Youth Development And Future Strategy – CEO Mark Aubrey

It’s been a great season for youth development at Sydney FC in which our Men’s and Women’s squads were the youngest in our history.

We also witnessed breakthrough seasons for numerous young stars and this week saw Academy graduate Jake Girdwood-Reich break the club’s record transfer with his switch to the MLS.

Sydney FC CEO Mark Aubrey has spoken to about what the future holds, with particular attention paid to the club’s youth development strategy.

Sydney FC youth development is central to club’s forward strategy.

How are you feeling now you’ve had a little bit of time to reflect on the A-Leagues season?

“There are lots of reasons to be proud of how we finished the A-League Men’s and Women’s competition.  It was an incredible achievement from our Women’s squad to reach a record 7th consecutive Grand Final with such a young team, and an even better achievement to win the Championship.

“Our Men’s squad produced the type of entertaining football which is Sydney FC’s DNA and has long been central to this club’s philosophy.  We are in an entertainment industry and the appointment and impact of Ufuk Talay in helping the club fulfill that philosophy was undeniable. We were also very close to making the Grand Final once more to add to our Australia Cup triumph.

“It was also very pleasing to see the contributions made by the young players we are developing to the Australian national teams, with large representations at the AFC U20/U23 Asian Cups and Cortnee and Jada gaining Matildas selection.”

Sydney FC CEO Mark Aubrey lifts the A-League Women’s Trophy at the Grand Final

What does the future look like strategically for Sydney FC?

“Sydney FC will continue to aim to be the benchmark on and off the field, and winning trophies and playing exciting football will always be at the forefront of our strategy.

“We need to do that in a sustainable and financially responsible way to ensure we are building a club for the future.

“Balancing those priorities is key and how we maximise our investment in the Sydney FC Academy, with initiatives such as the transfer of Jake Girdwood-Reich, is central to that.

“It’s about having highly competitive, successful A-Leagues squads and providing enough pathways for our great young Academy graduates to win us trophies, alongside more senior and foreign players, before they move overseas.  I think we can find that balance.

“Long term this will give us the financial ability to continue to build our brand, our Membership base, increase our fan engagement work and build on the incredible success of our club by providing more memorable experiences for our Partners and Members.

“We must also continue to invest in and capitalise on the unstoppable momentum of the Women’s game at present. We’ve seen some strong growth and the atmosphere at Leichhardt Oval was incredible this year. We need to continue to build upon that.”

Successful player pathways will maximise Sydney FC’s Academy investment and growth in other areas.

What does the Jake Girdwood-Reich record transfer mean for the club?

“It’s fantastic for both Jake and the club to see a graduate who’s been with us since our under 13’s make such a move.

“I’m incredibly proud of Jake and our Academy and it demonstrates our ability to develop world class talent. It provides a financial benefit to the club allowing us to continue to invest in the Sydney FC Academy and A-Leagues squads but equally provides Jake the opportunity to progress his career.

“His departure then creates an opportunity for another Sydney FC Academy graduate which is fantastic.

“As we can see from the success of Hayden Matthews, we have many others waiting to step up.

“Jake is part of the Sydney FC family and it’s important we continue to follow his journey.  He will always be Sydney FC and perhaps we can welcome him back to the Sky Blue family one day.”

Does future growth lie in Sydney FC’s ability develop youth players?

“The pathway to growth and sustainable success absolutely relies on us having the best pathways into professional sport in Australia.

“We already have a great Academy but we need to further invest to ensure it continues to be the best in class and we are attracting and developing the best Men’s and Women’s footballers in the country.

“We must have confidence in our pathways ensuring we balance the best combination of senior, overseas and youth talent so we can be successful, while enabling learning, progress and opportunities for our best talent coming through.

“This club eco-system will provide unprecedented opportunities for our Academy players and allow us to build depth for our A-Leagues squads while also providing the opportunity to build commercial returns from the talent we develop.”

Sydney FC’s Academy is set to provide unprecedented opportunities for Academy players and build commercial returns for Sydney FC.

What does that structure look like?

“We aren’t re-inventing the wheel, we’ve already been incredibly successful with over 50 players from our Academy signing professional contracts at Sydney FC, A-League clubs or overseas. 

“Our facilities at Sky Park are world class so it’s about further investing in support mechanisms, scouting, coaching resources, and so on to go to the next level.

“The success framework is already in place. We are simply refining this to ensure we reap the benefit.

“We will invest in more youth scholarships to allow extra opportunities for players to be developed inside and outside of Sydney FC’s infrastructure, which will give us incredible depth long term.

Is it still possible to win trophies?

“Yes, we’re Sydney FC! Our expectation is to be the benchmark on and off the field and across our elite teams.

“We want to be competitive and to win trophies using the club’s football DNA of being attacking, and dynamic, while also providing opportunities for our young talent to grow and thrive alongside senior pros.”

Sydney FC’s Australia Cup winning squad was stacked with Sky Blues Academy Youth Graduates

What about Women’s Pathway / Academy – where does it lie?

“The growth trajectory of the Women’s game is something which we are incredibly focused on and we are really pleased with the outcome of our Female Development Squad and our Female Pathway.

“Moving forward we will be creating even greater connectivity between the Female Development Squad and our A-League Women’s squad via shared coaching staff and development programs.”

How quickly are we likely to see girls moving through into the A-League Women from the Development Squad?

“A couple of the girls were training with the A-League Women’s team last year and the goal is that it’s a gateway into our first team. In time we want to see even more players transition into that squad.”

Sydney FC Chief Executive Officer Mark Aubrey at Allianz Stadium

Anything else to add?

“I want to say ‘Thank-you’ to all our Members for helping us to record Memberships and creating a fantastic atmosphere at each game, particularly The Cove and their endless passion.

“It’s been a great season and there’s a lot to look forward to into 2024-25 which will be the 20-year anniversary for the club.”

Sydney FC Members gave fantastic support all season