What Australian Football Needs to Change

The John Aloisi penalty against Uruguay in 2005 at ANZ stadium November 16. The defining moment in Australian footballing history. Qualifier after qualifier ending in heartbreak. After 32 years we were going to our 2nd ever FIFA World Cup.

Then in 2010 we qualified, this time with ease. And again we qualified for the 2014 cup, again avoiding the play off against CONCACAF.

However we now find ourselves in the situation where we:

1. Failed to make automatic qualification after embarassing results against Thailand.
2. Only just beat Syria, having to rely on the forehead of a 37 year old to score not only 1 but 2 goals.
3. We now have to face Honduras in a home and away leg tie where we are no guarantee of winning based on recent performances.

Serious questions need to be asked of the FFA in regards to our National Team. If we look at 2006 or “The Golden Generation” most of our players were playing top flight football as starters or getting plenty of minutes.

Compare that to now where we have 2 players playing regular EPL, and plenty more Aussies either playing lower divisions or wasting away on benches across European Leagues.

Let’s cast our memories back and think what gave us the Golden Generation. One simple answer comes to mind; the NSL. For all the flaws that it had, it produced some great quality footballers. So what has changed?

Better youth set up

The NSL had youth teams all the way down to primary school kids. Now that burden is taken up by the NPL clubs charging $1500+ for rego (that is a separate article).

The A-League is focused on crowd figures and TV ratings instead of developing youth. Nothing is more evident than signing an ageing Cahill to City or Roar signing an Italian that looks more suited to a retirement village than a football pitch.

Instead of signing these old names, we should be focusing on signing and giving more time to our youth so they don’t go overseas and sit on the bench in a 2nd division.

Expanded League

Perhaps one of the main strengths the NSL had was an expanded competition. The league mainly had 14-16 teams with a few seasons containing 24 teams.

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about expanding the league, yet the FFA have taken no action and in fact delayed releasing guidelines for clubs wanting to bid for a license.

More professional teams means more players in the league, more Australians in the league which means more opportunity. If we look at the above example about youth, it is critical to provide these opportunities.

Visa Players

The A-League allows 5 visa players per team. Assuming each club uses all 5 and they all start that is 50 places thst Australians could be playing in. Just under half of each starting XI could be foreign.

Again see above how the league only cares about attendance and ratings, it applies here too. Instead of having Australian players developing here at home; they chase opportunities overseas only to be benched.

Its time to drop the visa player number to 3, or 3+1 if they must to remain competitive in the ACL.

2nd Division

Now this is something the NSL was missing but the point remains. If we had a national 2nd division allowing for more professional set ups and teams we could be bringing through a lot more promising Australian players and keep them here.

If we have a 14 team A-League and a 16 team 2nd Division that’s 30 teams, 3 times the current amount that can be developing players.

So yes whilst the NSL had it’s faults and needed to go, there is no denying that they had good systems set up in the clubs to develop Auatralian players, which in turn gave us the golden generation.

It’s time for Lowy, Gallop and co to go and make way for a new administration. One that will not only grow attendances and support for the game but that will also grow the game itself so we can save embarrassment from not qualifying for the World Cup.

After all, look what happened to the USA.

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