PFA Chief Executive John Didulica on the challenges and opportunities for Australian football and the critical decisions  that will be in 2017 which will shape what we want the sport to be.

In years to come, 2017 will be looked back at as a watershed year for football.

A year when decisions were bold and built the platform for the game to take its “quantum leap”; or a year when decisions failed to match the belief and rightful ambition that we all have for the sport.

The game will make critical decisions in the following areas in the near future that will shape what we want the sport to be:

>> building the game’s professional footprint (through A-League expansion, by elevating the second tier of football and creating a world class W-League) and successfully connecting this vision to the millions engaging with the sport on a weekly basis;

>> reforming the governance structure of FFA to align with global standards and expectations; and

>> at a time of shifting values, shaping the unique leadership role that football can play in demonstrating the inherent richness in diversity and the value of connecting communities.
To add to this, our international standing will also be tested through the 2017 Confederations Cup, qualifying for the 2018 World Cup and the role we can play in the rapid evolution of Asian football.

The players are ready to play their part in influencing these areas. On the field, the players’ commitment to success is clear. The same can be said for their off-field commitment. The PFA Executive Committee and management team have been doing significant work in ensuring the players are organised and have the know-how to influence these areas of reform.

In the coming days, weeks and months, I look forward to building and sharing our vision with the membership – as decisions in each of these areas will have a profound influence on the quality of the professional career path of Australia’s footballers.

In recent days, the PFA announced an initiative to test all A-League and W-League players for skin cancer this summer. This campaign was very much driven by two factors. The first is to entrench football as the safest sport for players at all levels. The second is the concern for one of our inaugural members, David “Shovel” Cervsinki, who is battling a stage 4 melanoma.

Shovel has been brave enough to tell his story to ensure that current players are alert to the threats posed by an excessive exposure to the sun. Beyond the individual support to Shovel, it speaks to a broader obligation on the sport to support its past players. Sadly, many of the players whose contributions helped build the sport over generations have nobody to tell their story.

The clubs they played for may have folded or are now managed by the goodwill of a transient group of volunteers. Their stories however should not be left off the national stage; as a sport we have much to learn from their experiences and much to celebrate from their achievements. Capturing and building this legacy is a responsibility the PFA will gladly assume.