FFA CEO James Johnson on the future of the FFA Cup

Football Federation Australia CEO James Johnson joined SEN's The Sporting Capital on Tuesday evening to discuss the upcoming changes to the FFA Cup in 2021. 

Earlier on Tuesday, it was announced that several changes will be made to the FFA Cup from 2021, including the Semi Finals and Final to be played on stand-alone weekends, the introduction of an AFC Champions League slot for the Winners of the competition, the Cup Final to be played at a neutral venue, and a potential name change to the competition. 

The changes were well received by the Australian football community, and Johnson joined the radio program to discuss some of them in further detail. 

On the introduction of a pathway into the AFC Champions League, Johnson told The Sporting Capital

"What we're trying to do here is provide more opportunities for clubs all around the country to participate more at a national level, and also at an international level. And we think this change with the AFC Champions League slot allocation will incentivise clubs to grow, because now they have an opportunity to play both locally at a national level, but also globally in the Champions League.

"We think that in order for clubs to grow, they need to be incentivised. If the clubs want to participate in the Champions League, they will need to go through a club licensing process. Clubs all across the country, whether they're in the A-League or in the NPL (need to go through this process), and that is a system that the AFC, the Asian Football Confederation, has designed. And what it really is about, is about meeting certain criteria which are really benchmarks that our clubs can grow and aspire to. So we think this will provide a strategic framework for our clubs to grow into. So I think the clubs across the country are very happy with this change."

On the FFA Cup Final being played at a neutral venue, Johnson said:

"It's really about sporting integrity. And what we mean by a neutral venue is that the destination (of the Final) will be decided before the competition starts. What we're trying to do is really differentiate from different competition models. We want to be very much focused on integrity, sporting integrity, and we want to ensure that no club, or no competitor, has a sporting advantage in the Final and in a knockout competition,  I think this works quite nicely.

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"Ultimately, if you make the Final and you play it at a neutral venue, there will be no home field advantage in this new competition format. And this is a concept that works very well in many of the leading sporting competitions, not only in Australia, but also around the world, the FA Cup, the UEFA Champions League, the League Cup, even the Super Bowl in the NFL, these are all competitions that use a neutral venue format for this purpose."

On the Semi Finals and Finals on stand-alone weekends, Johnson said:

"We really want this competition to develop its own identity. And of course, if these important matches are played on weekends as opposed to mid-week, then it really is symbolic in terms of the level of importance that we're creating for this competition.

"We're also in parallel, talking with our stakeholders about a national football calendar. We're in this funny situation in our code where the A-League and the rest of the code play at different season times, and we're trying to align the seasons. So not only would this competition be played Semi Finals and Finals on the weekends, but we want these games to be the last matches of the football season."

On the renaming of the FFA Cup, Johnson said:

"It's not just a revamp of a competition, it's a broader strategy to really transform the entire sport. One thing that is really crucial to us is that we understand our people, our community, our fans better. And this is exactly why we've gone through the consultation process in the rename.

"We've changed to Football Australia from Football Federation Australia, so naturally the FFA Cup will change name as well. But we want to hear from our fans, we want to hear from our community, and that will be very informative when we sit down and take a decision on what this great competition will be named."