© istockphoto.com/ Lewis Wright

Soccer centre nets first goal

THE first goal in the game to set up a $20 million Asia Pacific Football Institute in Lismore has been scored with $90,000 funding secured for a feasibility study.

As reported by The Northern Star previously, Southern Cross University had put up $50,000 to fund the study but now it can be revealed Football Federation Australia and Northern NSW Football have agreed to add an additional $40,000 to ensure the study starts immediately.

An in principle agreement has been reached by the prospective partners and a joint heads of agreement contract is being prepared that will detail the requirements and the terms of reference of the study.

It is expected to take a further month before the partners ink the agreement and about six months for the feasibility study to be completed by SCU's head of the Sports Business Unit of Graduate College of Management, Dr Dave Arthur.

The funding represents a significant milestone that has been reached for the Institute which is the vision of former Socceroos captain and one of Lismore's favourite sporting son's Craig Foster.

Foster first outlined his idea in January to The Northern Star, which includes a central administrative office, accommodation for up to six squads of players in residence, dining facilities, changing rooms, conference and function rooms, video analysis facilities, sports science facilities, gymnasium, six training fields and one state of the art competition pitch with a grand stand.

Students at the Institute, which is to be built on land near SCU in Lismore, would be from Australia and all over Asia and the Pacific and would include training and courses for players, administrators, coaches, trainers and officials.

“It's a very exciting first step but it is only a first step, however, often the first step is the hardest and when momentum gathers we can build from there,” Foster said yesterday.

“My role has been to provide the vision and to provide the contacts in the football world.

“I’ve travelled the world and spent a lifetime in football and I’ve seen first hand what this game can do and how it can assist communities. I want to bring those benefits to the area I love and to the people I have an affinity with.

“Football is the fastest growing sport in the country and the only sport which can really link us with
Asia and the rest of the world ... as I’ve said before football is a window to the world.”

Foster praised the members of the Football Institute steering committee and local identities who have helped the project including Member for Page Janelle Saffin, Football Far North Coast general manager Steve Mackney, Member for Lismore Thomas George, Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell and Arthur. He also thanked SCU for their support.

Saffin, who is the chair of the steering committee, is delighted such a significant project could be brought to Lismore. Saffin has raised the Institute with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and sports minister Kate Ellis.

“It’s the first goal but there are many more to kick,” the Federal parliament representative chuckled.

“We are capable of having such an Institute here. We have Southern Cross University which is a great education provider and the FFA and NNSWF who know what they’re doing, know the game and know what the sport needs.

“The fact we have the money for the study from these organisations says something very strongly.”

Arthur said the study should be completed by March, 2010, and would take into account similar sporting institutes in the United States and at Football clubs such as Barcelona, Manchester United and Ajax Amsterdam.

With a price tag expected to be about $20 million, the SCU lecturer said the funding would not necessarily come from the Federal Government.

“It could be a private-public partnership. A lot depends on the business models and the way the Institute would be set up,” Arthur said.

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