AUSTRALIA'S Liverpool legend Craig Johnston has an ambitious vision for soccer in Bathurst - and it includes what he describes as the world's first interactive soccer skills park. Here, he outlines how he believes the sport can take the next step in the city.
Since retiring from football, I have worked in many areas, but in regards to sport I have a passion for working with young people.
Given my experiences overseas, I am focused on learning strategies in sport and its effect on health and self-esteem.
To this end, I pioneered a program for the UK Government called Supaskills, which is a platform that lets participants measure, monitor and plan for improvement in key individual and team-based skill sets.
I have seen photos of the impressive upgrade to the Proctor Park football complex and though I understand the Proctor Park masterplan has been signed off, I believe there are still more opportunities available.
I have developed a new short version of soccer, the National Skills Championships, that aims to bring the kind of excitement that the Big Bash has brought to the longer versions of cricket.
And I would like to see it in Bathurst.
It could bring the kind of international recognition that the Rugby 7s brought to Hong Kong all those years ago when it was launched - not to mention what the Hardie Ferodo 500 did for Bathurst in terms of putting the town's name on the sporting map.
This would not only dovetail with your efforts with the racing circuit at Mount Panorama, but it would blow it out of the water with international acclaim.
I would like to present a case for a two-fold development strategy that Bathurst Regional Council could pursue to add football education to the city's infrastructure.
1) Bringing a Supaskills event to Bathurst for a finite period at a venue such as the Bathurst Tennis Centre, St Stanislaus' College or Proctor Park. The Craig Johnston Cup is a skills tournament that already exists in NSW. Schools, clubs, PCYCs, Charles Sturt University, disability groups, indigenous agencies and youth agencies could come, see and be part of the Supaskills tournament.
2) Council seeking funding for a more significant permanent Supaskills facility, SOCCACity, which would be accessible to the whole regional community. This facility would be the world's first interactive soccer skills park and would be home to the National Skills Championships, including all the A League clubs.
The prototype products have been used and developed around the world in the United Kingdom, USA and Australia in top level sports and at the grassroots level.
It has also been endorsed by the Premier League and by FIFA.
Football has a number of benchmarks to measure its development through qualifying for - and results at - the men's and women's World Cups every four years and youth tournaments.
My project delivers daily data and content from the players and fills in all the blanks.
Bathurst is known for having an influence on the development of former Socceroo Archie Thompson, Nathan Burns (Blayney) and, more recently, Rhyan Grant from Canowindra, who went to St Stanislaus'.
I hope Bathurst sees merit in taking its place in a global project - using the international values and attraction of the world game to create better people and communities by empowering our young people.