Building Australia's Football Community—review into the sustainability of football
Historically, a key strength of football in Australia has been its large grassroots participation base. Over the last eight years, this trend has continued, aided by the development and implementation of a number of key strategic activities led by FFA.
The number of Australians playing football has continued to grow with an increase of approximately 45% in the number of people playing outdoor football between 2001 and 2009. The number of children (aged 5–14 years) has grown by almost 20% between 2001 and 2009. For those aged 15 years and over, participation has increased by 60%. Indoor football participation has trebled for children (5–14 years old) between 2001 and 2009.
In 2010, outdoor football had the second largest club-based participation in Australia (after golf) based on participation at least once per year. Outdoor football has the higher regular participation rate for club-based activity; an estimated 95,000 persons aged 15 years and over participated in this activity in a club environment on average three times per week.
Interestingly, outdoor football club-based participation fluctuated during 2001 and 2007, but began to increase in 2007, following implementation of FFA’s community-based initiatives. The increasing trend has continued through the period 2007 to 2010.
FacilitiesThere are reports that in some areas the sport is unable to keep pace with burgeoning demand.
This issue was raised in a number of consultations across multiple jurisdictions. By way of an example, Football Federation Victoria reported that around 6,000 players are turned away annually, primarily because of a lack of facilities.
A facility audit by FFA in 2009–10 highlighted some of these issues including the challenges faced by local government authorities in meeting demand and developing additional facilities commensurate with participation growth. The increase in the length of the football season (‘season creep’); non-traditional forms of the game being played in the summer; and the simple increase in teams, has many facilities operating at or near capacity. This is also impinging on facility maintenance programs which become compromised and, combined with the high level of usage and extended periods of adverse weather patterns, results in the problematic quality of football fields. Media articles in Tasmania have also recently highlighted this issue.
The increasing trend towards the replacement of natural surfaces with artificial pitches has proved successful in several jurisdictions, however it should be noted that this strategy requires a high level of capital investment. There are a number of other strategies identified by FFA’s examination of this issue that are worthy of further exploration by local and State authorities.
Growth in women’s and girls’ football between 2000 and 2009 was the largest of Australia’s major sporting codes. During this time, 200,000 more females began playing football. Facilities data gathered by FFA indicated that this surge in demand:
“has not been adequately supported from a facility perspective. Many Councils and football clubs have reported a lack of facilities to cater for the needs of women, particularly specific change rooms and associated amenities at a senior level. Given the rate of growth, Local Government Authorities and football (generally) are prioritising the upgrade of existing or the development of new female change room facilities.”
A lack of gender-appropriate facilities was also identified during the consultation process. This is an area where State and local governments will continue to face pressure.
myfootballclub.com.auA membership and communication management system is a key strategic imperative for any sporting organisation. Over the last three years, FFA has rolled out the website myfootballclub.com.au to link the national body with administrators and members at club and local associations. The website acts as a digital hub incorporating a national on-line registration system for participants. Further development will provide a range of resources to assist grassroots administrators including a competition management system, a club accreditation program, facility information, policy advice and templates.
Planned future development of myfootballclub.com.au will see it play a key role in linking players with A-League clubs utilising the on-line database. The website will also be used to provide information about elite development programs including private operators, to assist parents in making informed decisions about suitable programs for their children and the relative financial value of what is offered.