Sport has long played an important social and cultural role in Australia, but when it comes to football, it has been perceived historically to relate to communities which have just ‘arrived’.

So how do you think we can make the people love the game like they do in Italy, Alessandro? Hey don't ask me Zeljko, I just got here!

One of the key legacies of qualification for the World Cup for the first time in 1974 was to be the formation of the National Soccer League (NSL). It was seen as being the key to improved international performance, player development, increased participation at junior levels and capturing the hearts and minds of middle Australia. At the time of its establishment in 1977, it was the first and only national professional football competition in Australia.

The NSL was a really good idea poorly conceived and undercapitalised. Fundamental to its formation was the predominance of ethnically based teams that played into the mainstream negative image of football as a game for volatile foreigners, despite its English ancestry. Corporate Australia in 1977 was not prepared to support a bunch of ‘garlic eaters’, some of whom still harboured ethnic rivalries which played out both on and off the field.

Ironically, these same ethnically based clubs helped produce most of what we call the ‘golden generation’ of players who are nearing retirement today, as well as some great talent before them. But by the time the poor old NSL ground to a halt in 2004, the crowd at its final and deciding match of the season was 9,600.

In terms of sporting culture, the fact that teams were based around migrant communities and the NSL survived on the smell of an oily rag for 27 years, gave the three other football codes time and opportunity to mitigate against the potential gains football may have made from World Cup participation in 1974 by broadening their national footprint.

Despite historically high participation levels, football has always played ‘catch up’ to the three other football codes and cricket in terms of devising and implementing long term growth strategies that are made possible because of lucrative broadcasting deals.

Last year, the AFL announced a five year $1.25 billion deal; last month, rugby league announced a $1.0 billion deal for five years; rugby rights are currently around $90 million a year; and cricket is currently around $45 million a year and set to double under new arrangements. Football which includes the A-League and Socceroos matches other than World Cup matches, is $20 million a year in a deal that expires in June next year, and is currently under negotiation. Although the new deal should reach $60 million pa, it is still short of its rivals and is required to do much more with less.

In recent years, a national domestic league could not have survived without the support of the Australian Government. Approximately $150 million has been granted to Football Federation Australia (FFA) for operating costs in the past eight years, excluding the World Cup Bid, which is a testament to the clout of FFA Chairman, Frank Lowy.

But what the gap between Aussie Rules broadcast deal of $250 million per annum and football’s current level of $20 million per annum underscores is that, despite some hard won gains, the sport continues to struggle. Football is not central to Australia’s sporting culture.

There are four governance related issues which have a direct impact on the cultural perception of football.

1. The failure to set up a separate entity for the A-League - a key recommendation from the Crawford Report in 2003 that has not happened. A-League clubs lose between $25-$40 million a year and do not have a say on how the competition is run.
2. Lack of accountability surrounding the implementation of the 2018/22 World Cup bid.
3. ‘Closed shop’ FFA Board - and with no obvious successor to 82 year old Frank Lowy.
4. Serial allegations of corruption and mismanagement concerning FIFA - which add to the perception that football is something foreign and corruption prone. The game will never achieve its full potential domestically while there’s a constant narrative of corruption at the international level.

Right now, despite the setbacks, Australia may well be in the strongest position possible in light of the state football has been in since it was humiliated at the World Cup vote in 2010.

The future financial viability of the sport depends on this next broadcast deal which is to be finalised imminently. With David Gallop starting as the new CEO next month, and the outgoing CEO Ben Buckley continuing to lead negotiations, the sport has two knowledgeable and experienced people playing a part and having a vested interest in the outcome of the broadcast deal. For Gallop, his capacity to shape the future will depend on the outcome; and for Buckley, his own reputation, and the way he is remembered, largely hinges on the outcome.

It may well be Lowy’s smartest move: tying up talent and knowledge from two entrenched and commercially successful competitors as vested advisors.

However, regardless of the outcome, the broadcast rights deal will not be the ‘quick fix’. It will not catapult football into the hearts and minds of the sporting mainstream.

But it will be a critical factor in helping build the culture of football, develop an informed understanding of the game, and shape Australia’s sporting future several generations.

Similarly, although players of the calibre of Alessandro Del Piero and Emil Heskey are a very welcome fillip to the A-League and will be of enormous benefit to their clubs and to the finalisation of the broadcast rights deal, recruiting high profile and highly credentialed players is not a long term ‘silver bullet’ that will fundamentally shift cultural perceptions.

Football does not want to displace other sports, but we do not want it to be forever a struggle.

So to answer the question I posed at the beginning – Can football ever ‘belong’? – I say ‘yes’; and in the medium term, football should aspire to be the number two sport in every part of Australia.

Importantly, football must be at ‘home’ in 21st century Australia, and recognised as a football nation in the rest of the world. Or, as former Socceroo and national coach, Frank Farina, said in his book written 14 years ago: “I dream for, and work for, the day when all of Australia sees it that way too.”

This is an edited extract of a paper prepared for the European Association of Sports Management meeting in Denmark this week.

Comments on this post close at 8pm AEST

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    • S.L says:

      06:24am | 20/09/12

      The problem Association football has in this country is players with great talent have to go overseas to compete in top flight competitions where with Australian Rules and League the top competitions are right here!
      The Asian champions league is a big plus for our local clubs with Adelaide United uncannily having a great record in that arena!
      I like the A league and enjoy the atmosphere of a Mariners game at Bluetongue but when you see young players like Mat Ryan and Bernie Abini coming through the ranks you know they will be in Europe before long where in the other codes it’s just the clubs fighting amongst themselves for signatures!
      As for guys like Del Piero and Emile Heskey coming out here for a quick buck before they retire? There’s more trophies they can now gun for on an international level in this part of the world….............

    • Jets says:

      06:26am | 20/09/12

      But we’ve got Heskey now so it’s all OK

    • fml says:

      08:23am | 20/09/12

      I remember the great Rivaldo responding once to who would make his ideal first 11. He replied with 11 Emile Heskeys. This was of course after 26 pints of lager.

    • Bill says:

      06:28am | 20/09/12

      When a 90 minute game of soccer can produce a score line other than 0-0, I’ll start to take interest.

      The day that soccer players stop taking dives and pretending to be injured when video replays clearly prove that they are lying, then I’ll start to show some interest.

      Until then, there is only one football code worth following - the national code.

    • fml says:

      08:24am | 20/09/12

      On behalf of football fans everywhere, every single one of the billions of us. Please do not take an interest.


      1 of Billions.

    • S.L says:

      08:30am | 20/09/12

      There lots of divers in the other codes too Bill.
      As for a nil all draw being boring? I’d rather watch that than 5 days of test cricket for a no result!
      Great to see you finally accept league as THE national code in this country!

    • Angus McGee says:

      08:46am | 20/09/12

      Soccer is closer to being a national code than either the NRL or AFL. Victorian football is small in QLD and NSW (eg. Lions are behind the Broncos and Reds for attendence), and RL is small outside of those two states.

    • jess says:

      09:36am | 20/09/12

      NRL is only big on the eastern seaboard but it also extends to a few islands east. AFL is big pretty much 4 hours in from the east coast anywhere west of wagga wagga it’s AFL. NT and Tas are also AFL places. NRL isn’t trying to develop outside of it’s heartlands while AFL is western Sydney and hold coast.

    • Tim says:

      09:53am | 20/09/12

      Yawn. Next argument…

    • Greg says:

      09:55am | 20/09/12


      if you are talking attendance then soccer is by far the smallest code just because they have a team in most states doesn’t really mean much.

      And all this is before you take into account that many of the teams are hemorrhaging money.  Soccer in this country recently has been propped up by the world cup, after the failure of our world cup bid just wait until the soccerroos fail to qualify for the next finals.

    • Dino says:

      10:23am | 20/09/12

      I echo fml’s comments above, bye bye Bill.

    • Bear says:

      11:58am | 20/09/12

      @angus, yea it’s more national but it’s small in EVERY state. I’d rather have some territory than none. Hoever, don’t see why you can’t have more than one code.

    • James says:

      12:34pm | 20/09/12

      I don’t know how anyone could conclude the AFL is less national than soccer when the AFL easily smashes soccer attendances and TV ratings in NSW and QLD. The AFL is so far ahead of the A-League all across the country, it’s not even a contest and it’s never likely to be one either. Soccer has a lot of players in NSW but is relatively thin everywhere else. The AFL is growing massively in NSW and QLD too, both those states now have more players than WA and SA. There’s no sport, not even cricket, with a stronger claim to be the national game than the AFL.

      As for there being “billions” of soccer fans, maybe, but they don’t live here do they?

    • Admiral Ackbar says:

      12:36pm | 20/09/12

      “Until then, there is only one football code worth following - the national code.”

      Oh you mean that clusterfuck of a sport with little to no strategy or skill that only one country in the world plays and where the rules are made up as they go every week. Yeah I’m sure that will catch on. Cough.

    • Admiral Ackbar says:

      01:59pm | 20/09/12

      Looks like my response to Bill didn’t get through on account of using too many swears to describe Aussie Rules. I’ll make it PG and summarise: easily the worst sport in the world.

    • HappyG says:

      02:29pm | 20/09/12

      Hey Bill when’s the next AFL international ? Can I still get tickets?

    • Admiral Ackbar says:

      03:02pm | 20/09/12

      Oh sweet, now I look sweary and crazy.

      My comments are still valid.

    • marley says:

      04:28pm | 20/09/12

      @Admiral Ackbar:  “easily the worst sport in the world. ”  I beg to differ.  You have obviously never seen a kabaddi match.  I have.

    • Ripa says:

      07:33am | 20/09/12

      How can you expect a new generation of “golden” football players to come through when the only place they can watch it is on pay tv, nevermind the fact the taxpayer is footing the bill!, its ridiculous.

    • Jay says:

      07:35am | 20/09/12

      I do not agree that Governments should support football codes to the effect that A league has been supported. The clubs are privately owned funded by individuals or consortiums. They identify quality youth and then seek to transfer them overseas for a huge transfer which will then allow the clubs to pay their bills.We have some very talented juniors and the argument that they should play here instead of heading overeseas is debatable.Already we are witnessing that the socceroos are struggling due to a lack of quality to replace our aging stars. This continual infatuation with signing players that are past their best should be discouraged. Harry Kewell for all the money he was paid failed to deliver and Melbourne had their worst season in many years. The AFL and Rugby codes stand on their own and so should soccer. The obscene fees that junior soccer clubs charge parents is a huge disincentive to develop the game and the fact that most of this money is given to the FFA to support their poor management model.  When wil the FA Cup style playoffs commence to generate much neededinterest in the game and also revenue?

    • S.L says:

      08:38am | 20/09/12

      As a soccer fan I agree with you Jay. Our national captain Lucas Neil doesn’t even have a club! Neither does Harry Kewel. Mark Schwartzer is nearly 40 and Tim Cahill is now in the soccer wilderness of the MLS in the USA. We need more young players trying their luck in Europe in my opinion for the Socceroos to make a further impressionS.L the world stage…..............

    • jess says:

      09:28am | 20/09/12

      You realise most of the registration fees paid in amateur sport go to insurance and ground hire. Very little would make it to the ffa. Soccer has the highest junior participation in the country. Both boys and girls play and it’s a non-contact sport. The skill set in soccer is fundamental to developing physical skills (the first ball a child gets is round).

    • Pete #205 says:

      11:56am | 20/09/12

      $12 of your rego fee goes to the FFA.  Ask your state federation or club where the rest is spent.

    • thatmosis says:

      08:01am | 20/09/12

      I wonder if the new $4m player completed his course in diving like the other Italian Players. This game will never reach the heights in Australia because most Australians can suss out actors and cheats from a mile away and the ease at which these clowns can change a game. Its not about the game anymore but on who can put in the best performance to get a penalty. I’m sure they have a special award night for these clowns.

    • Hypo-critter says:

      08:37am | 20/09/12

      “Australians can suss out actors and cheats from a mile away.”

      If they can, they pretend not to which is why the AFL is organised in a manner designed for industrial level cheating. Ever heard of tanking?

      The rewards for being rubbish are very high in Australia and let’s not even get into the bizarre relationship between the AFL and the gambling industry. A relationship so strange that similar ties would be illegal in most of the developed world.

      You do have a special night for these clowns. It’s called the Brownlow.

    • James says:

      12:39pm | 20/09/12

      Who are the biggest critics of the failings of the AFL? AFL fans! Meanwhile, corruption, cheating, racism and diving is endemic in soccer and all soccer fans seem to do is make excuses.

    • Admiral Ackbar says:

      03:05pm | 20/09/12

      I’m with Hypo-critter. The bending of the rules and the shaping of so called tactics in AFL to manipulate those rules is astounding. Real Football is far more honest, and people would know this if they watched more than a few games every time the world cup is on.

    • Greg says:

      08:51am | 20/09/12

      “Football does not want to displace other sports, but we do not want it to be forever a struggle. “

      For starters that is a flat out lie, you talk to most soccer supporters especially the guys in the media and they will all tell you about how they want soccer to be the only type of football played in Australia.

      Soccer will never be able to compete until they man up and stop hiding in the summer to avoid the other footballs their season should run alongside the Asian champions league in order to give our teams a better chance, Adelaide played an ACL qtr final yesterday in the middle of our off season that’s just madness.

      Lastly the government should never support sporting leagues in order to keep them running things like stadiums yes because they provide tangible benefits but for basic running costs if a league can not support itself then it should be left to die. 

      At the end of the day we don’t need soccer in Australia no one would be any worse if it died and we never saw it again, so if the FFA can not support themselves maybe that’s the way the A League should go

    • Al B says:

      10:04am | 20/09/12

      Lol as if rugby league and aussie rules are going anywhere. I think those football fans and media are probably trying to get a rise out of you mate. That being said we’d be doing u all a favour if there was a mass conversion to world football. Not going to happen any time soon.

      I agree we should stop hiding and play full seasons. AFC schedules though are Asia wide so we cant control that.

    • Greg says:

      10:38am | 20/09/12

      We can control when our season is though our season should run parallel to the ACL, but it doesn’t because the FFA hide away because they are scared of football and league.

    • Michael S says:

      11:08am | 20/09/12

      Playing the A-League during the off-season for the other codes isn’t “hiding away”. It brings us in line with European seasons.
      Also during the winter months, access to stadiums would be an issue because other codes are using them; playing the A-League when it does minimises ground clashes. And it enables people who follow other codes to follow the A-League as well.
      I’m an AFL man first, but playing the A-League during summer means I can go to Sydney FC as well. If the A-League was played during winter, it would clash with GWS Giants games too often.

    • Greg says:

      11:28am | 20/09/12

      The European seasons have all well and truly started where is the A league?

      Last I checked we also moved into the Asian conference in order to make World Cup qualifying easier so common sense would say we would mirror our season to theirs.

      If soccer ever wants to be taken seriously they will stop being scared of AFL and league, there is plenty of room to play 3 sports at once since only league and soccer clash over grounds.
      Even in Melbourne if the heart, victory and storm were all at home they could play Fri/sat/sun at Aami park quite easily.

    • Al B says:

      12:17pm | 20/09/12

      There are a bunch of major downsides to shorter seasons. For starters our players are out of league season for half the year. This hurts their national team prospects in the future, plus makes them more likely to seek moves overseas too early as they want more games. Also means they are lesser footballers for playing less league football.

      The other is commercial. With a long layoff, every season clubs have to work much harder to reestablish membership levels, corporate support and the like. If they could keep pumping out the football (their product) for more of the year there is much less underutilised capacity sitting there twiddling thumbs for five months (pre seasons dont count haha).

      On timing i dont mind whether we are in line with AFC champions league or europe. There are pros and cons to both. Leagues in the AFC in general start and finish at different times.

    • NGS says:

      09:04am | 20/09/12

      Soccer, Bonita, soccer, football is a different game out here, and you won’t get any traction until you stop calling a spade a shovel. We are different here and what FIFA calls the game is irrelevant. Anyway the World Game, like the weather is usually boring and only occasionally gives a slight thrill

    • Andrew says:

      10:02am | 20/09/12

      And allows people who profess to find the game well and truly boring to waste their time arguing about what the game should be called and tell us how boring it is.

    • Ando says:

      10:52am | 20/09/12

      Rubbish, Football covers all codes including NFL . End of story. You however can call it what you want.

    • alex says:

      10:52am | 20/09/12

      Hear hear. Soccer is followed by a tiny proportion of people. A massive majority of Australians refer to it as such and other sports as football depending on context. The attempt by soccer to piggyback on mindshare built by other codes is extremely offensive, and why I now enjoy watching the sport fail in everyway. I had no problem with soccer until they rebranded and even encouraged my girls to take up the game some years ago.

      Further, this bully boy ‘world game’ argument from soccer zealots that we need to walk lockstep with their view of the rest of the world is untenable. This idea the whole world calls soccer football is false. Most of the world refers to soccer with a vast range of pronunciations and spellings. In fact, the majority of the English speaking world aren’t talking about soccer when they use the word ‘football’, they’re either talking about American football, Canadian football, Gaelic football, Australian football or one of the Rugby codes.

      People may dismiss this as an absurd squabble over a simple name, so why bother complaining? Why be a stick in the mud? These people underestimate the power of language. Make no mistake, the rebranding of soccer as football is deliberately aimed at undermining the other codes, not promoting itself fairly as an alternative. There are two objectives, one is to get people to stop and check themselves whenever they think ‘football’, to force people to think of soccer. This in itself is an incredibly powerful influence. The second objective is to marginalize the history of other football codes and destroy their social legacy, for if our terminology changes a link with the past is subtly broken. We care about our football clubs because of their history, and soccer is actively trying to break this for future generations.

    • iansand says:

      10:55am | 20/09/12

      If I say “football” in Easts Leagues Club people know I am talking about rugby league.
      If I say “football” in Eastwood Rugby Club people know I am talking about rugby union.
      If If I say “football” in the Marconi Club people know I am talking about soccer.
      If I say “football” in the Collingwood Remedial Dentistry Clinic people know I am talking about aussie rules.

      Football is a generic word that depends on context to give it meaning.  The petty obsession with the one true football is just silly.

    • neo says:

      12:59pm | 20/09/12

      Soccer is called football by the vast majority of the world. Try leaving the country. Football is the only football, the rest is rugby and what not.

    • marley says:

      02:41pm | 20/09/12

      @neo - don’t say that to an American.  Soccer is definitely not “football” over there.

    • neo says:

      03:42pm | 20/09/12

      Yeah, but their version of football is only played in their country, so who cares about what they call it smile

    • TheRealDave says:

      04:30pm | 20/09/12

      ummm…on Saturday I’ll be strapping on my shoulderpads, helmet etc as I run out to play gridiron in Brisbane in Round 7 of the 28th year of Gridiron being played in Brisbane. Its been played just about as long in NSW and Victoria…not sure about the other states to be honest but SA and WA also play. Australia also competes regularly overseas in World championships the most recent one in Austria last year. Gridiron is played in a large number of European countries, Japan, South Korea, Mexico etc

      So its playe din more places around the world than say….AFL….  wink

    • Ros says:

      09:41am | 20/09/12

      Good points. Where can we get full speech?

    • Mahhrat says:

      09:42am | 20/09/12

      Shit this is a great article, well written and very right.

    • Dave says:

      09:46am | 20/09/12

      The Asian champions league is just another monetary drain on A-league clubs.

    • SLF says:

      09:52am | 20/09/12

      Always like these discussions. As a fan of all codes, it always amazes me how upset people get about others liking soccer. The fact that people can’t grasp about soccer, is that it is fundamentally much, much, much harder than the other codes.

      You have to use your feet. The goal is small, not a scoring area spanning the width of the pitch, nor with an extra set of goals so that if you miss you get a point anyway. There are not scoring mechanisms that afford you a free shot at an unguarded goal from 50m away for a minor infringement. The possession is not controlled so teams don’t get to have turns. And there is only one scoring method.

      I appreciate that this makes the sport too hard for many Australians to watch and contemplate. It also results in close games, but here’s some stats for the ‘it always ends 0:0 merchants…

      From Across the major European leagues since 2002, 12% of Ligue 1 matches have ended without a goal. This number was 3.6% greater than the league in second place, the Italian Serie A with 8.4% of its matches ending without a score, just ahead of the English Premier League with 8.3%.

      We see the Spanish Primera in the middle of the pack with 7.3% of matches ending without a goal, with the Scottish Premier League and German Bundesliga behind with 6.7% and 6.6% respectively, while the high-scoring Dutch Eredivisie holds down the final place on our list with 6% of its matches ending nil-all since 2002.

    • Greg says:

      10:43am | 20/09/12

      I especially like how you claim to be a fan on all codes to essentially go on to rubbish AFL NRL & call Australian’s too stupid to understand soccer.

      There are far more soccer fanatics who rant and rave about how soccer should replace all other sports

    • John Wilson says:

      11:02am | 20/09/12

      Greg, in what way did SLF rubbish the other codes? SLF said that soccer was a fundamentally harder sport to play is all.

      Do you disagree with that and if so why?

    • Arnold Layne says:

      11:02am | 20/09/12

      You’re right in that it was the weak point of his argument Greg and it came across as patronising.  It’s just a shame that your spelling and grammar did nothing to weaken his argument.

    • SLF says:

      11:26am | 20/09/12

      Greg, where I have rubbished the other codes?

      They are fantastic sports. I’m lucky enough to have a membership for Reds, Broncos and Roar so get to go to three major codes and enjoy each equally. But fundamentally it is easier to score in all NRL, AFL an Union because of the number of ways to score, the size of the scoring areas and the controlled nature of elements of the play.

      However the point still stands that many Australian’s do not like soccer because they cannot understand that a game without goals can be exciting, even though it a 0:0 result does not happen very often. To me to deny that something can be exciting because of something that happens extremely rarely is…stupid.

    • Eric says:

      11:59am | 20/09/12

      Ridiculous. It’s your subjective opinion that soccer is “fundamentally harder”. I could reel off a dozen other sports that are “fundamentally harder” if you want to cherry pick attributes.

      Just as well soccer is “too hard for many Australians to watch”. I guess that puts an upper limit on prospects for the sport then. Too bad.

    • Admiral Ackbar says:

      03:17pm | 20/09/12

      Quite right Eric, just as our own dumbed down version of a ball sport (Aussie Rules) is easily accessible in comparison to real Football, as the rules are either non existent or they just make them up on the day. Following the play of the ball is easy enough because there are no silly tactics as such and no actual skills to speak of to get in the way of a bunch of guys simply kicking the ball in the general direction of where they think there team mates might be. Fun for everyone!

      Let’s face it, people like Aussie Rules here because we made the stupid shit up, and it’s liked by so many because it’s relatively easy in comparison to real sports invented by men.

    • Michael S says:

      10:29am | 20/09/12

      Most of the comments that have come up so far are anti-soccer/football.

      In the heady days of 2005/06, soccer/football haters were an endangered species - we all remember the thrills of the penalty shootout against Uruguay, the World Cup campaign in Germany, big crowds when the A-League started, the game growing in a massive way. The goodwill towards the world game was enormous.

      It all went wrong with the ridiculous idea of bidding for the 2022 World Cup. That was a seriously flawed bid. It burned bridges with other codes, squandered the public goodwill towards the game, used up all their favours with everyone - and all that for a bid that Blind Freddie could see was unwinnable.
      But more importantly, the FFA’s attentions were distracted away from making the A-League sustainable. Crowds fell, clubs were bleeding money. North Queensland Fury went under, and had it not been for Nathan Tinkler’s interventions Newcastle Jets would have been wound up as well.
      No-one from the FFA has ever admitted that it was a mistake to bid. They should.

      It’s been a slow grind to rebuild the game from that. Except for GCU, most of the indicators started trending in the right way; but are still well short of where they were in 2008.
      Hopefully Del Piero and Heskey’s signings are a wow factor that can win the Eurosnobs over. Time will tell.

    • Ken Oath says:

      10:29am | 20/09/12

      Free to air TV coverage is what’s missing. The A-league is of reasonable standard and has been improving each season. If the general public can see games in good time slot, the necessary inroads will be made overtime.

      We also need a coordinated youth development program with a long term focus, similar to Japan.

    • Pete #205 says:

      11:59am | 20/09/12

      Next TV deal will contain one live FTA game a week, likely on a Saturday night, likely on SBS.  Also heard there’s a highlights package in that deal as well.

    • Daryl Adair says:

      10:44am | 20/09/12

      Before responding to Bonita, can I say that the “code war” comments here are ridiculous and belong in sideshow alley. That applies to anyone trumpeting their particular kind of football is inherently superior to another. This is a multi-sport society - indeed Australia is the ONLY country with four professional football codes. A bit of respect for each other please. There is much to love across all sports.

      Bonita is one of the few expert commentators who has the courage to constructively critique football’s economic problems. In addition to the worrying report that A-Leagues are losing anywhere from $25-40 per year (not sure if that is collectively or individually, I hope the former!), she vividly demonstrates that the Australian Govt has been a fantastic supporter of the game, though FFA’s reliance must end. She noted: “Approximately $150 million has been granted to Football Federation Australia (FFA) for operating costs in the past eight years, excluding the World Cup Bid,” This is an astonishing amount of money to keep a sport organisation afloat. The AFL, NRL and ARU are all self-funded in an operational sense; FFA MUST be too. It can’t keep coming back to the govt cap in hand seeking taxpayers’ money.

      Signing up Del Piero and Heskey is very exciting for the game, and for TV audiences (the new media deal is imminent), but that must translate into more income for the A-League Clubs and FFA. Otherwise, like a pack of cards, the financial pile could come crashing down. Sustainability, underpinned by a sensible financial model and transparent governance are urgently needed.

    • Al B says:

      12:23pm | 20/09/12

      The AFL and NRL etc are only self funding across the whole league. The FFA should avoid this and make each Club self funding individually. Of course this means getting rid of salary caps and CBAs that attempt to contrive equality and minimum floors.

      A benefit of making clubs self funding individually is they are free to spend as they are able and see fit. Want to be an ambitious super club with Asia hopes? Go for it. Want to have a small to medium town club and win promotion via a second division? All possible if they remove the equalisation assumption that is so prevalent in australian sport.

      The restriction they perhaps need is not being able to raise debt against the club, or maybe as an interim measure cap wage spending as a % of turnover.

    • Andrew says:

      10:52am | 20/09/12

      Bernita, why doesn’t the FFA take an interest in what is happening in Newcastle. Newcastle is often used as a testing ground for new products. It has proportionately less “new Australians” than the capital cities and yet has a strong devotion to football. We now have a fairly harmonious relationship with the Rugby League club here thanks to joint ownership and joint tenancy. The Jets had over 10,000 members last year and is well supported by the local media. A large proportion of the population take an interest in news about the club. The living legends of the game produced in Newcastle are well known and well regarded. There is a group of businessmen called “the Rangers of 1884” who support the game. It seems that people from Sydney and Melbourne wring their hands about how to make the game more mainstream but ignore a model working directly under their noses. In Newcastle, there never was a rupture between old football and new football. It has been one continuous journey from 1884 until now and we are all united in seeing a Newcastle team be as successful as possible. The ruptures in the game were more damaging in Sydney.

      A new tv rights deal will give the game the stability for the real work to be done and that is to really work out how to heal the wounds so that all can go forward together. Not just between “Old Soccer” (ie. ethnic clubs) and “New Football” but with the entire history of the game. BTW I think Del Piero can be a major agent in this process if he is serious about awakening this latent passion. Being a statesman, he can help us to see how we can be proud of our history, all the way back to the 1880’s, if he has people pointing it out to him. Western Sydney Wanderers, by choosing a name that harkens back to the first game of football in Sydney can also serve this purpose. The seeds are there but people need to be serious about delving into the roots of our game with the purpose of uniting us to our forefathers.

    • Average Joe says:

      11:15am | 20/09/12

      It’s too expensive. To buy 3 tickets to a Victory v Heart hom/away game at Etihad, with seating other than behind the goalposts, costs $156. Compare that to the NRL Preliminary Final tomorrow at AAMI Park between Storm and Manly at $105. When you add in tolls. parking and some food & drink it becomes hard to justify versus sitting in the comfort of your lounge room and watching it on Fox. No wonder crowd numbers are dwindling despite the last two seasons being absorbing.

    • Pete #205 says:

      12:33pm | 20/09/12

      First, your $105 for 3 Manly v Storm tickets are for General Admission, which are located behind the goalposts.  Tickets on the sides are $60ea. 

      Second, General Admission for Heart games at AAMI are $25.  General Admission areas for both the A League and NRL are the same.  Premium B reserve is $40.  These are tickets at the side, but further back.

      Third, tickets for Melbourne Victory games at AAMI are $25ea for C reserve, ie not behind the goal posts.  Victory only play a handful of games at Etihad.

      Fourth, 2011-2012 A league crowd average was up on the previous two seasons and now with Gold Coast out, the outlier has been removed.

    • Bill says:

      11:49am | 20/09/12

      Let’s be honest. As far as support for the football codes there is:

      First - Aussie Rules
      Second - Nothing
      Third - Soccer
      Last - Rugby.

      Until any of the lesser codes regularly fill the G week in, week out, then you can all argue among yourselves about which code comes last.

    • Andrew says:

      12:23pm | 20/09/12

      Hi Bonnie,

      I think one issue with the A League is that its busienss mdoel is unsustainable and has been from the start. Clubs licences and budgets were worked out on an assumption that crowd levels will be quite a large number for the code. Apparently the A League was going to start having average crowds higher than a lot of European leagues. One or two clubs might do this but not all and not all the time. Victory aside probably.

      As a result of this teams are using stadia that is far too large for what they need and far too expensive. This there for leads to high ticket prices which is counter productive as this makes it less affordable for people to go to the games dimininishing corwds even further and there for increasing the costs that the clubs have to absorb for themselves.

      The fact that many A League fans look to the increased crowd levels against the NSL is a flawed arguement as outside of Victoria (who have done agreat job), they are about the same from what i can see. Sydney FCs average would be about the same as the Sydney NSL teams if you added them together so yes, on a single team basis it may be higher but overall the amount of people attending the code in Sydney is about the same. Luckily for Western Sydney (unlucky for the code in general) there are many Sydney United fans who are willing to back them or else all their fans would have been mainly cannibalised from Sydney FC.

      Agree with the corporate Governance issues. I think there have been some major blunders in the past year, especially the WC bid but also the fact that it took them so long to get a youth league going (that was one thing the NSL did very well, the A League and FFA could do much worse than to look at the youth setup used by Marconi and Sydney United in those days).

      Bringing in some past it but high profile players is not going to fix its problems and another problem is that the fans need to stop this whole “our game is better than yours, we will be australias number one code and everything the FFA does is great type of thing as it is simply untrue and we won’t be the number one code. Just accept it and try to get the FFA performing a lot better and making better decisions to at least make it number 3.

    • neo says:

      12:53pm | 20/09/12

      Spend less money on bogan sports like NRL and more on exciting sports like football. Easy.

    • KH says:

      01:05pm | 20/09/12

      Looking at the history of football (as it is indeed called everywhere in the world, unless you can produce a ‘soccer federation’ in any country that I haven’t heard of), it is worth noting that the countries that don’t have football as the national sport, are those that were colonised or ruled by Britain - i.e. Canada, USA, New Zealand, Australia and India, thanks to the long British rule there.  Canada went with ice hockey - their climate would have played a large part in that, given the limited time you could indulge in outdoor sports each year.  The USA invented ‘grid iron’, and here so called ‘australian rules’ (despite not being played much outside of Victoria for the greater part of its history, but I digress) was invented.  New Zealand went with rugby, like NSW and QLD.  India is a strange case - maybe that is a climate thing too - football isn’t a summer sport, after all.

      My hypothesis, is that this has more to do with our ‘british colony’ origins than anything else - the outright rejection of football as played everywhere else in the world outside of former british colonies is a statement about individuality, identity, and a desire to separate ourselves from Britain, which gave birth to new codes that were unique and all our own. 

      Other codes have been institutionalised into the culture - in the USA, your whole high school life is punctuated by highlights related to american football games (‘homecoming dance’ is about a football game!).  The chances of displacing these codes is almost nil - you would literally have to erase the history and cultural references across a whole generation in one go to do it.  It isn’t possible - football/soccer will always be the poor cousin in this country.  The only reason its here at all is because of immigration and the social clubs that formed the early NSL, in much the same way as it has a presence in the US largely because of the central/south american population, and the sheer size of their population in general - the fact it is huge with female players there all but guarantees its secondary status. 

      I love football (Melbourne Victory, Arsenal…....) but I also know that if I want the true experience of games I will have to see them overseas (and believe me, it is awesome - my favourite was in Italy).  The FFA are fighting a losing battle - and it has nothing to do with the sport itself, and everything to do with the way other codes have become a part of the fabric of our culture.  No amount of money will change that.  Even some ‘established’ clubs in NRL/AFL are struggling - professionalism is expensive - and if they have the inside track when it comes to the publics hearts, what hope is there realistically for a third code to edge in?  I know Australia will never win any football trophies around the world - its great if we get into a world cup every now and then, but I think that is the best we can hope for.

    • Saints 98 Demons 42 says:

      01:57pm | 20/09/12

      To fix Australia Soccer Football is simple.
      abolish rugby league NRL and Australian Rules AFL now.
      Ban AFL and NRL from television, newspapers, radio, and the internet.

      Only then, would Soccer Football get Your comment:

    • JamesH says:

      03:26pm | 20/09/12

      Gee, I’ve never understood why the Mexicans are so harsh on the games we play up here.  There’s room in Australia for all forms of football.  We need better FTA TV exposure for all of them in all markets and also truly national comps.  As in, Super Rugby needs to look at Adelaide and possibly North Queensland or Darwin, NRL needs to look to Perth, Adelaide, Sunshine Coast, NSW Country, Darwin and a second Brisbane team, AFL needs to look to Tasmania, North Queensland, northern WA, the ACT and country Victoria.  Soccer needs to look at Tasmania, Canberra, Wollongong the Coffs Harbour area in NSW, Sunshine Coast and re-establishing North Queensland.  Having FEWER sides in Sydney and Melbourne and spreading games around will do a lot to promote all codes to a wider audience.

    • Greg says:

      04:01pm | 20/09/12

      It works both ways, have a look at some of the websites like leagueunlimited the way Victorians talk about league is mild compared to the neanderthals on there.

      Australians want to see top quality sporting events which is what they get from AFL and NRL and is why Champions league games on at 4am out rate the A-league.

      People don’t need to be hating on other sports, it doesn’t affect you at all if someone else likes different things to you.


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