Player production a key focus for FFA

Internal studies completed by Football Federation Australia (FFA) have identified critical ‘gaps’ in the player development pathway for Australia’s national elite players.

Two studies, highlighted in Principle V of FFA’s XI Principles for the future of Australian football (XI Principles), have brought to light some of the player development and production challenges currently being faced by Australian football. These include a lack of high-level match minutes available to Australia’s elite youth players, calendar and competitions challenges, and the need to secure more consistent international camps, matches, and opportunities for Australia’s youth national teams.

FFA Chief Executive Officer, James Johnson, emphasised the importance of the studies to Australia’s focus on player production.

“Improving player pathways and establishing Australia as a producer of world class talent is a key focus of Australian football’s 15-year vision outlined in our XI Principles,” Johnson said. “Principle V [Create a world class environment for youth development / production by increasing match minutes for youth players and streamlining the player pathway] also emphasises the imperative for our elite players, both male and female, between U-17 to U-23 to regularly obtain valuable match minutes to create a bigger talent pool of players for our national teams, and to implement measures to address short-term player development ‘gaps’.”

FFA today released its The Performance Gap report (for men), which analyses data collected from thirty-five (35) 1st Division Leagues – including the A-League – over the past five (5) seasons. The Report, amongst other things, compares the amount of professional football being played in Australia against the rest of the world, and the optimal amount of professional match minutes required for young Australian footballers to provide them with a solid platform to progress to strong club and international careers. Additionally, FFA has released a one-hour webinar featuring Socceroos Head Coach Graham Arnold and FFA National Technical Director Trevor Morgan discussing the report in detail and providing insight into the challenges and opportunities for Australian football.

FFA’s study into the challenges and opportunities available to elite women’s football will be released in December 2020.

Socceroos Head Coach Arnold – who also manages Australia’s U-23 men’s national football team – said The Performance Gap Report is an important piece of objective, data-driven and factual work.

“FFA’s The Performance Gap Report offers a holistic picture of the elite men’s youth space in Australia, and highlights areas where we simply must improve as a code in order to provide our best young male players with the best possible opportunity to fulfil their football dreams,” Arnold said.

“Its findings support many of the themes raised in the XI Principles for the future of Australian football – particularly that our young players need to be playing more match minutes at the highest possible level. I would encourage everyone – especially clubs, competition administrators, participants and parents and guardians of participants – with an interest in the development of football in Australia and our pathway to success, to take the time to watch the webinar and read the report, as it is crucial that we begin to make informed and unified decisions that are in the best interests of Australian kids.”

FFA recently submitted a proposal to Member Federations designed to increase opportunities for match minutes for Australian elite youth players to assist in their preparation for the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and other youth national team World Cup qualifiers in 2021. The proposal included recommendations to lift the age-restrictions for A-League teams participating in the NPL to field U-23 players in NPL 2021 competitions and beyond, and that NPL 1 men’s and boys’ competitions involving players over the age of seventeen (17) be expanded to thirty (30) Regular Season matches.

“We have been working in close collaboration with our various competition administrators over many months to consider the best avenue to address some of the immediate player development challenges, exacerbated by the onset of COVID-19 this year,” Johnson added. “We have studied the landscape and sought to find solutions based on the insights we have developed from our findings, which are also consistent with PFA’s findings in its recently published report into the A-League 2019/20 season.”

Former Socceroo, Starting XI Member, and North Geelong Warriors Director of Football, Josip Skoko, said: “The Performance Gap Report reinforces similar research that Professional Footballers Australia issued several years ago, and if it wasn’t clear that we needed to make adjustments to youth development then, it is crystal clear now. I believe that we need as many games as possible, and for kids to play at a level that they are capable of being challenged at. Alignment of the national football calendar makes perfect sense and will help to lift the overall standard of the game in Australia.”

Football Coaches Australia (FCA) President, Phil Moss, said: “We always talk about the golden generation, but there is a lost generation as well in their early-to-mid-twenties. We need to make changes, and we need to make them right now. FCA endorses the work done by the FFA, and also by the PFA, to compile data-driven reports that consider the challenges and opportunities in our game. More match minutes for players equates to more match minutes for coaches.”

Please click here to access FFA’s 2020 The Performance Gap Report and Webinar.

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