FFA should re-think its marketing of the Socceroos

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

By , Mike Tuckerman is a Roar Expert

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    There are now two distinct types of football fan in Australia, and Football Federation Australia is busy marketing games almost exclusively to the smaller camp.

    It hasn’t been a great few months to be a sports administrator in Australia.

    From the strike action threatened by Australia’s cricketers, to a pay dispute in the NRL, and the botched culling of a Super Rugby team, the executives who run sport in Australia could be forgiven for feeling like they’re under siege.

    But at some point, fans who pay good money to watch these sports need to ask one simple question: what exactly are these administrators being paid to do?

    Because if the answer is to improve the fortunes of their respective sports, it seems that many of our administrators are going about it backwards.

    Take the Socceroos. After fewer than 30,000 fans turned up at the Adelaide Oval to watch one of our most important World Cup qualifiers in years, an equally disappointing crowd will descend upon the MCG for the friendly against Brazil tomorrow.

    Why? Because the FFA has never bothered to play to its strengths and market the Socceroos as a football team the entire nation can get behind.

    In fact, they barely advertise the national team at all.

    There was little fanfare after Australia won the Asian Cup – as though we were embarrassed by the achievement – and outside of Ange Postecoglou, you rarely hear anyone talk up Australia’s results.

    Tim Cahill Australia Football Socceroos 2016

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    So you end up with a situation where a minority of supporters understand the significance of a World Cup qualifier, while the rest of the football fan-base prefers to pay good money to watch Argentina beat Brazil at the MCG instead.

    And very little is said or done by football’s administrators to question that status quo.

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with Bart Campbell of TLA Worldwide bringing down teams like Brazil and Argentina. As a money-making exercise, it’s been a phenomenal success.

    But we should be under no illusions that companies like TLA care about football in Australia.

    They care about profits – like all good businesses should – and whether that benefits the game in Australia is largely immaterial to them.

    You could argue, then, that the FFA is caught between a rock and a hard place in sanctioning the Socceroos’ involvement in tomorrow’s friendly.

    From a footballing point of view, it’s an excellent hit-out before the Confederations Cup. And if it encourages a few more locals to throw their support behind the Socceroos, that’s even better.

    But what FFA has failed to do is market the national team as the pinnacle of football in Australia.

    So the Socceroos end up playing second fiddle in their own backyard – doomed to the role of support act to a travelling circus that pitches up on Australian shores, swipes the cash, and sails off on its merry way.

    And that’s a risky role to play in a world in which globalisation means more fans than ever are strolling around in Barcelona shirts – but rarely the jersey of their own national team.

    That only 13,000 fans showed up at AAMI Park on Saturday afternoon to watch the Wallabies go around should have got the FFA taking notes.

    If administrators continue to charge premium prices for every single sporting fixture that comes to town, at some point fans will simply choose to stop attending.

    Tomas Rogic congratulated by team

    (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

    It’s cheaper to watch the games on TV – and often more comfortable too – and with the Socceroos playing in front of funereal atmospheres, there’s no unique selling point to entice new fans through the gates.

    It’s time FFA took a new approach to marketing the Socceroos, starting with ticket prices.

    No matter how cash-strapped they are, the tactic of charging through the nose and hoping the hardcore faithful show up isn’t working.

    And unless they’re careful, they’ll have missed the chance to market the national team to a whole new generation of fans – one happy to wear a Messi or Neymar jersey, but never a Socceroos one.

    Mike Tuckerman
    Mike Tuckerman

    Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he settled in Brisbane, and has been a leading Roar football columnist from December 2008.