Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) has today released the following statement after Football Federation Australia (FFA) announced its intention to close the FFA Centre of Excellence (COE).

Speaking after the decision was made public, PFA Chief Executive John Didulica said the player association’s focus was the wellbeing of the FFA COE players.

“Our immediate priority is to ensure that every possible support service is made available to our members at the FFA Centre of Excellence and we will continue to work with the program’s staff to do this,” said Didulica.

“For any young Australian footballer it was their dream to be tapped on the shoulder and offered a place at the AIS and as such the program rightly occupies a special place in the history of the sport.

“Forty per cent of the Socceroos selected in the past three FIFA World Cup squads were graduates of the program, highlighting just how successful it has been in developing many of the nation’s most outstanding talents, many of whom who have gone on to become exceptional coaches in their own right.

“To be internationally competitive we need to produce world-class players. Playing regularly between the ages of 18-21 is critical to this. The challenge for the sport is to put in place a development pathway that equips talented players for first team football at the youngest possible age.”