Executive Leadership Team

James Johnson - Chief Executive Officer

James Johnson_2023 Headshot

James Johnson was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Football Australia in January 2020.

A qualified lawyer and retired footballer, James is a sports administrator who has previously held senior executive positions with FIFA, the Asian Football Confederation and City Football Group. 

Following his appointment as Chief Executive Officer of Football Australia, James worked with his team and the Australian football community to release a vision for Australia’s largest participant, most diverse and globally connected sport. The XI Principles for the future of Australian Football (XI Principles For The Future of Australian Football | Football Australia), Australian football’s 15-year Vision is bold, progressive, and designed to unite and guide the sport’s decision making.

Since its release in 2020, James has been focused on bringing this vision to life and has already overseen a meaningful change in Australian football, including:

  • Successfully bidding to host the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup together with New Zealand. This will be the most significant event in Australian sport since the 2000 Sydney Olympics with some 1.5 Billion people expected to tune in from around the world. 
  • Transforming the governance of Australian football with the creation of a new model for its professional leagues (men and women) in December 2020, when he oversaw the completion of the ‘unbundling’ of the professional leagues from Football Australia.  Now a separate entity, operated by Australia’s professional football clubs, has been created and managed under the umbrella of Football Australia to run the daily operations of the professional leagues.
  • Successfully led a commercial turnaround for the sport through its most difficult period. James has guided Football Australia to landmark record broadcast deals with CBSViacom Paramount+ and Network 10; record sponsorship deals with Commonwealth Bank Australia, Cadbury and Priceline. In the past 12 months, Football Australia has doubled its budgeted revenues with the sport now in a healthy position for future growth. 
  • The launch of our FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 Legacy program (“Legacy 23”) which is aimed at increasing Australian football’s participation base (particularly women and girls); improving facilities across the country; maximizing opportunities to boost tourism and trade with our governments' partners and empowering a new generation of women to lead on and off the pitch.  Since its launch, Football Australia has secured $18 million in funding from the Federal Government in support of Legacy ‘23. 
  • Revamping Australian football’s national knock out competition by allocating a qualification slot into Asian football competitions, shifting the latter stage of the competition’s calendar from weekdays to weekends, and negotiating the final to be played on free to air TV. 
  • Successfully led the negotiation of a six-part docu-series with the Walt Disney Company for a Disney+ Original which will tell the story of the Australian women’s national football team, the Commonwealth Bank Matildas, as they prepare for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ on home soil alongside co-host New Zealand.

James is now leading key initiatives for Australian football including the digital transformation of community football in Australian football; creating new national-level competitions (men and women) and reimagining Australian football products as the game adapts to the evolving habits of football participants; introducing a new player transfer system; continuing to grow the commercial revenues for the sport, and building Australian football’s men’s and women’s national team (Socceroos and Matildas) into global iconic sports brands. 

James is a regularly featured speaker at sports conferences domestically and across the globe.

Alex Davani - Executive Office and Strategy

Alex Davani_2023 Headshot

Alex Davani joined Football Australia in January 2021, as Head of Executive Office and Strategy, after contracting to the organization in 2020, working closely with the Chief Executive Officer, James Johnson, to develop Football Australia’s XI Principles for the Future of Australian Football.

A qualified Lawyer by trade, with a Master of Laws from the University of Melbourne, Alex has worked at ExxonMobil Papua New Guinea in both a Government Relations capacity and as In-House Legal Counsel.

A former Papua New Guinea Men’s Football International, Captaining at U20 and U23 levels, Alex has also enjoyed various roles with the Papua New Guinea Olympic Committee (‘PNGOC’) including Director and Board Member, Chair of its Athletes’ Commission and Commercial Manager.  Alex has also been on the Athletes’ Commission of the Oceania National Olympic Committees.

After founding his sports consultancy service in Papua New Guinea, advising clients including the PNGOC, FIFPro Asia and Oceania, Professional Football clubs throughout the Asia-Pacific region, and FIFA’s Development Department, he relocated to Australia and currently works closely with Football Australia CEO, James Johnson, providing strategic advice across all areas of Football Australia.


Mel Mallam - General Counsel

Mel Mallam_2023 Headshot

Mel joined Football Australia in October 2022 as General Counsel leading the Legal, Regulatory, Integrity and Compliance functions for Football Australia.  Mel joins Football Australia after almost 16 years in Switzerland. She is a highly accomplished and dynamic legal professional with over 20 years of experience in the sports, media, and technology sectors. With a strong background in providing strategic commercial business advice, Mel has established herself as a trusted expert in the field.

Throughout her career, Mel has developed a significant understanding of the intricacies of the sports industry, particularly football, at all levels. She is well-versed in the intricacies of conducting the business of football and tackling the daily challenges faced by the sport having previously been a commercial legal counsel at FIFA and sat on the board of Capital Football in addition to her roles as Head of Legal for Swiss luxury watchmaker, Breitling, and General Counsel for global technology companies Parallels and Beekeeper. Her experience spans various aspects, including broadcast and media rights, sponsorship and marketing rights, event hosting, technology and software product services, and the use, development, and distribution of applications, data, and digital content.

Mel's hands-on approach, coupled with her ability to simplify complex matters, has garnered her a reputation for making the complex simple. She possesses a keen sense of commercial business acumen and approaches legal matters with a positive, collaborative, and solution-oriented mindset. Her ability to manage legal departments in high-growth and high-pressure environments, coupled with her "think outside the box" approach, has contributed to her success.

Mel Mallam is admitted to practice law in New South Wales, Queensland, and the Australian Capital Territory. As a native English speaker, Mel also possesses business proficiency in German (B2 level) and in addition to her LLB, holds a LLM in International Law.

Mark Falvo - Chief Operating Officer

Mark Falvo

Mark Falvo was appointed to Football Australia in 2008 where he was responsible for finance, strategic planning and international football development as part of Football Australia's FIFA World Cup and AFC Asian Cup bids.

In 2010, Mark was appointed Executive Manager. He oversaw the development of Football Australia’s 2010-2015 Strategic Plan and other key projects including the FFA Cup and National Competition Review which led to the establishment of the National Premier Leagues framework.

In 2012, Mark was appointed Chief Operating Officer at the Local Organising Committee for AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015.

In 2013, Mark was appointed to the role of General Manager, International Affairs at Football Australia which he continues to fulfil in addition to his responsibilities to the AFC Asian Cup.

In 2015, having successfully delivered the AFC Asian Cup, Mark returned to Football Australia as Head of Corporate Strategy, International Affairs & Government Relations, and was later promoted to the position of Football Australia Chief Operating Officer and Deputy General Secretary.  Mark is a member of the AFC and AFF Competitions Committees.

Nina McDonnell - Head of People and Culture

Nina McDonnel Profile Image

Nina McDonnell was appointed as Head of People & Culture in 2019 primarily to lead Organisational Change with a new CEO. Her expertise in change management has been instrumental in coaching the Executive Leadership team through a transformational change journey ensuring business practices and structures support the new strategic direction of Football Australia and the XI Principles.

With an extensive background in best practice Human Resources and Workforce planning, across various industries including sports, major events, consulting, IT and banking industries, Nina’s expertise aligns around programs that drive culture and engagement, focused on ensuring Football Australia offers its people the best experiences in delivering World Class football and embedding the Football Australia values as an anchor to all that we do on and off the pitch.

With a passion for driving high-performing teams, she is committed to promoting employee well-being, and embedding a supportive, inclusive and diverse workforce while coaching and collaborating with the Executive Leadership team.

Sarah Walsh - Head of Women's Football, Women's World Cup Legacy & Inclusion

Sarah Walsh_2023 Headshot

A values-led sports executive, spearheading football's national Legacy'23 plan, an inclusive strategy aimed at leveraging the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™.

In her role as Head of Women's Football, Women's World Cup Legacy & Inclusion at Football Australia, Sarah leads a team that is squarely focused on driving long-lasting social and economic change for football, working with key stakeholders, in football, all levels of government, and the corporate sector to achieve this.

As an athlete for 20 years, and former CommBank Matilda, Sarah represented Australia at football’s top tier, including at the 2004 Olympic Games, the 2006 and 2010 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, and the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2007.

Beyond Sarah’s professional playing career, she transferred the skills developed as an athlete, into leadership roles in football, accumulating extensive experience in driving gender equity in governance. Sarah is qualified in driving high-performing teams and building frameworks that create more inclusive environments for grassroots and elite-level sports.

As an agent of change, Sarah brings unique and progressive insights, adopting a results-driven approach to business, with people at the centre of all decisions.

Peter Filopoulos - Head of Marketing, Communications, Corporate Affairs

Peter Filopoulos_2023 Headshot

Peter Filopoulos is a dynamic leader with over 20 years of rich experience in transforming sports and entertainment brands into powerhouses of excellence. His leadership, innovation, and strategic acumen have left indelible marks across an array of professional clubs, national and state sporting associations, major stadiums, advocacy organisations, and major events.

Known for his fearless approach to challenges and his relentless commitment to success, Peter has transformed some of Australia's most iconic brands, unlocking significant value and creating lasting impacts. His tenure as CEO, C-Suite Leader, and Board Member has seen organisations such as Perth Glory (2015 -2018), Football Victoria (2018 – 2020) and Football Australia (2020 - ) reach their peak potential.

One of Peter's most notable accomplishments as CEO of Football Victoria is his instrumental role in securing an unprecedented $400M in Government funding for Victorian community grassroots football facilities and infrastructure, including the creation of the $116M "The Home of the Matildas" at La Trobe University, Melbourne – the largest football-specific infrastructure project in Australia’s history.

As Chief Commercial Officer at Swimming Australia (2014 – 2015), Peter's forward-thinking leadership steered the Australian "Dolphins" Swim Team's rebranding and as Head of Sales, Marketing and Communications at Marvel Stadium (2007 – 2014), was the drive behind the innovative $20M connected stadium strategy. He has also successfully negotiated multimillion-dollar commercial and sponsorship arrangements across various roles, reflecting his acumen and the breadth of his professional network.

His influence and expertise extend beyond the sporting field. He has served as a board member at Vicsport, and as an ambassador as a Change Our Game Champion with the Office of Women and Sport & Active Recreation. Additionally, he was invited to join Cisco's prestigious Sports, Media, and Entertainment Global Customer Advisory Board and was selected for the elite FIFA Executive Program in 2022.

Renowned for his passion for innovation, business transformation, customer growth, and operational excellence, Peter consistently delivers ground-breaking results. His reputation for bridging the gap between business, government, and sport, coupled with his extensive industry network, has made him an invaluable asset in the sports and entertainment sector.

Today, as a key member of the executive leadership team at Football Australia, in the role of Head of Marketing, Communications and Corporate Affairs, Peter continues to inspire teams towards achieving sustainable growth. His unwavering commitment to success and passion for making the impossible possible are testaments to his remarkable leadership.

Peter is more than a successful executive; he is a visionary who is reshaping the future of the sports and entertainment industry.

Tom Rischbieth - Head of Commercial and Events

Tom Rischbieth_2023 Headshot

Tom Rischbieth joined Football Australia in March 2020 after spending nearly seven years in London, England, working across sport, music and entertainment with a boutique commercial rights firm, Sports Rights Management (SRM).

As Commercial Director, Tom focused on delivering commercial revenue and growth for SRM’s clients and own projects, working across Europe, North America, Australia and the Middle East.

While in the UK, Tom co-founded The Mullagh Group, a business network of Australians working in the sports industry in the UK and Europe, facilitating growth in Australia’s “off-field” reputation in sport, and working closely with the Australian High Commission to drive sport diplomacy initiatives. Tom was also a member of the Agent General for South Australia’s International Markets Advisory Board.

Prior to working with SRM, Tom was a lawyer at Minter Ellison Lawyers, specialising in Intellectual Property, Information Technology, Competition Law and Real Estate. In addition to his legal background, Tom has a Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in both Marketing and Management. 

Tom has also been a member of the Asian Football Confederation’s Marketing Committee since September 2020.

Jenny Simpson - Chief Technology Officer

Jenny Simpson

Jenny was appointed Chief Technology Officer of Football Australia in October 2021.

Prior to joining Football Australia, Jenny forged an award-winning career in SaaS technology, financial services, management consulting, resources, and industrial with leading firms such as NAB, AMP, Dai-ichi TAL, ORIX, Chevron-owned Caltex, Shell, BHP, Weir Group, AT Kearney, Standard Chartered, Zurich Financial, Cuscal, Sage Group which sponsored 2018 Invictus Games, and Halliburton KBR Kinhill which provided services for Sydney Olympics and Melbourne F1 Grand Prix.

Jenny co-founded ABTY, an international digital art start-up and business technology consultancy. She is passionate about building business success and delivering technology for great experience, value, and growth. Jenny has held leadership roles in digital, technology, innovation, data, strategy, programs, and operations across multiple industries.

Jenny served in directorship roles, in parallel with her corporate career, at leading organisations such as Engineers Australia, NDIS accommodation & services provider The Housing Connection, and University of Technology. She helped nurture industry talent as a Mentor for Women in Banking and Finance, and Ambassador for Sustainable People Solution’s Leadership Alliance Program with member organisations including Australian Army, Infrastructure NSW, Transport NSW, Bechtel, John Holland, AECOM, Clayton Utz, Minter Ellison, Roberts Co, Architectus, and E3 Advisory.  

Jenny inherited her Dad’s love of football and personally understands the games’ ability to transcend culture, languages, and circumstances. Jenny holds a Master of Business Administration from the Australian Graduate School of Management and Bachelor of Engineering from the University of Queensland. She is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and is a member of Fishburners Start-up Founders Hub.

Will Hastie - Head of Member Federation Relations and Community

Will Hastie Profile

Will Hastie was appointed as Football Australia’s Head of Member Federation Relations and Community in January 2022.

Will has fulfilled many roles in Australian football including as an Australian youth representative, professional player, B licensed coach, club technical director, administrator, and volunteer.

In Will’s most recent role he was General Manager of Football at Football Victoria with responsibility for the strategy and operations of the State’s NPL and Community football competitions. This included fixturing 40,000 matches per year, working with the State’s 1200 referees, developing and implementing the State’s Girls and Boys competitions strategy, engagement with the State’s 365 football clubs and full P & L responsibility for the department.

Previously, Will was Manager, Player Services and Community at Professional Footballers Australia (The PFA) leading the organisation’s Player Welfare programs, Marketing and Communications, Commercialisation and Awards and Events programs.

Will has also spent time in Sales and Marketing roles with NAB, Australia Post and Credit Union Australia.

Will’s passion is community football and believes that sport’s magic is in its ability to provide equal opportunities to communities within which to engage.

Will has a Bachelor of Business (Marketing) and sits on the AFC Development Committee.

 Natalie Lutz - Head of Professional Football & Competitions

Natalie Lutz

Natalie was appointed Head of Professional Football and Competitions in February 2023. In her role as Football Australia’s General Manager of Professional Football, Natalie has overseen the development, launch and implementation of the domestic Club Licensing framework for the A-Leagues and the NPL. She has supported executive leadership on a variety of strategic professional football initiatives, such as the implementation of domestic transfer system reforms.

Natalie previously served as Associate Director of Sports Administration/Championships at the Big Ten Conference, which generates over $1 billion USD annually and currently has 14 prominent member institutions. Natalie oversaw the planning and execution for Olympic sports championships, managed the scheduling and broadcast selection process for more than 400 events each year, and collaborated with conference and university leadership on policy and governance decisions. 

At Concacaf, Natalie led the first Women’s Football Day and created the Let’s Develop Women’s Football conference. She also co-designed the Club Licensing system for the confederation and its 41 MAs, developing all supporting documentation and tools, as well as organising the first FIFA/Concacaf Club Licensing Seminar. Natalie has also worked in match operations for the Concacaf Gold Cup, Concacaf Champions League and Concacaf Women’s Football Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

Originally from Charlotte, USA, Natalie has Sport Management/Administration degrees from the University of Florida (UF) and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) and is a FIFA Master graduate.

Nathan Magill - Head of Referees

N Magill Profile

Nathan was appointed to his current role in November 2021, taking responsibility for refereeing across the entire football ecosystem. His remit covers Community Football to the A-Leagues and extends to international Match Officials in FIFA & AFC. As the Head of Referees for Football Australia, Nathan has led initiatives, including developing, launching, and implementing the redesign of the national pathway and performance improvement & management.

In his previous roles, Nathan is an experienced Sports Administrator, having served sporting organisations over the last 13 years at a State and National level in multiple sporting organisations. His work there was multifaceted, involving the management of competitions, the development of high-performance frameworks, and officiating. He was instrumental in managing change management processes and collaborated with leadership on policy and governance decisions.

At Football Australia, Nathan was an integral member of the Football Australia Referees Committee between 2017 till 2021, where he played a crucial role in developing the high-performance model for officiating. Additionally, he represented Football Australia at several FIFA Futuro Referee Technical Instructors courses from 2013 till 2020, contributing to his extensive technical knowledge and experience in Football refereeing.

Hailing from Adelaide, Nathan holds a Graduate Certificate in Business Administration from Torrens University. As the Head of Referees, he leads the strategic initiatives to improve the standards of refereeing and officiating and drive the experience for community match officials across the Australian Football Ecosystem.

Ernie Merrick - Chief Football Officer

Ernie Merrick Profile Photo

Ernie Merrick is an esteemed figure in the world of football, known for his vast experience and expertise in the sport. He currently serves as the Chief Football Officer of Football Australia, a position he assumed in 2022.

Merrick was born on January 15, 1953, in Edinburgh, Scotland, and began his football career as a player for Shettleston Juniors (now known as Glasgow United) semi-professional team in Glasgow. He moved to Australia in 1975 to play for Frankston City.  In 1979 he transferred to Doveton City as a player initially before turning his focus to coaching and quickly established himself as a successful manager.

Merrick signed as Head Coach of Preston in the National Soccer League in 1987 and finished the season second on the league ladder.

Following a short stint as Head Coach of George Cross in the NSL Merrick became the inaugural coach of the Victorian Institute of Sport Football Program.

In 2005, he was appointed as the head coach of Melbourne Victory in the Australian A-League. During his time with the Victory, he led the team to two A-League championships and two Premiership titles, cementing his reputation as one of the best coaches in the league. In addition to his success with the Victory, Merrick has also coached several other teams in Australia and New Zealand, including Wellington Phoenix and Newcastle Jets.

Merrick's achievements and contributions to football have not gone unnoticed. He has been recognised with numerous awards and accolades, including being awarded the Order of Australia Medal [OAM] in 2014 for services to football.

As the Chief Football Officer of Football Australia, Merrick is responsible for overseeing the development and growth of football in the country. His vast experience and knowledge make him a valuable asset to the organisation, and he is committed to helping Australian football reach new heights.