Football Victoria has called on the Victorian Liberal-National Coalition to commit to a significant increase in facilities funding for grassroots football across the state in its bid to secure office at the forthcoming election.
The proposal comes as part of Football Victoria’s push to bridge the growing void between rising participation rates and a chronic shortage of playing facilities in metropolitan and regional Victoria. It includes a push to help fund a proposed State Football Centre, which the state governing body hopes can become the home of football for the much-loved Westfield Matildas.
Today’s call by Football Victoria follows the recent announcement by the Andrews Government to extend the World Game Facilities Fund (WGFF) to $20m if it is returned to government. The announcement included an immediate funding injection of $200,000 for the development of a business case relating to the proposed State Football Centre.
Football Victoria President Kimon Taliadoros said it was incumbent on all sides of politics, particularly those seeking to form government, to provide a level of funding that can enable a growing number of Victorians to play the game they love.
Football Victoria’s State Facilities Strategy to 2026 details the need for 420 new playing grounds over the next five years to meet current growth levels. In the football season just past, some 12,500 people were turned away by clubs struggling to meet the increasing demand.
According to data from Australian Sports Commission, Victorian football in the 15 months prior to the recent State Government funding announcement attracted an average infrastructure spend of $67 per participant – significantly below Australian Rules Football with an average per capita of $1,444, and even further behind Hockey which attracts $1,473 per participant.
“While the Coalition’s recent pledge of $10 million for a regional sporting precinct within the Kingston Green Wedge is a good start, it’s clear there’s more to do to ensure football has the specific resourcing it needs to meet growing community interest and participant demand”, he said.
“As one of the nation’s most popular participation sports, we know that football plays a vital role in bringing people together and fostering healthy, cohesive communities”, Mr Taliadoros said. “Yet, we fall critically short when it comes to playing fields and related infrastructure such as flood lighting and change rooms to accommodate the ever-increasing numbers coming into the game, particularly among women and girls,” Mr Taliadoros said.
Football Victoria CEO, Peter Filopoulos, said while the game had made inroads in recent months in securing more government support, football had only “scratched the surface” when it comes to attracting a level of funding that reflects the popularity of the game relative to other sports.
“We’re sitting in the bottom half of the funding league table despite football’s participation numbers being among the highest, and that’s a reality that’s impossible to ignore for any government which is serious about promoting active, healthy communities”, he said.
“We’re not asking for special treatment, it’s about creating a fairer playing field for the hundreds of thousands of people who take to football pitches every week across Victoria, as well as the thousands more who miss out.”
Mr Filopoulos said the Victorian Opposition had an opportunity to follow through on its stated position of investing in grassroots sport.
“We enjoy productive relationships with both sides of the parliamentary chamber and we look forward to continuing in that vein beyond the forthcoming state election for the betterment of football across Victoria, he said.
Mr Filopoulos said Football Victoria would continue to push for the development of a State Football Centre as part of a broad-based facilities strategy. “As the bid ramps up to get the 2023 Women’s World Cup to Australia, what better place to house our Matildas than at a state-of-the-art facility in the world’s sporting capital”, he said.