A-League must make most out of Del Piero
Now is the time for the A-League to be bold. The signing of Alessandro Del Piero has made front and back-page headlines and ensures the upcoming campaign will be the most talked about yet.
That the phones have been running hot and memberships flying out the door says Sydney FC are already onto a winner signing one of European football’s greatest ever players.
It’s all well and good to point out that football is a team sport, that the addition of Western Sydney Wanderers is a good thing or that there are already plenty of talented young Australians in the A-League to celebrate.
But with all due respect, none of those have the potential to fill 40,000 seats at the Sydney Football Stadium and generate the commensurate corporate, media and supporter interest Del Piero’s signing has already kick-started.
A-League clubs can’t rely on generous benefactors or television revenue to stay in business forever and if the signing of a Del Piero brings football closer in line with the other three codes in this country, so much the better.
We often hear talk of A-League clubs needing ‘football people’ at the helm.
Well, Sydney FC chief executive Tony Pignata is clearly a football person and look what his vision and knowledge of the European landscape has done for the Sky Blues.
The task now for Pignata and his staff – more than worrying about the football side of things, for now at least – is to ensure Del Piero’s signing is marketed to the maximum effect.
When Dwight Yorke made his debut for Sydney FC the throng of fans trying to get inside the ground was so great the Sydney Football Stadium Trust had to throw open the gates to let as many in as possible.
Supporters love being present to witness an historic occasion, so Sydney FC should come out now and state they want the first home game of the season against Newcastle Jets on October 13 to be a sell-out.
The derby away at the Wanderers the following week will be a sell-out anyway, and fear of missing out on the hottest ticket in town is a powerful purchasing incentive.
It’s not enough to simply rely on Sydney’s sizeable Italian community to turn out in droves.
One of the most skilful players of his generation must be marketed to football aficionados throughout Australia who once convinced themselves the A-League was the wrong place to see such talent.
And the club would do well to remind fans that not only is Del Piero in action, so too is a veteran Socceroo and former English Premier League star in the form of Brett Emerton.
Playing an exciting brand of football – something coach Ian Crook has vowed to do – is also key to trying to keep those who turn up due to the ‘Del Piero effect’ coming through the gate.
Ultimately the goal is to try and convert as many newcomers as possible from Del Piero fans into A-League fans.
Because any talk of the A-League doing just fine without them is nonsense.
No self-respecting football fan wants to see their team play out of two-thirds empty stadia, just like television executives aren’t happy broadcasting to audiences which barely cover the bills.
And the fact is A-League clubs can’t survive indefinitely without ever generating some revenue.
Del Piero’s signing will energise the A-League like no other – not just for Sydney FC but for the other nine clubs as well – and already the torrent of media coverage he’s received suggests the Sky Blues have pulled off a major coup.
If he can stay fit, the man himself will create and score enough goals to prove his worth on the pitch.
What the A-League must do now is shout from the rooftops that one of Europe’s most humble, most talented and most recognisable stars has willingly chosen to call Sydney home.
Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he has settled in Brisbane and has been a Roar columnist since December 2008. Follow Mike on twitter @Mike_Tuckerman
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