Closing Centre of Excellence will kill youth development, warns Vidmar

Closing the Centre of Excellence would kill youth development, national under-17s coach Tony Vidmar warns, amid plans by Football Federation Australia to shelve the program.

Tony Vidmar

Tony Vidmar coaching Australia's under-17 side. Source: Getty Images

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, at the FFA board meeting on Saturday plans were discussed to close the Canberra-based program in the coming months.


FFA technical director Eric Abrams and head of community, football development and women's football Emma Highwood presented a case to shut down the Centre of Excellence in favour of focussing on A-League club academies and establishing strong football programs in schools.
“We are reviewing the FFA Centre of Excellence, as we also review all football programs in relation to meeting football objectives,” an FFA spokesperson said.
“It is important that we consider the pros and cons of the program in light of the evolving football landscape in Australia and internationally, particularly with the introduction of A-League Academies, and other technical programs across Australia.”
Centre of Excellence coach Vidmar and technical director Peter De Roo were advised in December their program was under review but have since been left out of discussions.
“Myself and Peter have been kept in the dark,” Vidmar told The World Game.
“They haven’t spoken to us and we haven’t been involved in any discussion.
“They had a meeting on Saturday and we don’t know what was presented and what came out of it. We’ve requested that information and that’s been refused.
“We know absolutely nothing about their plans and that’s the frustrating thing.
“We feel as stakeholders we’ve not had a voice so that an informed decision can be made by the board.”
The Centre on Excellenace program has been running since 1981 and has produced former Socceroos the likes of Mark Viduka, Lucus Neill, Vince Grella, Marc Bresciano and Joshua Kennedy with current stars like Trent Sainsbury, Robbie Kruse, Matt Mckay and Nathan Burns also among the alumni.
While Vidmar agrees an A-League club academy system is the way forward, the Joeys coach feels closing the current program prematurely without a ready replacement could have dire consequences.
“We agree with the A-League clubs having their academies and providing the player pathway but at this point in time it’s not ready and some have not even started and that’s the frustrating thing,” he said.
“In five years’ time perhaps, see how the A-League academies are progressing and then review things and decide if it’s time to phase out the program.
“But if they just throw it all out now then I think youth development in this country is finished.
“One thing for sure is that you’ll lose a generation of players. We’ll definitely go backwards.”
Last October the Young Socceroos failed to qualify for this year’s FIFA U-20 World Cup in South Korea after being bundled out in the group stage of the AFC U-19 Championship following losses to China, Uzbekistan and a draw with Tajikistan.
Vidmar feels shutting the current youth program now could see similar results at all youth national teams.

“We won’t be qualifying for youth world cups,” he said.
“All the other countries we compete against are playing so much more international games, they’re putting so much more money towards their youth national teams and we’re going in the other direction.
“We’re behind Asia already now we’re giving them another advantage."

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4 min read
Published 2 March 2017 at 3:11pm
By Angela Habashy