To the Australian football family,
As the curtain slowly draws on the football season for 2020, it is a timely moment to pause and reflect on what has been a tumultuous eight months and to turn our minds to those who might still be enduring hardship today.
This year was shaping up to be one of the biggest years yet for Australian football and its two million participants. Participation numbers were at an all-time high, the A-League would wrap up its 15th season, the Westfield W-League had some of our brightest female talent, our Westfield Matildas and Olyroos were vying for qualification to the Tokyo Olympics, our Socceroos went into 2020 on top of their FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualification group, and FFA were in the final stages of bidding as co-host of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.
Opening up the pages of 2020 would see us inherit one of our most difficult summers recorded as bushfires ravaged significant parts of the country. Loss of property and life, and the impact on flora and fauna left communities and ecosystems across Australia devastated. Football played its part with a number of key initiatives including the dedication of Rounds 14 and 15 of the A-League season to the work of Rural Aid it its efforts to support first-respondents and those in need.
As we commenced the process of recovery however, we saw the emergence of a new threat, not just to football but on economies and to human life. The COVID-19 pandemic tested Australian football in an unprecedented way and resulted in the suspension of football across the country. This challenged and disrupted the traditional functioning of Australian football activities at all levels. Consequently, we are likely to feel the impact for years to come as we look to recover from the unprecedented drop in participation numbers and expected depressed economic conditions that threaten previous levels of support. In response, like all other industries, football’s governing bodies at all levels of the game took the necessary steps to stabilise the game and made the required adjustments to ensure that football was in a strong position to recover.
After playing its role as a responsible citizen and performing its civic duty during the height of the pandemic, football was able to resume in most places across Australia with many competitions now either concluded or in the final stages. The resumption of football has breathed life back into our game and has meant that our football community has been able to come together to enjoy the game which we all love. Unfortunately, this was not the case in Victoria who have experienced and endured more devastating and longer lasting effects of the pandemic, than any other region of Australia.
It is important to also recognise the ongoing support from the Federal, State and Local Governments throughout Australia, who have responded and supported our sport throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are slowly beginning to find our feet once more and there is much to be excited about as we look to close out 2020 and move into 2021.
The granting of co-hosting rights to the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 was a watershed moment for Australian football. The announcement united the entire nation around the game and galvanised the Australian football community behind a common cause, demonstrating the power and potential of women’s football in Australia. The ongoing growth and development of Australian football will be anchored in women’s football and significant work with Member Federations, Governments and other stakeholders, has already gone into ensuring that we can maximise the benefits of hosting the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 via the establishment of an innovative legacy framework.
Despite challenging circumstances, FFA has been able to consider its long-term vision and aspirations for the game. Following the announcement of Australia as co-host of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 and after a period of robust and extensive consultation with the football community, FFA published its ‘XI Principles for the future of Australian football’, which advances eleven principles that underpin a bold and innovate 15-year vision for Australian football.
At the centre of the XI Principles is the recognition of the strength and diversity of the Australian football family. We are a melting pot of two million participants represented by over 200 different cultures. No other sport within the Australian sporting landscape offers the type of inherent diversity which football does. This diversity in culture, ideas and experience makes us strong and prepares us well for the challenges which lie ahead of us.
In particular, we turn our minds to our friends and family who continue to endure hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope that the closing stages of the season this year, the start of our summer football offerings and the commencement of the A-League and Westfield W-League 2020/21 seasons on 27 December later this year, will bring some joy to your lives.
The way in which the Australian football community has conducted itself this year, supported by our Member Federations, has been exemplary.
On behalf of FFA, we want to thank you all for your commitment, dedication, and support. We have been able to navigate our way through a difficult period because of a spirit of collaboration borne from a deep love of our game. You can all be extremely proud of your efforts; they have certainly inspired us.
Sincerely yours in football,