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Exclusive: Clem Morfuni using Swindon board role to fix 'pathetic' Australian pathway

Clem Morfuni wants to use his platform as Swindon Town non-executive vice-chairman to fix what he describes as a "pathetic" pathway for Australian kids to play professional football.

The Sydney native is the founder of Axis Group, a multi-national building services contractor that was involved in the construction of new Wembley and the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium.

Morfuni has sponsored the League Two club since 2015 and was handed a position on the board by owner Lee Power in July last year.

Australian businesses have begun to make their mark in English football recently, with a consortium reportedly favourites to purchase League One club Charlton Athletic.

Speaking to Tribal Football, Morfuni says he plans to use his own standing at Swindon to provide new opportunities for aspiring footballers in Australia.

"We've employed a talent scout who is coming out to Australia in November," revealed Morfuni.

"So we're looking for kids and we want to develop a pathway for kids in Australia to go to English and European football and the best way to have it is to have someone in that level that can pull a proper pathway for kids because I think the pathway in Australia is pathetic.

"And now that people know that I'm Swindon vice-chairman. And there's a couple of other things that I'm trying to do that I can't really announce yet. But we're trying to get that pathway where we're generating really good kids from Australia who can go and play football."

Morfuni does not state whether the idea would evolve in the form of an academy or direct trials at Swindon, but his argument that Australia needs a different platform for their young footballers is a strong one.

The A-League, which commenced in 2005, is one of the few professional domestic leagues in world football that does not have a relegation system.

The National Premier League (NPL), competitions that are based in each Australian state, and the subsequent state leagues, essentially serve as the equivalent to the English football pyramid for Australian football, with the A-League at its apex.

Over the past two seasons, however, only seven players have been recruited from NPL competitions who were under 23, Australian and had no previous A-League experience.

Despite the league expanding to twelve franchises in 2019/2020, Morfuni argues that A-League clubs have no interest in developing youth.

"No disrespect to the A-League, I've been involved in the A-League. But there is no pathway. They just want to win their competition," Morfuni continued.

"They've got a lot of older players in that league and there is probably 10,000 Australian kids that want to play football and the A-League has 10 teams and none of these young kids have an opportunity to get in.

"Hopefully this works so there might be an opportunity for our national league to get even better.

"It's good for Australia because it gives us an opportunity and I'm over there enough to be heavily involved in it."

Morfuni's plans for young Australian footballers makes up a small fraction of his work at Swindon.

Due to his vast experience in the construction industry, Morfuni has become an instrumental figure in negotiations over a proposed purchase of the club's 122-year-old stadium, the County Ground.

Swindon hopes they can buy the 15,728 capacity stadium off the local council and split the ownership 50-50 with two supporter groups, Trust STFC and STFC Supporters Club.

The stadium purchase has long been a topic of debate in Swindon, but Morfuni believes it will pay off in the long-term as Town aims to climb the rungs of the Football League.

"The football club started in 1879 so there's a lot of passion there. We've been in the Premier League before in 1993/94. We were up there for one season but we've been hovering around League One and League Two in the Football League.

"There's absolutely a lot of passion. It doesn't matter what club you support in English football, there's always passion over there. We're in League Two at the moment and we're trying to get promotion.

"We think we should be a Championship club. There's a big enough catchment, I think if we develop the ground it will be a lot better we'll get better income outside the pitch so we can put more money inside the pitch so that's what we're trying to do.

"Lee Power and I have been talking about it making it and that's our goal. To get them in the Championship minimum."

It wouldn't be the first time Swindon find themselves in the upper echelon of British football. The town might be famous for its railway history, but many nostalgic football fans will remember their ill-fated and solitary Premier League season in 1993/94.

Player-manager Glenn Hoddle departed for Chelsea before the season and the Robins would eventually finish bottom with five wins from 42 games.

Significant investment would be needed for a top-flight return, but given the emergence of other smaller clubs in recent years, such as Bournemouth, Brighton and Huddersfield, Morfuni hasn't given up hope.

"I always say we'd love to be in the top-flight but to be in the top-flight you need a couple of hundred million quid.

"If we can get in the Championship it'll be an accomplishment especially if we can purchase the ground with the supporters groups, it will be a good feat.

"You never know, you might get one freak season where you'll get in the Premier League. You got to think eight years ago, Brighton were in our division. But it's going to take time."

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Andrew Maclean
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Andrew Maclean


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