Soccer in Australia
||The neutrality of this article is disputed. (December 2013)|
|Soccer in Australia|
|Governing body||Football Federation Australia|
|National teams||Men's (U-23, U-20, U-17)
|First played||1880, Parramatta|
Soccer (association football), also known as football, is a popular sport in Australia. The sport has a high level of participation in the country both recreational and professional. Football Federation Australia (FFA) is the national governing body which organises the A-League, the FFA Cup, the Australia national teams, and the nine state governing bodies of the game, among other duties. Modern soccer was introduced in Australia in the late 19th century by mostly British immigrants. It has since become one of Australia's most popular sports. The first club formed in the country, Wanderers, was founded on 3 August 1880, while the oldest club in Australia currently in existence is Balgownie Rangers, formed 1883. Australia was a founding member of the OFC but moved to the AFC in 2006.
Early records of the sport being played in Australia date as far back as the 1830s. A variant of the sport (written as "football") was played in 1832 between "a large batch of youngsters (who) were eagerly engaged in playing at football, on Hyde Park", in Sydney. Another variant of the sport took place at the Woogaroo Lunatic Asylum, located in Wacol, on 7 August 1875, when a team of inmates and wards men from the Asylum played against the visiting Brisbane Australian rules football club; the rules of the match which clearly stated that the "ball should not be handled nor carried" was a direct reference to British Association Rules.
A match was recorded to be played in Hobart on 10 May 1879, when members of the Cricketer's Club played a scratch match under English Association Rules, which were adopted by the club. The following month, on 7 June, the Cricketer's Club took on New Town Australian rules football club in the first recorded inter-club match. The game was a return match to one played on 24 May by the clubs, under a variant of the Victorian rules; to prevent the disadvantage faced by the Cricketers, the clubs agreed that Association rules would be adopted in the return match.
The first recorded match played under the Laws of the Game was contested between Wanderers and members of the Kings School rugby team at Parramatta Common on 14 August 1880. The Wanderers, considered the first soccer club in Australia, was established on 3 August 1880, by English-emigree John Walter Fletcher. Later, in 1882, Fletcher formed the New South Wales English Football Association (also referred to as the South British Football Soccer Association), the very first administrative governing body of soccer within Australia and one of the first to be established outside the United Kingdom.
In 1883, Balgownie Rangers, the oldest existing club in Australia was founded; the club currently competes in the Illawarra regional league. Later that year, the first inter-colonial game was played at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground, between a representative Victorian team and one from the neighbouring colony of New South Wales.
As soccer continued to grow throughout Australia, John Fletcher's New South Wales soccer association gave inspiration to other states to establish their own governing bodies for the sport. In 1884, Victoria formed its own association, the Anglo-Australian Football Association, as did Queensland, in the Anglo-Queensland Football Association. In 1896, the Western Australian Soccer Football Association was formed. In 1900, a Tasmanian association was formed, and later, the South Australian British Football Association was formed in 1902.
It was not until 1911 that a governing body was formed to oversee football activities in the whole of Australia. The first such organisation was called the Commonwealth Football Association. However, this body was superseded by the Australian Soccer Association, which was formed in 1921.
On 17 June 1922, the first Australian national representative football team was constituted by the Australian Soccer Association to represent Australia for a tour of New Zealand. During the tour the Australia men's national team lost two out of the three matches against the newly formed New Zealand side.
Soccer struggled gain popularity within the wider Australian society but with British and Southern Europeans settlers it was immensely popular and this led to establishing soccer as a major sport in the country. However, it took soccer a large number of years to finally expand its scope across the continent, with the sport only enjoying large scales of popularity from 1950s.
Soccer boomed in the immediate post-Second World War period when the sport became more commercial and professional. A distinct rise in popularity in New South Wales and Victoria, among other states, was linked to the post-war immigration. Migrant players and supporters were prominent, providing the sport with a new but distinct profile. Soccer served as a cultural gateway for many emigrants, acting as a social lubricant. Soccer transcended cultural and language barriers in communities which bridged the gap between minority communities and other classes within the country, thus bringing about a unique unity. The most prominent soccer clubs in Australia during 1950s and 1960s were based around migrant-ethnic groups, all of which expanded rapidly at that time: Croatian, Greek, Italian and Serbian communities gave rise to most of the largest clubs, the most notable being South Melbourne (Greek-based), Sydney Olympic (Greek-based), Marconi Stallions (Italian-based), Adelaide City (Italian-based) and Melbourne Knights (Croatian-based).
In 1956, Australia became a FIFA member through the Australian Soccer Association. Though Australia's membership was soon suspended in 1960 after disobeying FIFA mandate. In 1961, the Australian Soccer Federation was formed and later admitted to FIFA in 1963, after outstanding fines had been paid. In 1966, Australia became founding members of the Oceania Football Federation (now Oceania Football Confederation).
Pre-1960s, competitive football in Australia was state-based. In 1962, the Australia Cup was established, but its ambition of becoming an FA Cup style knockout competition went unfulfilled with its demise in 1968. In 1977, the first national football competition, the National Soccer League, was founded. In 1984, the National Soccer Youth League was founded as a reserve and academy league to run in parallel to the National Soccer Youth League. In 1996, the first national women's football competition, Women's National Soccer League was founded. The National Soccer League and that of the women's and youth flourished through the 1980s and early 1990s, though with the increasing departure of Australian players to overseas leagues and a decline in finance, the leagues plummeted into decline.
Although soccer reached miraculous heights of popularity among Australian people during the second half of the twentieth century, the sport struggled to break from its ethnic-base to the wider Australian community. Johnny Warren, a prominent advocate for the sport who was a member of the Australia national team at their first FIFA World Cup appearance in 1974, entitled his memoir Sheilas, Wogs, and Poofters (a reference to the Australian slang: sheila, wog, poofter), giving an indication of how Warren considered the wider Australian community viewed "wogball".
In the mid 1990s, Soccer Australia (the governing body for the sport) attempted to shift soccer into the Australian mainstream and away from direct club-level association with migrant roots. Many clubs across the country were required to change their names and badges to represent a more inclusive community.
The sport experienced major change in the country in 2003, after the then Minister for Sport Rod Kemp and the Australian Parliament commissioned a report by the Independent Soccer Review Committee. Its findings in the structure, governance and management of football in Australia led the restructure of Football Federation Australia (previously Australian Soccer Federation, Soccer Australia, Australia Soccer Association) and later in 2005, the succeeding relaunched national competition, the A-League. The restructuring of the sport in Australia also saw the adoption of "football", in preference to "soccer", to align with the general international name of the sport.
On 1 January 2006, Football Federation Australia officially left the Oceania Football Confederation to joined the Asian Football Confederation in a move aimed to improving the standard of football in Australia and give the various national teams a better chance of qualifying for World Cup tournaments.
Australia ended a 32-year absent streak when the nation team qualified for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. The teams qualification and success in the tournament helped increased the profile and popularity of the sport in the country.
The momentum of football in Australia continued both domestically and internationally. The national team qualified for a consecutive FIFA World Cup in 2010 and placed second in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup. The introduction of Western Sydney Wanderers to the A-League in 2012, saw rapid growth within the league. Also, the formation of the National Premier Leagues in 2013, and the subsequent restructuring of state leagues allowed for the development of the sport throughout the country.
Soccer in Australia is governed by Football Federation Australia (FFA) which is currently a member of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and the regional ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) since leaving the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) in 2006. There are also nine state-based governing bodies within Australia, which as constituent members oversee in all aspects of the sport within their respected state or territory.
According to FIFA's Big Count in 2006, a total of 970,728 people in Australia participate in the sport, with 435,728 registered players, and 535,000 unregistered players. These numbers were higher than the equivalents for other sport codes commonly regarded as more popular in Australia, such as Australian rules football, rugby league and rugby union. In 2013, an audit on the sport by Gemba found that 1.96 million Australians were actively involved in the game as a player, coach or match official.
In Australia, domestic football competition is played all year round, with the competition season depending on the level of professionalism of the league, whereby fully professional leagues (only one) compete during the Australian summer season and semi-professional/amateur leagues compete during the Australian winter season.
Since 1977, the league system in Australia has involved one national top tier league controlled by the national body and many leagues that run below within each state, with no promotion or relegation between the two. As the third least densely populated country in the world, Australia's large geographical area and the spread of the population, concentrated mainly around urban areas is reason for a lack in national competition and a greater focus on state-based competition.
The National Soccer League (NSL) was established in 1977, as the first national top tier soccer competition in Australia, with teams based in five (eventually six) states. In 2004, the NSL was disbanded and replaced by the A-League. The first season of the new league began in 2005. The National Youth League was also launched in 2008 to provide a national youth development league for A-League clubs. In 2013, the National Premier Leagues (NPL) was established as a national second tier banner of the sport, underpinning the A-League. The NPL consists of the premier league competitions within each state federation (currently eight) in Australia. The eight champions of each league competes in a finals series at the conclusion of the regular season.
The FFA Cup is Australia's national cup competition. Previous national cup competitions include the Australia Cup. As well as the national FFA Cup, each individual state also has its own cup competition run by their respective state federations. Some restrict the participants to only professional top flight or semi-professional clubs whilst others have more open entries via invitation or qualifying rounds.
As with the men's national competition the women's W-League replaced the long dormant Women's National Soccer League as the women's national top tier league in 2008. Similarly, the women's league system involves one national top tier league controlled by the national body and many leagues that run below within each state, with no promotion or relegation between the two.
Men's national teams
National football teams of various age groups represent Australia in international competition. Australian national teams historically competed in the OFC, though since FFA's move in 2006, Australian teams have competed in AFC competitions.
The Australia national association football team represents Australia in international football. Australia is a four-time OFC champion and AFC National Team of the Year for 2006. The team has represented Australia at the FIFA World Cup tournaments in 1974, 2006, 2010 and 2014.
The participation of Australian women in football was first recorded in the early 1920s. It has since become one of the countries' most popular women's team sports. As with the men's game, the women's game in Australia saw a large expansion following the post-war immigration, though it is only in recent years that women's football has gained momentum, with such factor as the creation of the W-League (women's national league) and the success of the women's national team aiding the increasing popularity of the game.
Pay television is the predominant outlet for both domestic and international football in Australia. Some games can also can be heard on local radio stations. The anti-siphoning list which controls what must be kept on free to air television in Australia includes only the FA Cup games. The A-League will be added to the anti-siphoning list, but not until 2014 in order to prevent a breach of contract on the part of FFA.
Following a A$120 million, seven-year broadcasting deal between the FFA and Fox Sports, Fox Sports had exclusive rights from 2007 to all Socceroos home internationals, all A-League and AFC Asian Cup fixtures, FIFA World Cup qualifiers through the AFC, and all AFC Champions League matches.
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