Bjorn Vassallo, Director for Europe at FIFA and former Malta Football Association Chief Executive Officer and General Secretary, launched his campaign for the election of MFA President during a press conference at the Matthew Micallef St John Athletics Stadium in Marsa on Tuesday.
Bjorn Vassallo started his football administration career at San Gwann FC. After serving as council member for the club, he was appointed as Chief Executive Officer of the Malta Football Association in August 2010 but in July 2014, the post of CEO was abolished and he was appointed MFA General Secretary. After serving as member in UEFA commitees, venue director and match commissioner for UEFA club competitions, venue director in Nice during EURO 2016 and chairman of the 2014 UEFA Under-17 Championship organising committee, Vassallo stepped down from MFA General Secretary in October 2016 after accepting an offer by FIFA to serve as Director Member Associations in Europe.
Addressing the media on Tuesday, Vassallo explained that his twenty-five years’ experience in football had its roots in a local club where he served for fifteen years. Fifteen years which helped him understand better what clubs go through. He said that after serving at the Malta Football Association, he joined FIFA in difficult times for the international body. However thanks to Gianni Infantino, FIFA regained its credibility. He added that this baggage of experience and contacts would help him if elected to the post of MFA President and helped him lay the plans for his programme with the theme “Forward Together – Vision 2027”
Bjorn Vassallo explained that the football ecosystem should consist of:
- Successful Competitions
- Fair Play and Financial Stability
- Solidarity Funds Distribution
- Support for Development and Participation Programmes
- Education, Expertise and Best Practices
He went on to say that the strategic pillars to raise the standard of the game include better governance, football infrastructure, football development and competitiveness.
With regards to football infrastructure, Vassallo said the MFA would build a new multi-functional technical centre and redevelop the National Stadium to include a new Futsal Arena, a business centre and catering / entertainment outlets.
The National Stadium would be redeveloped to become a Category 4 Stadium with a seating capacity of 10,000. The Millennium Stand would be retained but the other stands would be pulled down and rebuilt while the track would be removed. The MFA Technical Centre would have a stand for five hundred spectators.
The Malta Football Association would deliver two regional hubs for youth development training, complete a new regional stadium in the south of the island for more access to domestic football and redevelop the Sannat Ground as a secondary stadium for Gozo.
The MFA would take over the management and maintenance of the existing regional stadiums; support the GFA in the up-keep of the Gozo Stadium with a yearly financial fund; offer incentives for the replacement of the existing synthetic pitches and for maintenance of existing football facilities; continue with the Club Infrastructure Programme and execute all given commitments and introduce Pitch Strategy.
Foster a solid domestic game
In order to strengthen the domestic game, the association would offer support for business plan and strategy development at Premier League level to maximise the value of top division clubs; re-build relationships with clubs through visits by MFA President, influence competitiveness by meas of a Better Lifestyle Programme; launch educational and development workshops for club committees and staff; include financial support for equipment to clubs in the lower leagues and member associations and building a business centre for the use of member clubs and member associations.
With regards to funding, the MFA would introduce Club Academy Programme for the development in clubs; help clubs and member associations to access EU funds; support match day costs at senior and youth level; introduce Clubmark MLT to support and develop amateur clubs; increase the player development pot for all leagues in Malta and Gozo and sign memorandums with member associations which include rights and obligations.
Under his presidency, Bjorn Vassallo would aim at establishing a league entity (football league) to manage senior football at Premier League level; support Premier League clubs to create a sustainable commercial model; discuss a special tax status for the entity running the clubs; review licensing criteria for senior club football; discuss a tax rebate for investors at association and club level; restructure clubs’ status and leagues, revamp youth competitions; introduce an early kick-off time (11:00) for lower league; establish a task force to analyse and present study on quotas of home-grown and foreign players, squad limits and the introduction of a longer mid-season break and increase registration fees for professional foreign football players to fund youth development.
The former MFA Chief Executive Officer and General Secretary added that the Malta FA would discuss the creation of a professional senior team and a youth team composed mainly of Maltese players to participate in a foreign professional league. He revealed that he already had talks with the FIGC about this possibility. The association would define a game philosophy for all national team selections as it aims at improving the rankings of all national team selections in all categories. Another objective would be that of organising a FIFA Youth World Cup or a European Youth final tournament.
Youths & Grassroots
With regards to youth football and grassroots, the MFA would create an INĦOBB IL-FOOTBALL Foundation and re-organize football at Youth and Grassroots Level in sync with the Associations’ Strategy for Youth Football; introduce three Regional Academy Hubs (North, South, Gozo); increase participation growth by 15% by 2023; create a performance strategy for women, youths and schools; choose players through a Talent Optimization Programme; invest in Club Academy / Talent Coaching Programme; review Licensing criteria for Football Nurseries and introduce a robust Child Protection and Welfare Policy.
With regards to women’s football in particular, the MFA would define a new strategy for girls and women’s football by 2020, create a new Centre of Excellence for Girls and Women’s Football; increase the numbers of female players at all levels of the game; improve the Quality of the Player pathway; increase the number of Women in leadership positions, including MFA EXCO; build a culture of Life Long Participation by increasing and sustaining administrators, coaches, players and volunteers; ensure that the governance of women’s football is integral to the work of the Association and increase resources and technical support to women’s teams.
Futsal & Beach Soccer
Futsal and Beach Soccer would be given a boost by offering both disciplines to the private sector in partnership; building a new Futsal Arena and set-up a temporary Beach Soccer summer venue; defining a new strategy for Futsal and Beach Soccer by 2020; supporting Futsal Academy to increase overall participation; developing a Futsal Youth competition by season 2020-21 through the engagement of clubs and schools; establishing an Under-19 national team by 2021 and establishing a Futsal Study Group for coaches.
The Malta Football Association would write a strategic plan for refereeing for the period 2019-2023; create a better refereeing structure; revive referee exchanges and international appointments; focus on Refereeing Development and Education; ensure a minimum of 150 registered referees by June each year as from 2021; focus on referee recruitment with 15
new referees enrolled yearly through the Academy ranks and other courses; introduce financial minimum guarantees for Elite and Elite Development match officials; introduce increased fees and technical support to all other refereeing categories; implement a recruitment drive for Observers; invest in new technology at all levels and launch on-line referee training tools.
Bjorn Vassallo said that for better governance, the MFA would create a healthier and fairer domestic game at all levels; develop a clear business strategy; revise and modernise the Association’s Statute and decision-making processes; introduce term limits for the President; create stakeholder involvement (Players, Clubs, Leagues); streamline and modernise models of football administration; strengthen the sports legal services to clubs; establish a taskforce to study and review the Club Licensing System; setup a Compliance Office and introduce an Ethics and Integrity Committee and create an anti match-fixing unit.
The MFA would launch a Respect Programme; strengthen relations with former stars through an Ambassadors Programme; use the power of football to strengthen partnerships targeting social needs; develop a positive plan for disability football; capture the passion of Volunteers in football; launch #GħalKulħadd Programme to promote inclusion, diversity and accessibility in football and build pride for the red jersey to evolve and celebrate football in Malta.
Finally with regards to the Malta Association itself, plans are there to adapt the current association structure to separate powers in two branches – administration / football; introduce Early Retirement Schemes to involve a younger generation of administrators; establish commercial enterprises for services offered by the association on business basis; establish a ‘Sales & Procurement’ Policy; enhance accountability and transparency; introduce educational support for staff; launch conflict of interest directives to safeguard the association; embark on a digital transformation project; install FIFA Connect for Player ID; increase the domains in COMET; introduce a Guest Management Online System; introduce tablets to manage online tools to Clubs and Nursery administrators, observers and Staff for all football matters (data management, competitions, disciplinary, licensing, auditing and reporting).
When asked about his current role at FIFA, Bjorn Vassallo said that FIFA President Gianni Infantino had granted him permission to run for the post of MFA President but if elected, he would quit his FIFA role.