Football could be missing out on Australia's best new talent because of the massive cost of registration fees, an FFA executive has admitted.
Parents are often shelling out thousands of dollars each year to let their kids play football and Football Federation Australia are now concerned about the long-term impact it will have on the sport.
A small slice of those fees goes to the FFA and the majority of the fee is kept by the club to cover their coaching and facilities expenses, as well as kits.
But while some other sports see the governing body subsidise registration fees to keep costs low in a top-down subsidy, some clubs are said to be using the junior fees to help pay for their senior teams.
And today FFA's head of youth development says the cost is likely to be a block on football tapping into the nation's top young talents.
"We've got challenges around the cost of football," she admitted to the FTBL podcast.
"I come from England, I come from a working class family. If I was in Australia right now, I probably wouldn't reach the level I reached in England because my parents wouldn't be able to afford it.
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"Our numbers are growing and that's fantastic, that's a really good, healthy sign. But are we getting the best athletes? I'm not so sure we are, especially on the boys' side."
She believes football has benefited from the lack of other options available to girls when young talent like Caitlin Foord and Sam Kerr were developing which helped keep them in football.
Now though AFL and cricket among others are offering pathways into the sport for women, and boys have countless sports options to choose from, often at much lower cost to parents.
Highwood warns: "That's going to be more challenging in the women's space for us going forward.
"If cost is a barrier as well, then perhaps we're possibly not always getting the best athletes. That's a really big issue the whole game has to tackle.
"The solution today is not going to be easy, but we need to start chipping away at it."
She sees the first steps being more transparency on what clubs are charging in fees and why, and then seeing if the FFA can help bring those fees down, but admits they are limited by what HQ can afford to do.