Gold Coast, football historians Ian Syson and Roy Hay from Melbourne and Adelaide, the statistician Andrew Howe will be present. Trevor Thompson represents Sydney.
Relying on Individuals to Keep up With History
Nogarotto stated that in the history of football this far, they have always relied upon individuals who have a passion for the sport to collect the precious memorabilia, to document the past and also to showcase it to inspire younger generations. The Committee realized the importance of centralizing all of these and that it needs to be coordinated in a way so that it is done more effectively and that it is an enjoyable and accessible experience for all football fans. It is also about more than collecting history and factual information but also about celebrating the significant role players, contributors and brilliant players. The purpose of the entire drive is to preserve the past to create a better future for the sport of football in Australia, to ensure that nothing of value gets lost along the way.
FIFA has made it official that Women’s World Cup 2023 would see 32 teams partaking. This is a substantial growth since the days in 1991 when a small 12 groups were involved, which grew then to 24 units during this year’s tournament. This change also caused the bidding process to host the event, to open up again.
Women’s World Cup Now on Par with Men
The increase in teams allowed to play is placing the men’s and women’s cups on the same level. The Men’s World Cup had 32 teams competing, already since 1998 and this move is once again considered an effort made to achieve an equal playground for men and women on the sporting field globally.
Hosting the Cup is another desire which Australia is chasing down. Even though April was already the deadline for submitting documentation to bid on hosting the Cup, the option to offer was opened again after these changes were made. Currently, eight countries have submitted their bids to host the event. Except for Australia, these include Colombia, Bolivia, Japan, Argentina, South Korea, South Africa and New Zealand. FIFA confirmed that updated information regarding the bid would be sent to all of these within the next month as well as to countries which are considered eligible to bid in the run for hosting the event. Submissions to host will now be closed only in December this year with FIFA announcing the elected host in May next year.
The expansion of the number of teams allowed to play is creating magnificent opportunities for so many more women involved in the sport, by allowing them the possibility to qualify.
Not All in Australia are On Board Though
Even though the Football Federation of Australia is pressing hard to win the bid to host, it seems that there is some serious resistance against this notion. Steven Marshall, the South Australian Premier, confirmed this week that their government would not be available to host any matches if Australia does win the bid to host the Women’s World Cup in 2023. The reasoning behind it seems twofold. The Coopers Stadium in Adelaide needs some significant renovations and upgrades to be done to be able to host a world-class event. This is going to be a costly exercise for the local government. The second reason is based on the fact that the local AFL supporters would not be able to access the Adelaide Oval for the entire period during 2023, of about 5-6 weeks. The provincial government is not eager to make decisions which would affect these supporters negatively.
Government is not keen to commit any money to the tournament, especially since it isn’t clear which games or how many would be played in Adelaide. This announcement by Marshall was made after Premier Berejiklian confirmed Sydney’s commitment to hosting the event. Some critics are expressing their anger towards Marshall’s decision and are stating that Adelaide is becoming a city left behind in Australia, creating controversy in the Australian Soccer World.
This is the suggestion made in a newly released book by Peter Kunz, librarian and archivist of Canberra. After twelve years of research, his book Chronicles of Soccer in Australia – Foundation Years 1859 to 1949, has finally seen the light.
Chronicles of Soccer in Australia – Foundation Years 1859 to 1949
The book was launched by Andy Harper from Fox Sports on the 31st of July at Gleebooks. Kunz’s book is the product of about 12 years of fact-checking and liaising with other historians in the field of sports, as well as research done in the national archives. The book caught the attention of the world with its enticing suggestion that the first game of soccer ever played in Australia happened as early as 1859. This match was reported about on by Hobart press and was scheduled to occur at Richmond in Tasmania on the 18th of March 1859. The then news advertised it as a grand football match, and Kunz is relatively sure that this is indicating towards the first soccer match.
More Interesting Details
His more than a decade of research delivered, however, more details about the games played during that era. One of these is the fact that almost the entire Australia stopped playing soccer during World War I due to the lack of players since most men had to respond to the call to join up in arms.
He also found evidence that women’s soccer has also been played for quite a while through an advertisement of a women’s match scheduled to be played in Toowoomba in 1917. The influence which the Chinese communities in Australia had on the development of soccer in Darwin is also placed under the microscope with some interesting findings as well. Another fun and exciting detail concerning the early games is that carrier pigeons were used by Coledale club to convey notes on half- and full-time scores.
Kunz Commenting on His Book
Kunz commented that despite the many interesting facts that he did discover, his approach to all of the evidence which he found regarding matches was always a conservative one. Kunz also mentioned that with Australia being very remote due to cultural and geographic isolation from the rest of the world, the absence of global engagement was presented and played out on the soccer fields. The attitudes which were created towards class and race through the presence of immigrants, as well as the national culture within Australia have all been adequately reflected during games those years. The book demonstrates the attitudes and habits of the Australian nation during the period stretching from later on in the 19th century up to the first half of the 20th century.
Kunz’s book also provides a comprehensive list of clubs that were active in senior matches. The menu consists of more than 2 500 names stretching up to December of 1949. Noticeably is the fact that nearly half of these clubs were all based in New South Wales. The book is an exciting exploration of a part of cricket history not known to the modern world.
In 2014 the FFA placed a ban on all Australian soccer clubs to display their names, symbols or colours or any other political, racial, national or religious emblems. This was done according to a National Club Identity Policy which came into place in 2014, creating much controversy in the soccer world. Now the FFA is in the process of lifting the ban, and soccer clubs will once again be free to acknowledge and display their ethnic background utilizing club names, logos and more. This is following the Football Federation Australia’s new identity guidelines still in the draft version.
The Ban on Club Identity
The initial ban was created by setting strict guidelines regarding the ways that clubs had to express their background and heritage. This was done through very much controversial the National Club Identity Policy. This policy was never well-received, and the pressure was always presented from the clubs to get the administration abolished. One of the main instigators in this change was the Charlestown City Blues in NWS. They have immediately indicated that they will be changing their logo and name for the next season. Their name will become Charlestown Azzuri. This will be done to acknowledge their Italian background.
The lifting of the ban was further supported by the realization that Australia is an extremely multicultural country, and instead of denying their diversity, they should embrace it. This was according to Peter Filopoulos, the CEO of Football Victoria. The proposed change will allow clubs to celebrate their history and heritage and give them the freedom to engage more effectively with communities.
How other clubs feel are still uncertain, although it is expected that some clubs will most definitely change their names to reflect their heritage, while others might opt to remain as they were.
The Proposed Changes
The proposed changes according to the new draft will allow clubs to express their heritage in many ways. Clubs are now free to celebrate their historical roots, and they can do it in many ways. These will include flags in the stadium if they wish to do so. They can change their names and logo’s to reflect their region, culture or history.
This should, however, be done in such a way that it doesn’t create an unnecessary rivalry with other clubs based on culture, political beliefs, ethnicity or religion. Although Filopoulos is convinced that clubs will maintain a delicate balance between healthy and unhealthy rivalry, it is noted that sometimes it is hard to keep political beliefs off the sports field. Whenever some of these high-risk games are played, the request might be made to keep the clubs expression of specific ideas to the minimum. This might mean that supporters won’t be allowed to bring flags along, which might spark conflict.
However, at the moment, it is still to be seen how the change will manifest in the various club identities. Often when restricted, the desire is great for a change, until it is allowed and then not much change happens after all.
Australia and Indonesia are busy plotting a plan to host a combined 2034 FIFA Soccer World Cup. Arrangements are under discussion to come to an agreement and finalize their bid.
The possibility of a joint bid between Australia and Indonesia was a hot topic of discussion during the ASEAN Football Federation Council meeting in June in Laos. The Football Federation Australia and the Indonesia Football Association would like to bid in a joint Indonesia-Australian bid for the 2034 FIFA World Cup.
FFA Has an Ambitious Plan
The Football Federation Australia (FFA) was recently unsuccessful in bidding for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, losing against Qatar. This was a pretty expensive exercise for the people of Australia. The Aussie taxpayers had to deliver on $45 million for the bid, and in return, they only managed to get one vote in their favour. Now that failure is forgotten, and they are hard at work in finding a new solution to bid on the 2034 World Cup. Hosting a FIFA World Cup in the south-eastern part of Asia is an excellent opportunity to increase the popularity of the globally loved sport in a highly-populated area of the globe. Although the main discussion is currently only including Australia and Indonesia, it doesn’t completely exclude the possibility that another Asian country might also join in on the bid. This suggestion is already considered as a politically supported decision.
The Near Future
The 2026 World Cup was awarded to Canada, the United States and Mexico. The South American countries of Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina and Chile are moving towards bringing the 2030 world tournament to the south of America. The same idea is what inspires the bid from the south-east Asian countries for 2034.
A Mutually Beneficial Deal
The bid only needs to be finalized six years from now, yet the Indonesians have already indicated that such a combined proposal would bring along great benefits from this neighbourly partnership. The benefits of hosting a joint bid are also undeniable with the costs which it incurs. When the World Cup was expanded from 32 to 48 participants, the expenses towards hosting such a large scale event also increased dramatically. Sharing the costs between two or even more countries makes it much more of a financially viable option for all.
The main concern at the moment is the logistics of covering the distance between the two countries. Although it is similar to travelling between Mexico and Canada. Logistically it would have made more sense for FFA to join up with New Zealand. Since they don’t belong to the same confederation, the complexities of world politics are making this very unlikely. This might be an excellent opportunity to expand further and strengthen this globally loved sport in Australia. Currently, it seems that Africa is also planning on getting their bid in for 2034 through the powerhouse of Egypt.
Gallop announced his retirement at the end of 2019, earlier this week. After serving for seven years in the position of chief executive for the Football Federation of Australia, he now feels that the diminished role which the chief executive will have after planned changes in the structure is his sign of resigning.
Clubs to Take Control
The Australian professional football leagues charged the New League Working Group to take the current structure under consideration and to suggest changes to improve the system. The group returned with many suggestions including that clubs should be in more control of the more massive competitions. They suggested that an organization should be brought to life with representatives from every club. This organization will be in control of the A-League as well as the women’s and youth leagues. This would entail a complete shift away from the current FFA control and bring almost total separation between the associations and the national football body. These changes will bring a fundamental shift in Gallop’s position. A much narrower role will have to be fulfilled as the one that he has been doing for the past seven years. Gallop also mentioned that this would bring challenges on how competitions on a professional level will be managed. He suggested that a clear and definite idea about how they indicate the leadership should look like and what the role would entail should be brought to the table.
FFA and Gallop Feeling Pressure
Earlier this year both Gallop and the FFA decided to fire Alen Stajcic from the position as coach for the Australian women’s team. This was due to Stajcic’s expression of unhappiness regarding the welfare and working situations of players. He made these based on feedback from interviews and confidential surveys to determine the team’s culture and environment. Later on, an apology had to be offered to Stajcic for this unprecedented move from authorities, who failed to provide any evidence as grounds for their decision.
During his time at the FFA, Gallop was part of many football highlights for the Aussies. These included their men’s team bringing back the Asian Cup in 2015. Gallop worked at improving the women’s league and towards bringing in added competitions for them. He is also behind the A$346 million broadcasting agreement which was signed for six years and is still considered to be the greatest ever in the history of the organization. His time there also saw some hardships in the Australian camp with FIFA threatening to end the Australian membership when they were in a locked-down position due to struggles of accepting the changes in governance. Gallop’s contract was due to stop at the end of 2020. His early retirement is yet another setback for the professional world of football in Australia. Gallop is convinced though that the national love that all Australians have for the game and the desire to see it grow will, however, carry them forward.
Soccer is, without a doubt, the most popular sport in the entire globe. With this success, there are still places where it is continually reaching new heights of popularity, involvement and interest. Australia is considered to be one of these unique places.
Soccer in a Rugby Supporting World
Over the ages, Australia has made a prominent name for itself both in the worlds of rugby and cricket. A sport which is well under-publicized though is Australian soccer. Many Australian soccer players have made a great success in their careers, although with teams representing other nationalities. These include names like Sydney born Callum Elder playing for Ipswich F.C in England and Mile Jedinak, born in Camperdown, who is involved at Aston Villa F.C. This trend of Aussies making a success on an international level is a great inspiration for the sport-loving nation of Australia to turn their focus to soccer with more attention and interest. Another contributing factor to the new growing interest in their national women’s team’s efforts and involvement in the FIFA Women’s Soccer World Cup. The Matildas left the run for the Cup on a very heart-breaking note, but their pre-Cup successes and their relentless efforts to achieve success once again are all that is required to let the passionate Aussie fans warm up to the sport.
Marketing the Game through Sports Betting
The changes in the world of Australian sports, the game is also thoroughly sold on various platforms. Especially when it comes to sports betting or mobile betting, the growth of interest in soccer has taken a tremendous upturn. This is further fuelled by easy access to sportsbooks and regular promotions and irresistible sports betting offers.
Towards a Bright Future
With all the increased interest in the sport, it might become a reality soon for Australia to host a World Cup tournament in the future. Regarding this, it is already a plan which has been placed into action as they are working with Indonesia on the possibility of being joint hosts for the 2034 World Cup Series. Even if this bid is not accepted, it is a clear indication of the amount of support which soccer has in Australia. The Australians also have their eye on hosting the 2023 Women’s World Cup Tournament, and they have already prepared their bid for this.
When you have the strong support of a sport-loving nation backing you and you have local athletes who excel on both domestic as well as international level in a particular sport, then is it without a doubt the perfect environment to expand the horizons and give the fans the opportunity for more serious involvement in the competition. Thus making Australia perhaps the ideal place of choice to host such a significant international event in the future. This will be a great leap forward not only for soccer in Australia but indeed for the game of soccer globally loved and played.
A Dream Has Been Shattered
It has been very clear from day one that the Australian Matildas are in it to win the Cup, but then all dreams and hopes were shattered on the 23rd of June, and the crowds went silent. The emotion on the field was one of complete disbelief and devastation. They were out of the run, and the world is watching. What turned out to be one of the most captivating games in the entire Women’s Soccer World Cup did not end well for the Matildas.
A Brave Battle
During the entire game the Matilda never once stopped the fight for victory. Their resilience and magnificent comeback after losing to Brazil was noted far and wide and made a dream for them to win the Cup even more determined. Also getting a new coach a mere four months ahead of the World Cup didn’t stop them also to consider the fact that they might not make it. For the Matildas, this was their Cup to bring home. During their clash with Norway, they continued with this even after losing a player when Alanna Kennedy, defensive leader received a red card and they had to proceed with a slightly crippled team. The Aussie defender was confirmed guilty in the 104th minute of grabbing the shirt of Lisa-Marie Utland, Norwegian striker.
The Disruption in Play, a Break in Momentum
The Aussies kept the Norwegian team busy and running from the start, and it seemed that they were dominating for the first couple of minutes until the Norwegians found their rhythm again about 15 minutes in and the game was on in full force. The momentum was shattered in the 42nd minute with a long delay when Maria Thorisdotter, Norway’s defender seemed to have cleared the ball with either her shoulder or upper arm and a handball was called out. Valuable time was spent on looking at replays bringing the rhythm to a stop and then when the Aussies expected a penalty, the VAR wasn’t in their favour, and she was cleared, and the game had to continue.
A Penalty Shoot Out Failure
After a gruelling game and a draw on the scoreboard, the penalties determined the victor in the end and the rolling dice didn’t go in Aussie favour. Lydia Williams, the goalkeeper for the Matildas, had a brilliant play all game long, blocking six shots and deflecting two long-range shots. This was not a day of favour for Sam Kerr’s famous foot and when the Australians got an opening penalty kick her attempt went wide and high, right into the stands. Diminishing their odds against the Norwegians with a penalty score which just wasn’t good enough.
Then There Was Silence
And just like that the months of preparation, the hopes and dreams of victory and a lifetime of commitment turned into a heart-breaking defeat for a team and their nation. As Waltzing Matilda goes silent, the light shining from the Cup has gone dark for the Aussies.
During April the Matildas was using FIFA’s own words against them in a threat of legal action regarding a gender pay gap in the sport. CEO of Professional Footballers Australia gave them his support and committed himself to gender equality. Their complaints were heard, and earlier this month, they received a 33% pay increase in base payment to equal their hourly remuneration with that of their male counterparts.
Men Will Still Be Earning More
The 33% adjustment has been made to the base hourly rate that the players earn. This is regarded as progress since up until as recently as two years ago, the female players in the W-League was still seen as amateurs and didn’t receive any remuneration except for reimbursement of their expenses. During 2017 this changed and their conditions of employment were improved. The struggle by female players to earn the same amounts as their male counterparts were also under investigation in March. The US women’s soccer team took legal action against the US national federation based on gender discrimination due to vast differences in their pay structure.
Still though with the pay increase in place, women will always be earning less because they spend less time playing in a shorter season. Their season runs for a mere 14 weeks which is slightly longer than half of the men’s season which is running over 27 weeks.
Australia is the leader in campaigning for equal pay for women in sports globally. Since 2017 the women’s cricket team is also set on the same base hourly rate as their male counterparts, but they too are earning less due to fewer chances to play during the season.
The Gap in Prize Money
Another large gender pay gap which still needs to be attended to is the prize money that winning teams earn. The winning team in the W-League will walk away with a mere US$4 million and the runner-up team with US$2.6 million in comparison with the prize money for the winners during the Men’s Soccer World Cup where their male counterparts walked away with a winning prize money of US$38 million and the runner-up team with US$28 million. The amount which is paid less towards winning teams during the Women’s World Cup compared to the Men’s World Cup totals at US$370 million. FIFA explains this enormous pay gap as the result of less revenue produced through the women’s tournaments vs the men’s championships. This explanation is received with a lot of criticism in the sporting world, but FIFA is not revealing their figures to the public, so it is hard to accept or dismiss it entirely.
Pay gaps in women’s sports is a sensitive matter, not only in Australia but globally. The main reason why Norway’s star player Ada Hegerberg is not part of their World Cup team is due to a dispute which she has with the national federation of Norway regarding gender equality and a lack of recognition of women in the sport.
Playing in one of the most active teams in the Women’s World Cup, it comes as no surprise when Coach Bobby Despotovski goes into reminiscence about the first time when he saw Sam Kerr playing. While watching the young play at his club’s training grounds, his attention was drawn to a bunch of girls practising. He then saw the 13-year old. He remembers noticing the talent that she had, waiting to be developed, her skills, the quickness of her movements astounded him. Now being the head coach of Perth Glory Women, he was then already sure that this young player is going to have a golden future on the soccer field.
Kerr’s Early Career
Australia is known for playing a kind of soccer which differs slightly from that played in the rest of the world. It is a mixture of soccer, and American football often called “Aussie rules” or “footy”. Their professional league is called the Australian Football League. The rules differ in many ways. In “footy” the ball is oval shaped and so is the field. At each end of the area are four posts of which the middle two are considered the goal posts. Kicking the ball between these two posts will get the team 6 points. In this game, players are also allowed to tackle, and the ball is sometimes picked up and hit with the other. This was the game that Sam Kerr grew up in. That was until the age of 12-years old. She had to switch to soccer since the boys against whom they were competing were getting too big. Sam was upset and didn’t like leaving “footy” behind at all. This was, however, not a course on which she would ever have been able to achieve great success and looking back now, she is glad that the switch happened.
Sam Kerr has found her way in soccer and is at the age of 25 playing for two teams. Perth Glory when in the Australian Women’s League and for the Chicago Red Stars when in US National Women’s Soccer League. Her success and powerful influence in the industry was confirmed when Nike signed a $1 million deal with her earlier this year.
So far in the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Kerr is behind one of the goals of the Australian Matildas. Her signature celebration after scoring is doing a backflip on the field. Sam Kerr gained the status as the all-time leading scorer in National Women’s Soccer League during the 2018 season. The same year she was also named the 2018 Young Australian of the Year. Kerr has represented Australia in 2010, 2014 and 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cups and has been playing for the Australian Matildas since 2011, representing them at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2011, 2015 and 2019.
Judging on her successes thus far, Despotovski seems to have been correct in his predictions that her future is golden.