Australian football is entering a "golden" era said Football Federation Australia (FFA) chief David Gallop as he announced the game will embark on a National Plan for the Whole of Football.
Speaking at a State of the Game address in Sydney, Gallop said the time was right for the stakeholders of Australian football to join forces over the challenges and opportunities for the sport.
“Everywhere you look at the moment, you can see that Australian football is enjoying a golden period,” said Gallop. “A lot of our current strength is down to the unity of purpose in the game.
“It’s time for a National Plan for the Whole of Football that will set us on our way towards making football the biggest and most popular game in Australia.
“This is not a plan just for FFA driven by the national body. As the name says, it's a plan for the Whole of Football and everyone in the game will have a role to play.”
The National Plan will cover all facets of football, including;
- Elite player and coach development
- National teams
- Community football
- Facilities development
- National competitions
- Fan connections
- Commercial revenues
Gallop said FFA would lead a major consultation process with all the game’s stakeholders. The National Plan will be completed by the conclusion of the AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 in January next year, with implementation set for July, 2015.
“After almost two years as CEO, I’m excited and ambitious for the game,” said Gallop, “but I've come to understand that Australian football suffers from a ‘burden of opportunity’.
“Football in Australia has a huge growth trajectory and massive potential, but we don't always have the capital, the resources and the structures to harvest the opportunity.
“The National Plan will set our sights on making football bigger and stronger much sooner.”
Everywhere you look at the moment, you can see that Australian football is enjoying a golden period. And it's about to get better. The months ahead have the making of football's biggest ever summer.
We have an unprecedented run of finals, tournaments and big occasions that will see the game of football in the daily lives of more Australians than ever before.
The game has 1.9 million participants - the biggest of any sport in this country - but we expect to see the football family swell in the months ahead.
We'll have record-numbers of Australian fans in stadiums watching the Socceroos at the Asian Cup, the Hyundai-A-League's momentous Season 10, the Westfield W-League, which is underway right now, and the final stages of the Westfield FFA Cup and PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues finals.
Australian football will be on the TV screens in homes, pubs and clubs, in digital channels and social media - and we expect bigger audiences than ever before.
And because of the game's booming profile, the mainstream media will generate more attention than ever before.
Football has a great story to tell, and I thank all the media here today for their interest in telling it to your readers, listeners and viewers.
You can see there are six trophies up here today... three will be won before Christmas, and three after...
The three before are the PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues trophy, the Westfield FFA Cup and the Westfield W-League trophy.
And the Hyundai A-League Premiers Plate, the Hyundai A-League Championship trophy and of course the AFC Asian Cup.
There'll be all sorts of drama, great football and magical moments before the silverware you see here is held aloft by the winners -- but that's just part of the story.
This exciting period for Australian football is book-ended by two major global events ... the FIFA World Cup in Brazil earlier this year and the FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada next year.
Having the Socceroos and Westfield Matildas at World Cups creates a wonderful halo around Australian football and showcases what it means for Australia to be a part of the world game.
There are other major factors at play to make this a remarkable time for the game.
Firstly, the convergence on the calendar of so many events - from international to the grassroots - and the way they showcase a sport so full of opportunity, optimism and growth.
Secondly, we're seeing the connection between all the tiers of our game come to life - it's closer and more productive than ever before.
The success of the Westfield FFA Cup is proof. That's an historic development - the football community is moving as one.
Unity of purpose - too often a question posed about us, rather than an affirmation - is now a strength.
That's why today - on behalf of the football community - FFA is making a major statement on the future of Australian football.
It's time for a National Plan for the Whole of Football that will set us on our way to making football the biggest and most popular game in Australia.
This is not a plan just for FFA; it's a plan for the Whole of Football.
From the five year old playing MiniRoos to the heroes playing for the Socceroos.
From the grassroots of community football to the pillars of the professional game.
For all the stakeholders and all the partners at all levels of the game.
It's a plan for all the fans who love this game and those who are on the mission with us.
The need for this plan has become obvious to me after almost two years as CEO of FFA.
I am excited and ambitious for the game, but I've come to understand that Australian football suffers from a "burden of opportunity".
It's the reality we see today - the game has a huge growth trajectory and massive potential, but we don't always have the capital, the resources and the structures to harvest the opportunity.
To put it another way, we have many mouths to feed, but rarely do we have enough to go around.
We could sit and wait for things to change, and certainly the game will continue to grow if we were to continue our current course, but leadership demands more of us at FFA.
The National Plan for the Whole of Football will not be an overnight fix, and it will take longer than the next four-year World Cup cycle.
But we need to start and the first step is to galvanise this generation to address this challenge. I will have more to say later on how we intend to proceed.
First, it's important that we celebrate the State of the Game today, because we are in amazing shape for a sport that was on its knees just a decade ago.
This summer, in the middle of the busiest domestic calendar on record, our nation will host the biggest football event we've ever seen.
The AFC Asian Cup is bigger than anything we've seen since the 2000 Olympic Games.
16 nations, 32 matches in 23 days in five cities. That's big enough from a sporting point of view, but beyond the tournament and the matches, football is bringing the Asian Century to life in our own backyard.
Australians will see Asian football and culture on show. And from the outside looking at us, Asian audiences up to 1.3 billion will see Australia on show.
This is nothing new, of course. Our national teams and Hyundai A-League clubs have been building links Asia for years, especially with Western Sydney Wanderers and their fantastic run through to the semi finals of the Asian Champions League.
The Wanderers' 0-0 draw last night in Seoul leaving them tantalisingly close to the Asian Champions League Final.
Football is leading the way for Australia in the people-to-people connections in Asia.
It's another way that football is once again playing a crucial role in nation building.
Our game is inclusive, accessible, multicultural and international - they are the qualities that make Australia such a diverse and successful nation.
Beyond the sporting, cultural and social links, we're now seeing Asian investment driven by football - the $12 million takeover of Melbourne City by the Abu Dhabi interests, the owners of Manchester City, is a snapshot of our future.
I like to say that "as the world gets smaller, football gets bigger" - our game will make sure Australia is always a vibrant player in sport's global community.
The Asian Cup is a festival of football not to be missed. The joyous scenes of Brazil will be coming to your backyard. Tickets are on sale, so let's "Unite for the Asian Cup".
Let me share the insights to the domestic game that have me seeing blue sky for the summer ahead...
The Hyundai A-League is on target to set new benchmarks for attendance, TV viewership, digital engagement and club membership.
The aggregate attendance is set to surpass 2 million for the first time.
We're aiming for a fourth straight year of TV ratings growth, to see a weekly viewership of 660,000.
The boom in digital and social channels shows no signs of slowing, with 2 million web users and 1 million followers on social media.
Across the league, club membership is currently 13% ahead of the same stage as last season and on-course to break the 100,000 mark for the first time.
Thanks to the huge vote of confidence from SBS TV, we'll have unprecedented reach and audiences for the A-League with the move of Harvey Norman Friday Night Football to the primary free-to-air channel SBS ONE.
The same is true internationally. New rights agreements in India and Africa mean the weekly reach of the Hyundai A-League will top 300 million across 30 nations and five continents.
Of course, this season will celebrate 10 years with our primary broadcast partner Fox Sports, a foundation investor in the Hyundai A-League.
Fox Sports has covered every game live since day one - and given millions of Australians world-class coverage of the competition.
Tomorrow, the attention turns to the terraces. The Hyundai A-League National Ticket On-Sale gives fans the chance to secure their seat for the big matches in Season 10.
This week, the pre-sale for Sydney Derby was the hottest ticket in town - Wanderers members bought at a rate that outstripped two finals in another code.
The Sydney Derby will sell out once again - so if you want to sample this incredible event, go to www.a-league.com.au/tickets from 9am tomorrow (Friday).
Another blockbuster on sale tomorrow will be the Adelaide United v Melbourne Victory match at Adelaide Oval in round 2.
The fixture was a sell out at Hindmarsh Stadium last season, and we expect a new record Hyundai A-League crowd for Adelaide.
Sydney FC's opening round match against the new Melbourne City outfit is also selling strongly, no doubt driven by the expectation of seeing the Spanish World Cup star David Villa.
It's really pleasing to see so many great Australian players choosing to stay in the competition - it's notable that Mark Milligan, a starting X1 player at the World Cup in Brazil, has chosen to stay with Melbourne Victory.
This is a dividend of the growing stature of the Hyundai A-League.
It's the fastest growing professional competition in Australia because it gives us fantastic football, star players and the best atmosphere you'll experience. I can't wait for the kick off.
Last weekend the Westfield W-League started -- again with live TV coverage on ABC TV -- and is heading for a Grand Final on 21 December.
Our finest female players are also on the mission of making the Matildas squad for FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada next May.
One of our top priorities is to appoint a new Head Coach of the Matildas, and that's now just days away.
There's a renewed mission for women's football thanks to a $500,000 development grant from FIFA and we're building stronger player pathways for our rising talent.
The FIFA grant will partly fund nine development officers into the community across Australia.
Females already make up more than 20% of our participation base and we are forecasting the numbers to grow strongly in the years ahead. It's our big point of difference in the Australian context and we intend to make the most of it.
Right now, we are in the midst of the Westfield FFA Cup Round of 16 and can I say I've never seen a new competition make such an impact on the Australian sporting landscape.
It's not just the romance and upsets of cup football - this is a festival of the Australian game.
From the self-titled "pub team" of South Springvale to the national champions Brisbane Roar, we have a great mix of clubs from across the country.
One of my favourite moments was the Thomas Love goal for Adelaide City that knocked out the Wanderers - whatever else he achieves, Thomas will go down in folklore for that goal.
The magic of the Cup has captured the imagination of sports fans everywhere.
If I may say, I'm so proud of the way FFA has rolled out the Cup in conjunction with the Member Federations, commercial partners in Westfield, NAB, Harvey Norman and Umbro and our broadcast partner Fox Sports.
We talk a lot about the strategic objective to connect the grassroots to the professional tier - well; here it is, alive and kicking.
Best of all, we have a countdown of dramatic mid-week matches still to come before we reach the inaugural FFA Cup final on Tuesday 16 December.
I can tell you now, other sports would love to have this sort of opportunity, but it can only happen in a game based primarily on skill, not those based on collisions.
In the first week of October, the Grand Final of the PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues will be another chance to elevate the semi-pro tier to the national stage.
This year we have clubs from eight state and territory member federations in the play-offs to be crowned NPL champions.
The NPL is the engine room of our player development pathways and - again - a vital connection between local clubs and the national tier.
So far that's three glittering occasions - the Westfield W-League Grand Final, Westfield FFA Cup final and PS4 NPL Grand Final - all before Christmas.
That's an entree to our national team the Socceroos to take centre stage and seek to become champions of Asia.
Without doubt, Socceroo coach Ange Postecoglou has transformed the team - on and off the pitch - in a matter of months.
The FIFA World Cup showed his strategy of bringing the best young players into the team is quickly delivering results - our team played really attractive football in Brazil.
Already, some of the young guns - like Jason Davidson, Adam Taggart and Josh Brillante - have moved to bigger clubs in Europe.
This is a key part of Ange's plan to rebuild our national team, by fast-tracking our best young players and having more Aussies playing against the world's best, week-in, week-out.
Next month we travel to the Gulf to face the UAE and Qatar and in November we travel to Japan.
Each step advances the cause of the Socceroos and their rebuilding as a national team that truly unites the nation. We saw the journey commence in Brazil, just wait till you see it at home.
What happens on the pitch is the rightfully the main focus of fans and media. What happens behind the scenes is my responsibility.
It's fair to say that the game's governance structures have been a work-in-progress since the reform process of the Crawford report in 2003, and the inauguration of the FFA under the leadership of Frank Lowy in 2004.
Frank Lowy and his board have done so much - starting new national competitions, qualifying for World Cups and joining Asia.
Our chairman's energy and commitment is a source of inspiration to so many people and I want to personally acknowledge his guidance and wisdom.
FFA could not have done this in a decade without the support of so many companies, broadcasters and governments.
There are too many to name individually, so you'll see our acknowledgement on the video screens.
I personally thank the leaders of these organisations. They see the opportunity that football presents and we applaud their vision.
Let me return to our major announcement - a National Plan for the Whole of Football.
It's a sign of our confidence in the future and our determination to build on today's foundations - to turn the "burden of opportunity" into an institutional strength and prosperity.
The plan will put the football community at the heart of everything that's important.
If you are a player, a fan, a volunteer, an avid TV watcher - if you are among those who love this game - you are incredibly important to this plan.
And the plan will be critically important to your future enjoyment of the beautiful game.
The scope of the National Plan and some of the key questions for the football community look like this;
* In elite player and coach development, I have no doubt we need to overhaul the way we do things. Do we want to see others in Asia setting the standards, or do we want to be the leader?
* For our national teams, qualifying for World Cups is fantastic, but do we want to be a contender and challenge the elite nations?
* Community football is currently a strength in the participation base and our collaboration with our Member Federations. But is it enough to have a model primarily based on clubs and outdoor football when so many people want to play indoor, at schools or just for fun in parks?
* Facilities are at the heart of our game, but how can we thrive as a sport when the space to play remains a critical shortage?
* Our national competitions, the Hyundai A-League, Westfield W-League, PS4 NPL and Westfield FFA Cup provide us with a 12-month of the year calendar, but structures, connections and expansion are big questions for our future.
* Fan Engagement is the life-blood of everything we do, whether it's in the community, with our major brands or through the many channels where you find football content. But we need to stay ahead of the trend in this digital world if the football family is to remain strong.
* Commercial revenues are the dividends of a successful sport, but we know we need to do a better job telling corporate Australia about the massive potential if we are to have the resources to deliver on the game's promise.
* And our governance structures need to be aligned, efficient and ready for the challenge. Every stakeholder needs to know their role and have the trust in others, and that's the starting point of our ambitious thinking.
The first phase of the National Plan is to listen to the game's key stakeholders - clubs at all levels and their members, our state and territory Member Federations, sponsors, broadcast partners, governments and stadium managers.
We'll consult individual participants and fans via an online portal that will capture the voice of the people.
The outcome of this national plan will be a road map to guide all the key stakeholders in the game.
To achieve that, we need to align all the game's stakeholders - without unity of purpose, we can't make a difference.
There's no time to waste. We aim to publish the National Plan at the conclusion of the Asian Cup.
We need to capture the momentum and make the most of our biggest ever summer.
We want to see this simple, skilful and safe game played in every backyard, every school ground and every suburban pitch.
We'll do that by ensuring our sport is always inclusive, accessible and multicultural.
This summer, the vision will come into focus. We'll see opportunities starting to turn into tangible achievements.
We'll see the enormous promise take shape in our competitions week-in, week-out.
We will see football looking forward with dreams that can become reality.
We will unite people in the joy of football -- especially this summer
I just know you can't wait to be a part of it.
We Are Football. Thank you.