The Matildas preparations for the Rio 2016 Olympics have been delayed amid discussions of a funding gap.
Australia, who last month qualified for the Olympic Games for the first time in 12 years, looked set to begin their preparations against New Zealand in the upcoming April FIFA window.
However, with approximately $2 million spent on the World Cup campaign and Olympics preparation, it appears that the funding for this current cycle is close to exhausted.
The delay in responding to the Football Ferns means that New Zealand, also Rio bound, will instead play against the Netherlands later this month.
It's a missed opportunity for the Matildas
A home series would have seen the inclusion of both overseas and Australian based players return for the internationals from 4-12 April 2016.
A second option, a camp for Australian based players – of which there are currently at least 12 on the radar for Rio – was also discussed and ultimately abandoned.
“There are many logistical, technical and budgeting reasons for this decision, but I reject the suggestion that it was made for purely financial reasons, as has been suggested,’’ said FFA Head of National Performance Luke Casserly in a statement released last night.
“It’s not correct to say that a camp and international match for the Matildas in April were cancelled.”
“A decision was taken to focus on camps and matches in May, June and July to give the Matildas the best preparation for the Rio Olympics.”
Women’s program funding
The issue of funding for women’s national teams has been an ongoing one with the funding budgeted according to four year cycles.
2016 is the end of the cycle that included the 2014 AFC Women’s Asian Cup (silver medallists), 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup (Quarter finalists), the AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifiers (first place) and the upcoming Olympic Games. That is not even including the funding of the youth national teams (U17 and U20) who, in recent years, have been run sparingly.
Hosting internationals are a sizeable expense for any program with host nation covering various expenses for the visiting nation including accommodation.
Australia’s hosting of international teams cost in the vicinity of $150,000 – $180,000 with the women’s program – through the FFA, with agreements with State or Local governments – footing the bill.
National camps, while less costly, run to approximately $35,000 – $40,000 per camp with player and staff flights, accommodations and meals all part of the expenses.
With the Matildas strong preparation and showing in recent tournaments, the budget has been impacted in recent years but with significant results including Australia’s highest ever world ranking of no. 5.
For this month at least, the preparation for the Rio 2016 Olympics will be on an individual basis with many Australian based players training with local boys teams, while undertaking individual programs monitored by the Matildas medical staff.
Meanwhile the overseas based players will continue their preparation with their clubs in the USA, Europe and in Asia.
“We have a dozen players in the Westfield Matildas squad who have current or pending contracts with overseas clubs and for technical reasons it was decided they would be better to return to competitive matches as soon as possible,” said head coach Alen Stajcic.
Stajcic has previously indicated that while internationals were on the radar, the key would be extensive time in the 4 – 6 week period prior to the Olympics.
“The squad and staff were already together for four weeks in January and February for the qualifiers. The preference now is to get a block of time together again before the Olympics in May, June and July giving the team more continuity and accumulated practice as a team unit.’’
The Matildas have one more FIFA window – 30 May to 7 June 2016 – to schedule lead up matches.