Canberra United have achieved a great deal on the football field this year, going through the year undefeated, they are now one match away from their first W League title.
Canberra United have achieved a great deal on the football field this year, going through the year undefeated, they are now one match away from their first Westfield W-League title.
It may be no coincidence, but Canberra’s breakout year has come in former Czech defender Jitka Klimkova’s first year at the helm – the W-League’s first international coach.
But off the park, the team faces the same struggles as many semi-professional women’s teams, who suffer from a lack of training and match day facilities.
This has now become a factor in whether Klimkova will stay with the club next season.
Capital Football CEO Heather Reid is now trying to put the final pieces of the puzzle together to secure Klimkova’s services and a deal with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS)to give Canberra United the type of facilities most men’s team would expect as a bare minimum.
The club wants to use the AIS for its training from Monday to Friday, rather than having to drive from one end of Canberra to the other, with the coach having to cart around equipment in her car.
“This is really important for Canberra United and the work that Jitka’s been doing in terms of developing a stronger football culture, having a home base, having a permanent centre where she doesn’t have to put the balls and the cones in everything in the back of the car every day,” Reid said.
“The most important thing is the grounds.
“We can use the AIS now but it costs $65 an hour. Doing the sums on what Jitka wants in terms of the training fields, access to the pool and the plunge bath once a week…plus a few other things, it was about $13,500, $14,000.
“So with an arrangement that would enable us to have a commercial partnership with the AIS to nullify that cost, or indeed break it down significantly, then I’m pretty confident we can do it.”
The coach herself said the team was performing on the field, but they were still wasting their time and energy with the current arrangements.
“I really feel now like we play great football, we play great performance, but we spend a lot of energy travelling all over Canberra,” Klimkova said.
“And if we will have our home, we can spend much more energy on the field than off the field.
“That’s the important thing what I would like to have done next season.”
The club’s captain, Ellie Brush, was full of praise for what her coach has done this year.
“She’s just brought so much to the team this year and really got the best out of each and every player, and really gone a long way in bringing the potential of the team as a whole,” Brush said.
Brush gave some insight into the benefits of using the facilities at the AIS, and also how ridiculous the current situation can be.
“We love our Monday night sessions of training just at the AIS, and we have a video session in the meeting rooms, we’re able to go to the change rooms next door and get changed and then go straight out on to the field.
“Afterwards there’s ice, a machine there for us, and all the pros that any professional sporting outfit would just have.
“Often we’re on the texts to each other, ‘where are we training tonight,’ and I know a lot have girls have gone to the wrong fields and had to pay fines!”
But on the eve on Canberra’s second W League grand final, there was good news.
Reid was confident a deal could be reached in the coming weeks that would lead to Klimkova keeping hold of the reins and improvements for the club going into the future.
“I think I’m fairly confident to say she (Klimkova) will be 90 per cent returning,” she said.
“She doesn’t want to commit 100 per cent because I still have some work to do in relation to an agreement with the Australian Institute of Sport for a home for Canberra United and also some property developers around town home for a home for Klimkova.
“My negotiations are going extremely well and I’m more than confident that we’ll get this over the line in the next few weeks and I’ll be able to write to Jitka in a little and say the AIS is on board as a partner and we will be basing Canberra United with the women’s football program at the AIS.”
Reid’s confidence followed a positive meeting with the AIS and the Football Federation of Australia, and she said they had her backing.
“There is 100 per cent support from FFA (Football Federation of Australia) and from the AIS to enable Canberra United to base themselves there with the football program.”