Here is perhaps the best news you’ve heard about football in a long time.
We are close to seeing A-League academies and an intensely competitive market for talent, with the consequent investment that accompanies sporting ambition and the quest for Australian, and Asian, success.
With a limit on foreign players that is set to be reduced further, the quality of local talent will be the single largest factor in future success.
This is perfect, because it will drive excellence in thought, planning and implementation that we desperately need.
The imminent Wanderers’ sale will deliver a dividend of several hundred thousand dollars to each Australian club which, I understand, FFA will stipulate is to be used to start the new A-League academy system, at least down to under 12 level.
Fabulous news. The question now will be one of participant cost. Which clubs will invest further to create free programs for their academy players to gain a competitive edge over their rivals in what will become a fiercely competitive market for talent?
Competition creates energy; an imperative to improve. Some are driven to at least keep pace, others to lead the way.
Manchester City will certainly invest heavily. Josep Gombau in Adelaide has already created a pathway and begun training a generation of coaches to create a new way of playing. Others will need to keep up. If they lack their own players educated in a certain method, they will only be able to compete through higher player acquisition costs.
This is the ideal next step to drive innovation and excellence, provided the clubs invest properly and recruit technical support of the highest possible quality.
With good management, especially given the trajectory of the game, the next broadcast deal in three years’ time should deliver full funding for the academies of at least a million dollars per year. That would be a good platform from which to build.
The new role of technical director of A-League clubs will be required to create and oversee the new academies down to the age of 12, some younger.
Very exciting indeed. When these teams play each other, all will know who is doing the best work. Questions will be asked, demands will be made and standards will rise.
Sydney will have immense competition for talent between FC and the Wanderers. Melbourne, likewise. Adelaide are sending their under 15 talents to play against Barcelona, Madrid and others in the famous MIC tournament in Barcelona.
All of this raises the bar and means the environment for young players will improve in terms of professionalism, expectations, coaching and on-field outcomes.
Once there is a financial and competitive imperative to recruiting the best players, we will see better talent identification, less talent being lost, a heavier focus on school football partnerships and scholarships, and far greater expectations on the trainers of youth teams.
Appointed educators will now be directly in charge of the future, and responsible for massive investments of the clubs, and all of the work will have to be elevated in planning, understanding, implementation and measurement.
I would personally prefer to see associations and states maintain their programs to provide a fallback until the clubs get it right, as well as expanding the base of talent in elite programs, but having nine academies with multi-million dollar investment in facilities, coaching, thinking and innovation is incredibly exciting.
Finally, rather than coaches investing in their own education in a poorly funded market and therefore often unable to learn abroad, clubs will invest in constant education to gain and maintain an edge with international partnerships and very high expectations for professional evolution and upskilling within the industry.
When youth education, and coaching generally, becomes the key factor in future financial and sporting success, which it quickly will, the industry will better manage to assess quality and measurement processes will ensure everything improves.
New coaching pathways will be created, many more well-paid roles will be on offer, and the cost of coach education, which is still too high, will at last start to produce a greater return for a broader workforce.
When smart players are the goal, smart educators will be at a premium, and that is a vital driver of a bright domestic and international future.
© 2014 The Age | This article was written by Craif Foster and first appeared in The Age on 23 March 2014.