The FFA Centre of Excellence (formally the Australian Institute of Sport Football Program)is an association football talent identification and player development program run by the Australian Institute of Sport, in Canberra. The Centre of Excellence runs this program for both men and women: the men's program was one of the eight founding sports of the AIS in 1981, with the women's program being added in 1998.
The AIS football program is funded by the Australian Federal Government, through the Australian Sports Commission. In 2005-2006 this funding amounted to A$1,115,000. Currently, 20 students per year are selected for an initial period of 12 months training and study, with the additional option of a second year. The men's program is residential, while the women's is training camp-based. Students are generally 15–17 years old when selected and the only compulsory requirement is that they have current, or pending, Australian citizenship.
The original stated aim of the men's program was
"To identify and develop players for the national under-20 youth team and to develop coaches through the Scholarship Coaching scheme".
Following the decision of several football graduates to represent other countries at a senior national level (e.g. Josip Simunic), the AIS implemented contracts whereby the cost of the scholarship will have to be repaid by any graduate that goes on to play football at a senior level representing a country other than Australia, in international competition.
The men's program had previously entered a team in the New South Wales Premier League competition in 2005. In 2007 the AIS entered a team into the Victorian Premier League. This would allow regular, weekly competitive matches that were lacking for previous scholarship holders. As part of their inclusion as the only non-Victorian team in the VPL competition, all 'home' fixtures were played in Victoria for the 2007 season. The side struggled for consistency throughout the season, finishing 12th on the ladder, however great benefit was reportedly gained from the participation in a men's competition. In 2008 the men's program team continued to participate in the Victorian Premier League, improving from the previous year as the AIS finished 8th on the ladder. AIS home games were also played in Canberra, while some high profile matches which includes the Round 21 match between the AIS and the Preston Lions FC was played in Country Victoria at Rumbalara Oval, Shepparton. This was designed to promote the competition and bring the top state league competition to new areas.
However the men's program team will cease to compete in the Victorian Premier League competition for 2009, as the AIS program will be designed to accommodate younger players, hence eliminating the need to compete in a senior men's competition.