Australia’s sports minister says it’s a galling question without an answer.
The Socceroos’ most capped player wants an explanation. Now.
But Football Australia’s boss says remedy will take at least a decade.
All recognise the funding of Australian football is a problem which manifests on stages such as the World Cup.
Why does football, the most popular participant sport in Australia, struggle to get funding compared to other codes?
“That’s a galling question,” federal sports minister Anika Wells told reporters in Doha on Wednesday.
Football has 1.9 million participants in Australia at more than 2,400 community clubs.
So why is it so much more expensive to play than 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 media conference with Wells and Football Australia chief executive James Johnson wasn’t for his employer.
He asked “on behalf of myself as a footballer who played for the national team”.
“Growing up as a kid, 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 are that far behind other codes .. that cost next to nothing. I hear it all the time, constant complaints about the cost .
“If there is extra funding, where is it going? And will it be going towards cutting the cost for the average individual?
“And if not, why isn’t it? Because it should be.”
Wells replied: “I don’t know what the answer is yet. But I do know that it’s a problem.”
“But I think it goes back to that overall question of what do you want?
“Do you want us to discount those things (costs) as a government subsidy? Or do you want us to put (money) into the sports and let them work it out?”
Johnson is trying to work it out.
“There certainly is a vision,” the FA chief said.
“But the reality, when it comes to player development, is that the decisions we’re taking today, we’re not going to see the benefits of this for probably a decade.”
Johnson was appointed FA chief in January 2020. Six months later, he released the ’11 principles for the future of Australian football’.
“If you look at some of the underlying themes of that vision, we do put player development at the very heart,” he said.
“We talk about more investment in youth development, we talk about more investment in youth national leagues, both boys and also girls.
“We talk about establishment mechanisms such as a transfer system … that mechanism is about incentivising clubs to develop players.
“We talk in the vision about licensing which we have recently implemented at a national and also a state level … so we can lift the standard of clubs all over the country.”