Dear Victorian football community,
It is hard to believe the end of the year is almost upon us.
We all embarked on 2021 with enthusiasm - and a touch of trepidation - keen to reconnect and return to a more normal way of life.
And so it was in the early parts of the year. It was heartwarming to witness reunions, introductions and celebrations again on our pitches. Football truly is a family and it was very special to be back together again.
For a moment, life did return to normal. We fell back into our football routines, relishing being part of the world game again and feeling like we were truly back.
Unfortunately, it was not to last. COVID-19 has proved to be a fierce adversary around the globe and Victoria was again in its sights.
I won’t dwell on what could have been this year - we’ve all endured loss, missed opportunities and a break in connection, at the hands of the pandemic. The impact to football is just one facet, though we know this has been felt deeply by our community.
My key takeout from 2021 is how resilient Victorian football is. The supportive nature of our community is incredibly powerful; and I send my most sincere thanks to the wonderful people who have provided strength for others throughout these tough times for Victoria. You are incredible individuals, that continue to do remarkable things.
While many are ready to bid farewell to 2021, the past year has delivered some significant highlights for Victorian football - and it is important that these are not overshadowed by the pandemic.
What a day it was in May, as the Victorian Government pledged a $101.1 million investment, in addition to the existing $15m from the Federal Government, making the Home of the Matildas a reality. This is the most significant investment into football-specific infrastructure in our nation’s history - and Victorian football will benefit from this world-class facility, just as our much-loved National Teams will. We know how much excitement surrounds this facility and we look forward to sharing regular updates next year as it becomes a reality.
Investment into football occurred across the state, with all levels of Government investing in facilities through grants including the $20m World Game Facilities Fund. These investments will serve our community well and we will continue to advocate for further investment, to cater for the growing demands on our game, particularly for women and girls.
Interest in female football has never been so high. FV are committed to our 50/50 gender equity target by 2027 and key steps were undertaken to push us closer to this target in the past year. A highlight was the landmark announcement of NPL Women’s becoming a professional competition, enabling significant benefits to improve player security and financial entitlements.
While we couldn’t make it to the finish line for our winter competitions - particularly disappointing given the high registration numbers in 2021 - football has indeed returned in recent months - and flourished.
We were thrilled to be able to complete the 2021 Nike F.C. Cup and Dockerty Cup competitions this month and congratulate all that took part. The great crowds and significant viewership on the live streams are testament to the quality of these competitions, which continue to go from strength to strength.
The Inaugural FV Summer Cup, proudly presented by Senol, was a brilliant event with one goal - to get juniors back together and out on the pitch in 2021. Hundreds of players took part in what will be an ongoing fixture in our calendar and their joy was evident for all to see.
The shutdown of football provided the perfect opportunity for our first foray into ESports, with the inaugural FV E-Series. Hundreds of players from across Victoria took their game online across the three week tournament and with so much positive feedback, this looks certain to return in the future.
Referees have one of the toughest roles in football and FV has taken significant steps to ensure this vital group has the resources they need to flourish. FV’s Optimal Referee Model review took place throughout 2021, the most in-depth review of refereeing in our state’s history. Key findings from this review were released recently and implementation is already underway, with further changes to come in 2022.
Though COVID-19 stalled our full calendar of events, our Community in Business Member Breakfast and Kick-Off Luncheons were electric, as the football family reunited and reconnected. We have so many football stories and these events are a wonderful way to share them.
On that note, Victorian football must celebrate our past. We were thrilled to announce the induction of Gary Cole into Football Victoria’s Hall of Fame, one of three worthy inductees to be announced in coming months. We will be sharing each inductee's history through their own documentary and if you haven’t seen Gary’s story yet, I strongly encourage you to view it here. These are stories that need to be shared, honoured and passed down. We were also delighted to see lost teammates, coaches and volunteers connecting through our new Facebook group, Victoria's Football History, where a treasure trove of memories and photos has been uncovered.
Victoria’s vibrant Futsal community has already benefited from FV’s revitalised commitment to unite and invest in the sport - and this is just the beginning. We know how important Futsal’s role in growing our game is and we’re dedicated to building on these foundations in 2022. Our resolve has already been rewarded, with Victoria securing hosting rights for the 2023 National Futsal Championships.
We also look forward to another very significant football event in 2023, as we march towards the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023TM. We were thrilled to receive confirmation earlier this month that Melbourne will host six matches - including a Matildas group stage match. The countdown is well and truly on.
We’ll be working diligently to ensure the momentum of this tournament results in opportunities for Victorian football. We know interest in our game will never be higher and we’ll be rolling out new formats of the game to make sure football is accessible by everyone, year round. These will include a new Women’s Football Sevens competition and a significant push into schools, where we can start juniors on their own football journey.
A very exciting era for football is ahead of us. I am so proud to serve as Football Victoria’s first female President during such a pivotal time and want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who plays a role in Victorian football for their support, their ongoing effort and guidance throughout the past year. United, football is an unstoppable force.
On behalf of everyone at FV, I send you our very best wishes for the Festive Season and we look forward to sharing another big year for our game in 2022.
Football Victoria President