Set small text size
Set default text size
Set large text size
The A-League has been rocked, with the Brisbane Roar shattering football locally and nationally by announcing the closure of their successful academy.
Personally knowing several members of the coaching staff who will be affected, I had heard whispers towards the end of the previous campaign that there were going to be changes to the set-up of the legendary academy – but that’s not until over the past two months that I have become aware of the seriousness of the situation.
Fans on social media as expected didn’t take the news well, pleading with the FA to revoke the license from the owners and some even suggesting the extreme measure of folding the club and replacing it with an entirely new entity.
Although the latter option does not occur, the call for new ownership is gaining even more traction.
Controversial Indonesian group Bakrie have owned the club since 2011 and have run it as a tax deduction ever since.
The Roar have gone from powerhouse to relic, with confusing decisions on and off the pitch over the past decade of mismanagement.
There was the issue with the club trying to claim injury compensation for a former player, the unpaid retirement pension for months to team members, the Robbie Fowler case, an economic move from the CBD to a stadium 40 minutes away and recently the Corey Brown saga.
All this before discussing how little investment has been made in the squad over recent seasons, with the Roar well below the salary cap and having to stick to a strict budget.
Coach Warren Moon was blessed with a second season and backed up this campaign with a marquee striker in Charlie Austin, but the team’s infighting and poor performance will likely cost Moon his job.
The bigger question is where does Queensland, which as a state renowned for youth development, go from here? They need to initiate an NTC or a state program and take inspiration from across the border in South Australia.
As one of the A-League’s founding clubs, Adelaide United are the club many consider to be the premier developer of young players in recent seasons. Contrary to popular belief, United do not have an academy.
Adelaide United are supported by the Football Association of South Australia, which administers the NTC scheme to junior players in the state.
As part of this, the boys play in the next age group from their own and the most talented filter into United’s SA NPL reserve team.
United’s senior and reserve teams playing in the SA NPL also rely heavily on a scouting setup which allows the club to select the best talent from across South Australia.
Brisbane Roar would be wise to follow this model and re-establish a working relationship with the QNPL by expanding their scouting organization, so they don’t miss out on any prospects across the vast state.
With the juvenile academy closed, what happens to the more than 200 boys?
Some will unfortunately be completely lost for the sport. Many will find homes in QNPL kits, while others will now be seen as blood in the water for A-League sharks.
The Central Coast Mariners, who have always been one of the best developers of homegrown talent in the league, have changed tact this season and recruited heavily from outside their catchment area – in the same vein as Macarthur and Western United.
Youth development is always a hot topic in Australia and the bottleneck when players are 16 or 17 is only going to get worse.
A-League players under the age of 23 saw their match time reduced by almost 10% compared to last season.
Football in Queensland is now in a very precarious position, especially as the owners of their sole A-League club remain silent.
Losing the academy will be a bitter pill to swallow for anyone remotely connected to youth football, not just in the Sunshine State, but nationally.
Brisbane will survive this setback, but whether they bounce back roaring like the lion on their crest or moaning like a cub is another story.