Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) today released its Player Pathway Study, designed to inform opinions regarding the professional development of Australian male footballers.

Examining over three million professional minutes played by 626 Australian players between 2002 and 2016, the Player Pathway Study provides statistical evidence to articulate the achievements, milestones and modern-day challenges facing Australia’s professional footballers.

Key findings within the Player Pathway Study include:

• an 80% reduction in the match time of Australian players across the Big 5 leagues of Europe from 2005 to 2015;
• professional match minutes played by under 20 players have more than halved since 2011/12; and
• over 30% of players regarded as good enough to play a professional match before the age of 21 do not play another professional match minute after the age of 23.

“The quality of Australian careers and the success of Australian footballers at the elite level is inherently linked to our ongoing international competitiveness,” said PFA Chief Executive, John Didulica.

“The objective of the Player Pathway Study was to find a starting point for those talent development conversations that take place at fields and coffee shops across Australia every day.”

At the core of the Player Pathway Study is providing an evidence-based framework to discuss Australia’s ongoing international competitiveness.

The PFA hopes that the evidence presented in the Player Pathway Study inspires the various stakeholders of Australia’s football development to search for solutions to address the challenges Australia must overcome to maximise its ability to compete with, and surpass, the world’s best.

“The data supports the view that we are falling behind where we once were, so we need to redefine our approach to the complex area of talent development. This discussion needs to go well beyond a debate on methodology or coach education and equally focus on the cultural, social, governance and regulatory dynamics in Australia that act as barriers to our country producing a Modric or a Suarez,” said Didulica.

“Australian football does not have the luxury of isolation. Its players and teams are tested on the global stage every weekend and as Australians we expect to be able to compete with and beat the very best. As such, we need to build a system that meets this challenge.

“The PFA has now committed to a university partnership which features a commitment to building on these findings and attempting to answer a simple question: how can we systematically improve the quality of Australian footballers, relative to those nations we compete with around the world?”

If you would like to contribute to this research project, please register your details here.

To download the full PFA Player Pathway Study, click here.