Respected football commentator, broadcaster, and journalist Simon Hill has shared his views about the second of FFA’s ‘XI Principles for the future of Australian Football’.
In the Q & A below, Hill describes the importance of integrating Australian football’s storied past in future national team kits, said he believes an annual ‘football summit’ could be a great addition to the game’s calendar, and added that he’s pleased that public comments are being made by FFA regarding the establishment of a national ‘Home of Football’.
You can give your views on Principle II of the discussion paper by filling in the online survey.
FFA: Simon, thank you for your time. Why do you believe that Principle II – ‘Resetting the Australian Football Narrative’ – is an important principle within the discussion paper released last week?
SH: Principle two, ‘Resetting the Narrative’, is hugely important because for so long in this country we have had negative press, and that is essentially a feature of the fact that we are not the dominant sport and we don’t have an awful lot of football journalists to push our cause. I think it is time that we reset the narrative from within – I think it needs to be game driven because there are a lot of positives for the game, though there are some downsides as well that need discussing in an open and frank and honest manner.
We do need to reset the narrative to look towards a more positive and inclusive future, and I think we can only do that from within the game itself. That means all the stakeholders aligning behind one voice, one message. Obviously, we are going to have disparate views across the game, but we need to be driving a unified narrative that comes with one voice.
FFA: How can physical symbols such as national team jerseys be utilised to reflect Australian football’s storied past?
SH: I think the national team jerseys are hugely important because they are really the one thing in football that unites everybody. We have our club allegiances, we have our own views on certain things, but even people outside the game who don’t necessarily watch football on a week-by-week basis know who the Socceroos are, they know who the Matildas are, and they will rally around the flag and those two jerseys come the big tournaments.
I think it can be used in a very positive way to remind people that this game in Australia has a much longer history than most believe. The popular narrative is that this is a new sport, a foreign sport, an immigrant sport, (but) it is no more foreign or new than most of the other codes. We have a history going all the way back to 1875, that is the first officially recorded game in Australia in Goodna in Queensland. And in 1922, the Socceroos, even before they were called the Socceroos, played their first international against New Zealand – so we have got the centenary of that coming up.
Those historical events, remembering and marking the anniversaries via the national team jerseys, both men’s and women’s – as we did with the FFA Heritage Committee, of which I am a member, in marking the 40 year anniversary of the first ever Matildas ‘A’ international at Seymour Shaw Park in Sydney a few months ago by placing a plaque there – I think those symbols are hugely important. I think the national team jerseys, both men’s and women’s, are by far the very best way of telling those stories because they resonate right across the spectrum and not just in football.
FFA: How do you feel an annual ‘football summit’ could help Australian football promote itself locally and globally?
SH: I think an annual football summit is a fantastic idea, not just to get the football family together – which we don’t do often enough perhaps because of our huge geographical size as a country – but also to get people from overseas perhaps as special guests, as keynote speakers, and connect us with the world of football. We are connected with that world through Asia and beyond and I think it is time that we made an awful lot more of that and perhaps invited some big names from overseas, both male and female, to come here and speak and give us the benefit of their thoughts.
I would also like to see that summit used as a forum for feedback, because we all in this game need to be accountable – particularly the FFA and the clubs. FFA and the clubs are the game’s leaders, the shop front if you like, so if people can be at this summit every year and can say ‘what’s going on with this aspect of the game’ or ‘I’d like to give my feedback on this’, maybe that is the focal point annually of a football summit and using it as well to connect with our overseas friends.
FFA: What would the realisation of a Home of Australian Football do for the game in resetting the Australian football narrative?
SH: A Home of Australian Football is our dream and I am pleased to see that (FFA CEO) James Johnson is already making public noises about acquiring a home for the game. I know of course that Football Victoria is on track for a Home for the Matildas down in Melbourne, so they are positive signs. Football West has got a new home as well. All of this is long overdue in my opinion. We have had to play second fiddle to the other codes in terms of public funding for these homes.
To get that permanent building, even though it is just a building, it is a symbol of belonging, it is a symbol of putting down roots in a community. Of course it would act not only as an administrative centre for the FFA, but I would hope also as a member of the FFA Heritage Committee that we find a home for the football museum at long last and start to tell some of our stories of the past, because that is something again that people just don’t know enough about in this country. If we had a permanent home for it maybe it would become a site of pilgrimage for football fans all over the country when they come to Sydney. We have to start trying to build for the future, physically, by having our own homes, but also building that relationship with the past and connecting the two. I think it is absolutely crucial that we have those homes.
FFA: Why is it important that we consider what’s next in Australian football as a new chapter, rather than a new book?
SH: The book is the overall picture of football in Australia and that has been going on, as I mentioned, since 1875. What I hope will happen in ten- or fifteen-years’ time when I look back at this specific moment and these eleven principles is that we will view it as a very successful chapter, the start of the rebooting and revitalising of the game. We need to get moving, we need to start realising some of the dreams that many people have for football in this country, and there are so many to tick off. It is time we got about that journey.
We have argued long enough, we have debated long enough, I think it is time to unite behind a lot of these principles once the full discussions have taken place and get on with making them reality. This game has so much potential in Australia, I believe that we have only just started to scratch the surface of its potential. I am hoping that this will go down in the overall book as the chapter when we really started to kick on and make progress towards fulfilling this game’s great potential.
Let us know your thoughts by filling in the survey here.