Australian football boom: Where will the children play?

A surge in Australian football participation has placed increasing pressure on governments at all levels to provide more grounds and facilities for players.

Football Federation Australia confirmed that “finding more space to play” is one of the biggest challenges facing community football.

This year participation rates in organised football jumped 20% in 2015, a FFA national audit revealed. 

Community football clubs saw an increase of 7% in the past year to reach 499,361 players in 2,155 clubs in every state and territory.

The audited formal numbers of 1,188,911 together with informal participation levels put the total size of participation at almost 2 million people.

On those figures football has the largest participation base of any Australian team sport yet remains woefully under-resourced.

For the first time, the number of registered female players in outdoor club competitions passed 100,000.

Growth in female participation is backed up by the last month's Roy Morgan Research Young Australians Survey.

It found while swimming remained the top sport for girls, football was second, outstripping netball among the 6-13 age bracket.

FFA chief David Gallop said: "The boom in football is putting enormous pressure on the available grounds, school pitches and indoor centres.

"The installation of floodlights, artificial pitches and better amenities is a constant challenge for our stakeholders.

"We will be using the evidence of our growth to show all levels of government that an investment in football should be a top priority in building a social infrastructure in Australia."

Another growth area is the AIA Vitality MiniRoos introductory program for boys and girls aged four to 11 year,s which has seen participation jump by 10% to 214,414.

Gallop praised football organisations and Hyundai A-League clubs for their work in harnessing the booming interest in football.

"The heroes of this story are the thousands of volunteers in clubs across Australia, the suburban associations and zones," Gallop said.

“Guiding their efforts are the management teams in the state and territory member federations and A-league clubs. This huge increase would not be possible without a co-ordinated and integrated effort.

"Through their commitment to the cause the volunteers and managers enable so many Australians of all ages to play the beautiful game.

"By the same measure operators of indoor centres and increasingly school teachers play a huge role in getting the game played.

"I thank each and every volunteer and staff member who has contributed to this success."