Socceroos coach Graham Arnold has slammed the Australian government for its lack of funding for a dedicated high performance centres, which has left the national team ‘homeless’.
Despite the FIFA World Cup heroics in Qatar last year that saw the Socceroos get through the group stage and put up a fighting performance against Lionel Messi’s Argentina, the national team has no high-performance centre to call their own.
Instead, the Socceroos have to train at run-down facilties at Leichhardt Oval on a field that was built for rugby league, not football.
Arnold has demanded funding for a dedicated home for the Socceroos and questioned the government about why other sports get money but the World Cup heroes are left out.
He is concerned that the lack of resources will impact the team’s ability to qualify for major events in the future.
Arnold had been vocal about the need for a high-performance centre in Australia even before he re-signed as Socceroos coach in January
While other international teams have access to the latest performance technology, recovery facilities and gyms, the Socceroos have to use a run-down rugby league field in Leichhardt
Arnold (pictured second from left) wants better conditions for his star players including (left to right) Jackson Irvine, Aziz Behich and Bailey Wright
The federal government has spent around $1.7billion to create new stadiums and high-performance centres for NRL clubs since 2016, but soccer has been neglected.
Arnold called for the construction of an elite home base for the Socceroos in Sydney, which he suggested could be called the Socceroos Home of Football.
He also expressed his concerns for the future of young players who require a pathways system inside a Centre of Excellence to develop their skills.
While I am grateful for Leichhardt Oval, it’s embarrassing.
‘How can you have a culture when you don’t have a home? We don’t have a high-performance centre to help players recover from flights and prepare for games,’ Arnold told the Herald Sun.
‘While I am grateful for Leichhardt Oval, it’s embarrassing. We train on a rugby league field in a rugby league stadium – and it costs us $1500 [in fees] to do it.
‘Where does the motivation come from for our players?
‘I tell them we’re training at Leichhardt and you can see it on their faces. Our overseas players have flights to Australia 10 times a year and they don’t have any facilities here, or backing.’
Individual NRL teams like the Gold Coast Titans (pictured) have their own high-performance centres, but the Socceroos have been left out
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has opened the chequebook for Tasmania’s new AFL stadium while the Socceroos are still waiting for funding despite their World Cup heroics
Arnold believes the government’s lack of investment is a reflection of the sport’s low status in the country, which he believes is unjustified.
His frustration only intensified when the Federal Government handed out $240million for a new stadium in Hobart for a new AFL team in an announcement made last weekend.
‘I am a fan of all sports but it seems lop-sided in terms of what we get compared to what the other sports get,’ Arnold said.
‘Why not us? Why don’t we get funding? If other sports get it, why can’t we?’
Arnold is also concerned that the lack of funding will impact the team’s ability to qualify for major events in the future.
‘The Socceroos were the team that inspired all those people to get up at 4am [in the World Cup] and go to fan sites to watch us play and we can’t get funding,’ he said.
‘The Socceroos are ranked 27 in the world and the Matildas are ranked in the top 10 – that is an absolute miracle under the current circumstances with the lack of resources we have.
‘Unless something changes, that miracle will not continue. We won’t be qualifying for World Cups and junior World Cups.’
The Socceroos had to make do with Leichhardt Oval in 2022 as they prepared for crucial World Cup qualifiers
It’s not just the men’s team that’s been left out in the cold: Sam Kerr (pictured) and the Matildas will take part in a home World Cup this year but have no high-performance centre, either
Football Australia boss James Johnson has backed Arnold’s call for funding.
‘Football is the most popular sport in NSW, with more than five times the number of players than rugby league. Yet, rugby league continues to receive multiples of government facilities funding compared to football,’ he said
‘Football Australia urgently seeks dialogue with the NSW Government to establish a national home for football, so that our national teams have a dedicated place to train and connect with the grassroots community.’