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Don’t be fooled by recent headlines - Australian football is headed in the right direction.


The recent headlines in the world of Australian professional football have painted a bleak picture of our game in the last few months. Staff cuts and financial problems. Match fixing and undue overseas influence.


I’m not here to dispute that these issues aren’t of concern, but don’t be fooled into thinking football in Australia is in trouble. In the same way a world class keeper can give even the shakiest team a sense of composure, Football Australia has us heading in the right direction.


Don’t take my word for it though. The Football Australia Abridged Annual Review 2023 paints a picture of strategic investment in critical parts of the game - across our national teams, the Australia Cup, and development programs.


The ROI on female football in this country is a beautiful thing to witness - almost half our expenditure on national teams went towards the Matildas in 2023, and boy did it pay. It seems fitting that this data has come out the same week talks of a monster $200m broadcast deal has been announced for our incredible Women’s national team.


Almost 12 months on from the Women’s World Cup and the Matildas are still selling out friendlies and breaking records. Just shy of 53,000 against China on a cold night in Adelaide. Unbelievable.


The way the Matildas have planted their flag in Europe though this is no surprise. You could argue that if we had Socceroos returning from Arsenal, Chelsea, Madrid, etc there would be the same buzz around our mens national team. Call me a dreamer, but some of our recent exports suggest it’s not an impossibility.


While we’re still some way off the likes of the Clairefontaine academy, I can think of no better way to head in that direction than by introducing a national league that is within reach of any high quality NPL 1 or 2 player. The word on the street is that the introduction of the National Second Tier will push NPL 1 in NSW and VIC to become somewhat of an U23s league. If this is the case, good. Whether this was an intention of the NST or not, it’s a trajectory that means more football, more pathways, and more opportunity.


The value of the opportunity for youth players to compete at a senior level sooner with more football on their schedules can’t be understated. Alongside the changes that will come to player contracts and the potential additional revenue for clubs that prioritise player development, there’s also the broader impact that could come from properly televising the league.


If we promote and broadcast the NST well in its early years, we’ll convince a whole generation that they’ve got a clear path to professional football on their doorstep. If we’re ever lucky enough to get the A League and NST on Optus Sport, just watch what happens.


It’s not just the big ticket items that have made me a believer though. It’s the focus on a ground up approach that tells me we’re on track. As someone who is involved with many community and semi-pro football clubs, I can tell you that our clubs and their administrators (who are almost all volunteers) need all the support they can get. The Football Australia Club Changer program is recognition of this.


For a governing body to implement a program that provides guidance around strategies and planning that will drive greater sustainability and growth for clubs at a grassroots level, it says a lot. To take it one step further and celebrate the clubs excelling in the program speaks very positively to the culture of our governing body.


If you’re not across football then don’t read too much into the headlines about the issues in the professional game. There’s a lot to be excited about in Australian football right now.


In the last two weeks I’ve seen flares go off at a cup game on the North Shore, had Souvlaki on a Tuesday night watching NPL 1 clubs battle it out in extra time, and attended an event on the South Coast with hundreds of people supporting a community club with just three teams.


Behind all of this there’s far too many people that care about the game to not push it in the right direction - so it’s incredibly reassuring to see our governing body doing the same.

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