There are a number of factors contributing to the Centre of Excellence’s demise:
The Centre of Excellence is not what the AIS program under Smith used to be. Firstly, the intake develops players for the Joeys (under-17 national team), as opposed to previously when it was for the Young Socceroos (under-20 national team)
When football was demoted from a Category B sport to a Category C sport by the Australian Sports Commission, government funding was cut, as was access to AIS resource such as sports science, physiotherapy and nutrition.
The success or failure of youth programs usually take years to play out, with the progress and quality of players making it into the full national team the marker of success. But the A-League has now been around for 12 seasons and:
Now, there are also A-League academies entering the landscape, which further diminishes the allure of the AIS-based program as the “golden ticket” to professionalism.
The justification for this is that, with A-League club establishing their youth academies, more players will have access to those pathways. Say for example all nine Australian A-League clubs have youth teams from under-13s to under-18s (plus National Youth League teams competing in their local senior NPL competition), the Academies system will allow over 700 players to be exposed to professional pathways.
This is indisputably a good thing, and if done right, could be a scaled down version of the much lauded youth system established by the German FA, implement after the Die Mannschaft’s early exit from Euro 2000. But problems still exist in Australia, such as:
In Melbourne, with City and Victory, and in Adelaide, A-League club academies don’t have a competition to play in – with rival clubs blocking their entry into local NPL youth competitions.
Only in December 2016 did Brisbane Roar appoint a technical director to begin establishing their academy, while Newcastle Jets will only take over the running of the Emerging Jets academy program from their state federation later in 2017.