Northern Fury FC received a letter from the President of Football Queensland (FQ) this afternoon advising that our long-running ambition to have a women’s team from the club included in the Women’s NPL competition (WNPL) has been denied.
The FQ Board agree to three of the four proposals we submitted to advance women’s football in regional Queensland. We note that these three proposals are at no cost to FQ, but they also rely on there being a pathway for women’s elite development outside of south-east Queensland.
The decision of the FQ Board shows that it does not act in the best interests of Queensland football. It acts in the best interests of south-east Queensland football.
In denying a WNPL team, the FQ Board – which is allegedly responsible for advancing the game of football in the entire state of Queensland – is denying an opportunity to young women in North Queensland.
This comes at a time when participation in football by women and girls in the regions north of Mackay is declining – in stark contrast to national and international trends.
Northern Fury’s view is that this decline is largely because there is no pathway for advancement for talented young women players.
There is no women’s team in the NPL north of the Sunshine Coast leaving a very significant geographical part of Queensland, as well as a significant population, that is unrepresented.
Once they reach a certain level of achievement and age, talented players either have to relocate to Brisbane to fulfill their potential – or leave the sport altogether.
Football Federation Australia’s (FFA) ‘Whole of Football Plan’ states that Australia needs a pool of 3,000 players from age 12-19 years in elite development to ensure that Australian men and women can remain competitive in international competitions.
However, under FQ, this is only possible in Queensland for those who live in a small geographic pocket in the remote south-east of the state.
Further, the Whole of Football Plan states that players will not be excluded because of financial considerations, yet they clearly are on the basis of geography.
We believe this situation is unacceptable.
It is one of the reasons why Northern Fury has worked diligently over the past four years to build and grow the opportunities for young women by maintaining three teams at an elite development level at significant success.
Young women players from Northern Fury in this year alone have formed the backbone of state primary and high school teams, state championship teams and has also provided one national team player at U-16 level.
The fault for the overall decline in participation, and the lack of opportunity for young women players, outside of south-east Queensland lays squarely at the feet of the FQ Board. They are responsible for the growth and development of the game in the state of Queensland.
Only last month, despite having a CEO that has been in the role for almost 20 years, FQ advised in writing that they had no strategy to advance women’s football outside of south-east Queensland.
They have a Women’s Development Officer who has not visited regions outside south-east Queensland.
While Northern Fury has a cast-iron guarantee to bring $50,000 to the table to help fund inclusion of a team in the WNPL competition, FQ did not even try to raise one dollar of the remaining $70,000 required.
A team from North Queensland in the WNPL would help give the competition a state-wide footprint and deliver broader media coverage than its current, almost non-existent level.
However, they apparently have no confidence in their ability to raise the additional money through increased commercial opportunities.
Because of this, Northern Fury offered to assist FQ to identify possible additional sponsorships and commercial partners. They did not decline this offer; they simply ignored it.
Finally, despite all claims to the contrary from Football Federation Australia as well as FIFA regarding the link between pathways for players and growth in participation at local level, FQ states there is “no credible link”.
At Northern Fury, we believe they are axiomatic.
The Whole of Football Plan sets out the relationship between the elements of the ‘Football Ecosystem’ which includes participants at grassroots and an elite player pathway.
Indeed, the funding model of the Australian Sports Commission is based around the concept of an elite player pathway inspiring young people to take part in sport. Furthermore, the more participants, the greater the pool of talent available to help improve elite development through regional, state, national and international competitions – as required by the Whole of Football Plan.
One of the key barriers to the success of the pyramid model is the inability to take part in any form of elite development in the first place. This is precisely what Northern Fury aims to address.
Clearly, FQ has no interest in doing so.
When it comes to the ‘football ecosystem’ in Australia, the young people of regional and rural Queensland are regarded and treated as forgotten citizens.
A copy of FQ’s letter is here. We note that it was received mere hours before a marquee event on the national football calendar, the FFA Cup, even though we understand the decision was made five days ago.
A copy of our proposal to advance the women’s game may be found here.