FFA to close Centre of Excellence in August

The Joeys squad in September 2016 Source: Joeys Football Australia

Football Federation Australia have confirmed they will be closing the Canberra's Centre of Excellence in August, putting the onus for youth development on A-League clubs.

FFA announced on Wednesday they would be shutting down the youth development program, which trains 24 elite teenagers at an annual cost of $1.6 million, to focus their resources on a club academy system instead.

The Centre on Excellence program has been running since 1981 and has produced former Socceroos the likes of Mark Viduka, Lucas Neill, Vince Grella, Mark Bresciano, John Aloisi and Josh Kennedy with current stars like Trent Sainsbury, Robbie Kruse, Matt Mckay and Nathan Burns also among the alumni.

A decision was made last November to continue with the Centre of Excellence, formally the Australian Institute of Sport football program, until the 2019 under-17 World Cup.

However, the program had been under review over recent months leading to Wednesday's announcement.

The FFA said it the program had served its purpose over the years since but it was now "time for a change", with the onus for player development now placed on A-League, W-League and National Premier League clubs.

The move comes after it was revealed fewer than half the Centre of Excellence's recent graduates went on to a professional career in the sport.

“While the Centre of Excellence has helped to produce great players and still delivers a quality product, it caters to a maximum of 24 boys at under-16 and under-17 level at a cost of $1.6 million a year," said FFA CEO David Gallop said.

“We believe FFA resources can be better used in a decentralised and expanded system that provides opportunities for many more young male and female players within club settings around Australia.

“The reality is that increasingly, some talented young players are choosing to stay with their local clubs or find places in A-League academies and our schools program. Even among those who have attended the Centre of Excellence in recent years, fewer than half have gone on to become professional players.

“This is no reflection on the staff who have always shown great professionalism and commitment to this program and the boys. But it does demonstrate how the game is evolving in Australia and why we need to change.”

The five staff members, including Joeys coach Tony Vidmar and the program's technical director Peter De Roo, as well as the 20 players currently on scholarships and their parents, were informed of the decision earlier on Wednesday.

Following the closure, the Joeys, Australia’s under-17 male team, will be developed through a program of camps and tournaments similar to the other junior Australian teams.

Source: SBS The World Game