Australia’s sports minister says it’s an irritating unanswered question.
The Socceroos’ most capped player wants an explanation. Now.
But the Football Australia boss says the cure will take at least a decade.
All agree that Australian rules football funding is an issue that manifests itself at stages like the World Cup.
Why is football, the most popular sport in Australia, struggling to get funding compared to other codes?
“It’s a maddening question,” Federal Sports Minister Anika Wells told reporters in Doha on Wednesday.
Football has 1.9 million participants in Australia in over 2,400 community clubs.
So why is it so much more expensive to play than the other codes? Socceroos legend Mark Schwarzer wants to know.
Schwarzer is in Qatar as a World Cup commentator for Optus Sport.
But his question at a press conference with Wells and Football Australia chief executive James Johnson was not for his employer.
He asked “on my behalf as a footballer who played for the national team”.
“Growing up, you didn’t need money to play football, it was there, it was an opportunity to play,” Schwarzer said.
“In Australia now the cost to play football for the average individual is astronomical.
“We’re so far behind other codes…which cost next to nothing. I hear it all the time, constant complaints about the cost.
“If there is additional funding, where does it go? And will it help reduce costs for the average individual?
“And if not, why isn’t he?” Because it should be.
Wells replied, “I don’t know what the answer is yet. But I know it’s a problem.”
“But I think it comes down to this general question of what do you want?
“Do you want us to reduce these things (costs) as a government subsidy? Or do you want us to put (money) into sports and let them get away with it?”
Johnson tries to find a solution.
“There is certainly a vision,” said the FA chief.
“But the reality, when it comes to player development, is that the decisions we make today, we’re not going to see the benefits for probably a decade.”
Johnson was appointed chief of the FA in January 2020. Six months later he published the ’11 Principles for the Future of Australian Rules Football’.
“If you look at some of the underlying themes of that vision, we put player development at the very core,” he said.
“We’re talking about more investment in youth development, we’re talking about more investment in national youth leagues, boys and girls.
“We are talking about establishment mechanisms such as a transfer system… this mechanism is to incentivize clubs to develop players.
“We are talking in the licensing vision that we have recently implemented at the national level and also at the state level…so that we can raise the level of clubs across the country.”
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