Australian football’s ruling body unveiled on Tuesday an ambitious 20-year plan aimed at making ‘soccer’ the No.1 sport in the country – and its national team, the Socceroos, competitive in all World Cup and Asian Cups.
On the back of the national men’s team success at the 2015 AFC Asian Cup where the Socceroos defeated South Korea in a home final, Football Federation Australia (FFA) chief David Gallop outlined the sport’s mission in Australia for the next two decades encompassing elite, development, grassroots and supporter areas.
The plan includes a goal to have all national sides playing with a distinctive Australian style that places them in contention for all FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) and AFC (Asian Football Confederation) championships.
Australia only played one World Cup tournament up to 2002 but, due to an administration overhaul and a move from the Oceania group to Asia, has qualified for the past three tournaments.
It has established itself as a heavyweight in Asia and Gallop said the best years of Australian football were ahead of it.
“We have a firm conviction that football’s best years are ahead of us,” said Gallop. “We know that growth will inevitably bring greater revenues and new incomes streams, enough to fund the future.”
Gallop said the plan had been developed without being limited by the game’s current resources.
By 2035, the Whole of Football Plan (WOFP) projects 15 million Australians will be part of the football community and that figure would include one million club members.
Extra revenue from this surge in popularity will help build world-class academies that will make going overseas an option, but not a requirement, for Australian youth players seeking elite development.
The academies are expected to drive a combined pool of 3,000 elite male and female players from 12 to 19 that will be vying for future national selection and professional contracts.
The WOFP also noted the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which Australia wants to host, would be a driver of women’s football participation and professionalism.
Professionally, football sits behind Australian football and rugby league in terms of money and exposure. However, grassroots involvement in ‘soccer’ has grown substantially in the past decade and puts the number of football’s participants at a similar level to the indigenous Australian rules code. Enditem