It was the perfect way for FFA CEO David Gallop to celebrate one year in the role, announcing that football participation in Australia has risen to 1.96 million Australians who are actively involved in the game as a player, coach or match official.
This was an increase of 13% increase on a previous survey in 2010, which then tallied 1.7 million people involved with the game.
This equates to 8.2% of the population of Australia being actively involved in the game.
When one looks at Australia’s population growth, which saw the nation’s population grow by 1.8% during the year ended 31 March 2013, this is great news for football.
It is not however a great surprise, as to many of Australia’s new immigrants football is the game that they know best, and when you look at the contribution of overseas migrations to total population growth it backs up this trend.
What would be interesting is if the FFA broke down those figures and revealed how strong the game was in each state, to see exactly how the game is tracking. They may be loathe to do this as they could find that South Australia or Western Australia rank the highest, which would make it hard for them to argue against giving each of these states more international games.
According to the Australian Bureau of statistics – who supplied these statistics – when it comes to migrant growth “all states and territories recorded positive population growth in the year ended 31 March 2013. Western Australia continued to record the fastest growth rate of all states and territories at 3.4%. Tasmania recorded the slowest growth rate at 0.1%.”
Of course with growth comes more problems, such as finding enough public space for those wanting to play the game, to actually be able to do so. There has been talk of a hub system being employed, similar to that used by netball, which has its merits and has proved a good revenue raiser, but many of the immigrants who are bolstering these figures will want to see, and experience organised leagues, like the ones that they have left behind.
These figures are great news, but like all statistics unless they are broken down they can be made to say whatever anyone wishes them to say.
Apart from the figures being broken down by state, it would be interesting to know whether the women’s game has continued to grow at the rate it was a couple of years ago and whether they have contributed to the rise in participation numbers. Are we seeing more and more children playing the game?
According to the FFA press release Mr Gallop stated when the figures were announced that the latest figures show that football is growing strongly at the community level and providing a vibrant base for the Hyundai A-League and Australia’s national teams.
It may well be a healthy base for the elite top end of the game, but one must again look at the number of people that make up the elite side of the game and what percentage they make up of the 960,000 people participate in organised football competitions, and the 1 million who play in social, recreational and semi-organised ways, as indicated in the survey.
Proportional investment must be made to keep these numbers where they are and so that they continue to be ‘a vibrant base.’ The numbers on this occasion do not lie, and the FFA must increase support to these members of the Football Family if, as Mr. Gallop said “the powerful idea that football could become Australia’s biggest and most popular sport overall is no longer just a dream.”