Football Federation Australia announced on Wednesday that newly installed Technical Director Rob Sherman is set to lead a review into the development of young Australian footballers.
A former Head of Coaching Education with the FFA and Welsh and New Zealand Technical Director, Sherman was inserted into the technical directorship of the FFA in April of this year after the role sat vacant for almost a year after the departure of Eric Abrams.
A review of elite youth development in Australian pathways – which has seen the onus increasingly switched to clubs with the closure of the FFA’s AIS program in recent years – was also earmarked at the time of Abrams’ departure from the role.
The launch of this review into pathways comes at a crucial time for Australian youth development; with opportunities afforded to young players at an A-League level and the performance of Australian junior national side a hot button issue amongst the footballing zeitgeist.
Australia’s U19 side, the Young Socceroos, were conspicuously absent from the recently completed U20 World Cup after failing to advance through the 2018 AFC U19 Championships (AFC counterpart South Korea made the final).
The Joeys will head to the U17 World Cup in Brazil in October, whilst the Olyroos will begin the next phase of their quest to advance to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics next January.
The Joeys and Young Socceroos – who the Daily Telegraph has reported will be led by current Matildas’ assistant Gary van Edmond – will also compete in U16 and U19 AFC Championship qualifying in the later months of 2019.
The Junior Matildas are set to compete in the 2019 AFC U-16 Women’s Championship in September whilst the Young Matildas will take part in the U19 equivalent across October and November.
An establishment of a national scouting database for national teams is amongst the reforms being floated.
Alongside Sherman, a working group of both youth football experts and A-League academy representatives has been assembled to conduct the investigation.
Former AIS and Perth Glory Head Coach Ron Smith, former Socceroo and Sporting Director at Brisbane Roar Craig Moore and Joeys’ Assistant Coach Michael Cooper will be a part of the group, as will Ian Crook (Western Sydney Wanderers), Kelly Cross (Sydney FC), Steven McGarry (Perth Glory) and Drew Sherman (Melbourne Victory).
Speaking as part of the announcement, Sherman identified some key areas of inspiration – both within the AFC and beyond – for the panel.
“The review will initially look at the current club academy structure and develop a detailed strategic plan to evolve the current youth development system,” Sherman said
“We are aiming for a world class and clear pathway, nothing less.
“In countries like Japan, Belgium and Germany, players train and play in world class environments nurtured by accredited youth development coaches over a 40-week season.
“In Japan, every J-League club has an elite academy which is supplemented by multiple federation run regional training centres.
“We need to create an environment that enables young Australian footballers to develop into world-class players. World’s best practice often means football clubs with a strong academy structure, which underpins their club’s recruitment, which in turn enhances the playing pool and national team selection.”
Following the first stage of the evaluation, consultations with NPL clubs and Member Federations –a revised domestic training compensation policy is a possible result of the review – has also been earmarked.
A representative from the Australian Association of Football Clubs (AAFC) confirmed that the body had been involved in discussions with the FFA about the review over the past 12 months and welcomed its commencement.
The representative also confirmed that the AAFC had supplied the FFA with a report on the problems faced by NPL clubs in developing players and that the body will be a part of the upcoming process.
An examination of the accreditation process and structure of current FFA Star Club Academies and the potential of creating a competition framework to increase the likelihood of players making the move into an A-League environment is also slated to occur; as is a consideration of the creation of an outline of a competition for players aged 13 – 18 – including a National Academy Championship.
Also raised by the release was a look at the distributing of funds for developmental programs and coach education.
With the eyes of the Australian footballing public captivated by the exploits of the Matildas, an examination of female pathways will all be examined.