A landmark year ahead

Whatever happens in the world of football in the 12 months ahead, we can say with some certainty that the game in Australia is set for a landmark year.

Whatever happens in the world of football in the 12 months ahead, we can say with some certainty that the game in Australia is set for a landmark year.

First and foremost, Australian football will reach the pinnacle of the four-year climb to the FIFA World Cup.

Being among the elite 32 nations in Brazil is hugely significant for everyone in the game, from the five year olds who start out this winter to our very best players who-ll wear the Socceroos jersey.

I-m sure the nation will unite behind the Socceroos when we confront three of the world-s great football nations in Spain, the Netherlands and Chile. It will be an unforgettable ride and a peak in football-s popularity and universal appeal.

Importantly, in Ange Postecoglou we have a Head Coach who understands the Australian sporting ethos and who is on a mission to restore the pride of the Socceroos.

It-s not just about the way that Ange wants to Socceroos to play, it-s how the players will go about representing their nation. In his first comments on taking the job, Ange made it clear the Socceroos belong to the people and that the players and staff need to understand it-s a privilege, not an entitlement, to wear the green and gold.

The fact that Ange is also the best technical coach for the job and has earned widespread respect for what he-s achieved in the A-League should fill us all with hope for what the Socceroos can achieve in Brazil.

The year will see the FFA Cup come to life, a competition that will truly connect the professional tier to the grassroots.

It doesn-t literally mean a small suburban club will play an A-League giant, but being part of the same national tournament will over time bring a sense of belonging. And who knows what giant-killers will emerge from the early rounds?

This year will bring another big opportunity a step closer to reality. On 26 March, the official draw for the AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 will take place in Sydney. From that day, the event will have a life of its own and the Socceroos will know their three group opponents.

The event will put some indisputable facts on the ground for our Asian future. Australian football has many links to Asia through our national teams and our clubs in the Asian Champions League.

In May, the Matildas will defend their Asian championship at the AFC Asian Women-s Cup in Vietnam. I wish Head Coach Hesterine de Reus and the players the very best in this big challenge.

Hosting the men-s championship in January 2015 will showcase what football-s Asian connection means for our nation in so many ways beyond the sporting sphere.

On the domestic front, the Hyundai A-League will reach an important milestone. In October, the competition will celebrate its 10th season.

The significance is that the bold start-up in 2005 has now reached a level of maturity and stability. Turning “10” gives a feeling of permanence for Australian football-s weekly shop window.

The A-League has achieved the hugely ambitious task of establishing full-time professionalism in Australian football. That means so much for every player, coach, medico and administrator who works in the game or has aspirations to do so.

Just as important is the live TV and radio coverage of every game. Our story can reach into every Australian household. The A-League is in the mainstream to stay.

The atmosphere at A-League matches is unique in the Australian sporting landscape and the colour and theatre gives us a compelling point of difference with all the other pro sports in Australia.

Of course, when the exuberance spills over into anti-social behavior, a line has been crossed. The true fans will jump and sing for their club, but they don-t get involved in the mindless acts of lighting flares and causing trouble. The idiots who misbehave aren-t welcome and FFA is committed to weeding them out of the game.

We-ll make sure the A-League-s 10th birthday in 2014 is one to remember.

Away from these landmark events, 2014 will be a big year of planning for Football Federation Australia. The current Strategic Plan spans the 2011-2015 period, with the Asian Cup as the bookend in January 2015.

This year, FFA will embark on the work required to set a new Strategic Plan for the 2015-2019 period to cover the next World Cup cycle and the 2019 Asian Cup.

Without pre-empting the detailed process we-ll undertake with all our stakeholders, I can see two critical issues playing a big part of the strategic planning.

The first is community football. Our latest research tells us we have 1.96 million participants, which makes football the no. 1 team sport in Australia.

What comes with these huge participation numbers are myriad issues to consider. The list includes the cost of playing community football, provision of facilities, managing the growth in indoor and social forms of the game, organisation of schools programs and the further implementation of our national curriculum.

FFA can-t directly control all of these matters. Many simply fall outside our jurisdiction or our resource limitations. Our task to deliver a clear strategic plan with sensible policies that can be integrated with our stakeholders, the Member Federations and A-League clubs.

The second major area is the game-s income. Football has many mouths to feed, but rarely has the resources to satisfy all those needs.

In the 2015-2019 period, FFA will have a renewal process for our broadcast rights. The current $160m, four-year deal set a new benchmark, but clearly the game needs to increase the value of these rights. If the game keeps growing at the current rate, broadcasters will have bigger audiences and so the economic pie should be bigger for all concerned.

The digital economy holds many opportunities for football, particularly with our 1.96m base of participants and our growing brands at national team and club level. The challenge is to add value for those participants and at the same time create revenue streams that allow the game to reinvest in community football.

These are some of the big issues we-ll ponder in 2014 and we-ll give every participant and fan the chance to have their say. In the meantime, Happy New Year and enjoy your football in 2014.