BUCKLEY: Exciting times ahead for football in Australia

Ben Buckley Columnist

By Ben Buckley,

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    Football Federation of Australia CEO Ben Buckley holds a media press conference. AAP Image/Dean Lewins

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    The Roar exclusive:When the FFA unveiled the findings of the Strategic Review of the Hyundai A-League almost a year ago, there was one, clear mission – put more bums on seats.

    I’m delighted to report that the changes have ultimately proved to be successful. This week the numbers show that more Australians and New Zealanders have attended the Hyundai A-League than ever before.

    The new aggregate attendance record was set for the 2011/12 regular season. The cumulative total of 1,416,157 fans for the season bettered the previous season-high total of 1,393,933 in Season 6 (2010/11).

    The match average of 10,490 was a healthy 24% jump on the previous season. But we know there’s much more work to do.

    Although the negatives sometimes get more coverage than the positives, there have been plenty of other good news stories to celebrate across the Hyundai A-League 2011/12 season.

    TV audience average is up 48 percent. Club membership is up 20 percent.

    The successful schedule change to run the season from October to April allowed the league to launch in clear air and obtain greater coverage and support. Opening the season with marquee matches also helped.

    Rivalry Round produced the all-time high aggregate attendance for a Hyundai A-League round.

    There was the implementation of standard kick off times – for fans in stadiums and at home on TV, tailored for specific markets. Mid-week rounds were fewer, but strategically placed in the festive season.

    The Community Round took our competition to new markets in Morwell (Regional Victoria), Dunedin (NZ), Campbelltown (Western Sydney), Launceston (Tasmania) and Bathurst (Western NSW).

    And the world-first Hyundai A-League Marathon on 4 January 2012 saw five matches back-to-back with over 12 hours of broadcast.

    Our new digital partnership with Optus has also been a great success for the Hyundai A-League and our National Teams.

    Since launching, our web traffic has increased by 20 percent, Twitter and Facebook followers are up 15 percent to over 610,000, and we have recorded over 200,000 downloads for our Qantas Socceroos and Hyundai A-League mobile applications. Our digital presence has become an integral part of our communications strategy, with exclusive content now giving fans the information they desire.

    In addition to the successes of the Hyundai A-League, another important moment in the history of the sport occurred in December last year at our Annual General Meeting when our Chairman, Mr Frank Lowy AC, was elected unopposed for another four-year term by the membership.

    This provides stability for the game and its many stakeholders. Having worked closely with Frank for the past five and a half years, I can say that football is fortunate to have a man of his business knowledge, experience and passion for the sport at the helm.

    On the same day the FFA also published the FFA five-year strategic plan for 2011-2015.

    I have spoken at length regarding the details of this plan in the past, but in summary our long-term vision for the future is to stabilise Australia as one of the top ten football nations in the world.

    This will require developing a football culture ingrained with unique Australian characteristics; producing gifted Australian players from an elite player pathway that equals the world’s best; building a Hyundai A-League that rivals the best in Asia; and making football a sporting and social powerhouse in Australia.

    It is well known that football has a very high participation rate of 1.7 million boys, girls, men and women nationwide from all walks of life, according to the Australian Sports Commission and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

    Our mission and the greatest challenge that we face is to create value for and convert mass participation to active support of our senior national teams (Qantas Socceroos and Westfield Matildas) and national domestic competitions (Hyundai A-League and Westfield W-League).

    With our vision stated and our mission set, the FFA Strategic Plan has four pillars.

    One is ensuring the excellence of our national teams and elite player development. Two is ensuring a sustainable and vibrant Hyundai A-League. Three is a greater connection with football’s grassroots. Four is delivering a successful 2015 AFC Asian Cup that leaves a beneficial legacy for our game.

    As far as the first pillar goes, the Qantas Socceroos are currently ranked 20th in the FIFA World Rankings and are the top-ranked Men’s team in Asia. Since being appointed coach of the Qantas Socceroos, Holger Osieck has successfully assembled a group of players that has the right balance of youth and experience that we believe will take the Qantas Socceroos through to the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

    There were plenty of doubters when Holger was announced, but we believe that we found the perfect candidate who understood the unique nature of being head coach of the Qantas Socceroos. This was best evidenced by our appearance at the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2011, where we narrowly lost to Japan in the final. Our current FIFA ranking also has a lot to do with Holger’s results of 15 wins and 4 draws from his 22 matches in charge.

    In the women’s national team program, we aim to see the Westfield Matildas successfully defend the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, once again qualify for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, and continue to hold a top-10 ranking. We are currently 10th in the world and third team in Asia.

    But it’s not just the senior men’s and women’s teams that we are focused on. The production line below our national teams is equally important.

    To deliver world-class players, we need to have world-class coaches to develop these players from a young age. Our new coach education programs have received international praise and we are providing more education and coaching opportunities than ever before from the grassroots to the professional level.

    Our National Curriculum, under the supervision of National Technical Director Han Berger, is currently being rolled out from the grassroots to the elite levels of the game. This ambitious project has completely changed the way we look at our sport, and the benefits will be seen in the next five to ten years.

    Our second strategic pillar is the Hyundai A-League and the sustainability of the competition.

    There has been much said about our recent issues with Gold Coast United’s previous ownership which I will not discuss further here, due to ongoing litigation, suffice to say that it has been a unnecessary distraction for the game.

    But instead, what does need to be remembered is that over the past 12 months, there has been significant new investment for the Newcastle Jets, Adelaide United, Brisbane Roar and Wellington Phoenix clubs which shows that our competition is vibrant, credible and viable – and attractive to new investors.

    The overall health of the Hyundai A-League is directly related to the number of fans following the clubs.

    In short, as I mentioned before, it’s about getting bums on seats and eyeballs on screens.

    To do this, we have to give the fans what they want – a high-quality, exciting competition and an active engagement with their clubs.

    • Last May we set out with the very clear insight of what had to be done, based on our strategic review and consultations.
    • Improve Hyundai A-League club community engagement to increase fan-base – focus on increasing attendances.
    • Improve Hyundai A-League reputation and brand image through better marketing and media relations.
    • Ensure season timing and structure maximises attendances.
    • Improve club business results through a services unit – our plans are taking shape and will be a focus of the second year of the strategic plan in 2012.
    • Ensure Hyundai A-League clubs are integrated into the elite player pathway system.
    • Deliver better financial arrangements in stadia and more efficient event management.
    • We are constantly in dialogue with all stakeholders, from the owners of the clubs through to the club season ticket holders, about how things can be improved for each season, and that is not going to change moving forward. Many of the issues raised have been addressed to the benefit of the competition. The key to improvement is through cooperative dialogue and discussions.

    Our goal in the initial years of the Strategic Plan timeframe is still to have 10 stable clubs and a sustainable economic model for the Hyundai A-League.

    There is a natural public debate around expansion, usually around Western Sydney, which is the heartland of the game, and also Canberra and Tasmania.

    However, in the Strategic Plan period to 2015 expansion will only occur when those economic pre-conditions of stability and sustainability exist.

    The third pillar of our strategic plan is all about connecting with the grassroots. As I stated earlier in our mission it’s all about conversion of participant to fan. But we recognise that this conversion can only occur if we build loyalty with our grassroots community and provide them with support or benefits that are valued.

    Our Strategic Plan includes the biggest online registration roll out ever seen in Australian sport.

    MyFootballClub.com.au is a national database that will, for the first time in the game’s history, bring everyone together and allow us to share and collaborate much more effectively. It’s provided free of charge to clubs and associations.

    We will deliver benefits to all tiers. Players will be part of a virtual community with the benefits of our numbers: ticket offers for Qantas Socceroos matches, discounts on playing equipment, information on coaching and healthy lifestyles.

    Clubs and associations will have lower IT costs and greater ability to organise and service players.

    The professional tier (National Teams and A-League clubs) will gave a real connection to the grassroots and an efficient and sophisticated way to communicate in this digital age.

    The strategic plan target for the MyFootballClub.com.au database is to have half a million registrations by June 2012 and one million by 2015.

    Once we achieve this target Australian football will be in an unprecedented position to connect and convert our numbers.

    This project is the game changer for Australian football.

    Our fourth pillar involves the hosting of the AFC Asian Cup in 2015.

    This is the biggest sporting event in Asia, with an estimated cumulative viewing audience of around 2.5 billion, and will be the biggest sporting event to be hosted in Australia since the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

    Of course on the field, we want to Qantas Socceroos to go one better than 2011 and win the tournament, but the off-field opportunities are just as important.

    A tournament budget surplus would ensure a financial legacy for Australian football. We would have sold out Qantas Socceroos matches and sold out finals matches.

    It would leverage the business and commercial connection of Australian football with Asia. It would leverage and convert awareness and support for football into increased participation and Hyundai A-League attendances.

    As a first step, we will develop the AFC Asian Cup Strategic Plan and establish a Local Organising Committee supported by highly skilled and experienced people. This first milestone has already been reached with the appointment of the highly respected sports administrator Michael Brown as the CEO of the Local Organising Committee for the AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015.

    Over the coming months Michael will assemble his management team and we are very confident that his team will be able to deliver a fantastic tournament.

    Michael and his team are already in the process of formulating engagement plans with Hyundai A-League clubs, public/private sectors, Australian governments, the Australian football community and the media.

    Our goal is to not only ensure we run a world-class event, but that Australian football accrues a lasting legacy benefit as a result.

    To achieve the ambitious targets that we have set ourselves in the Strategic Plan, we need capital to invest.

    Our next TV rights agreement is the opportunity to secure the financial footing of the game.

    We are saying to the free-to-air, pay TV and digital networks that football has the potential to provide the biggest reach of any sport in Australia – across social class, gender, ethnicity and age demographics – and it’s a truly national footprint.

    Football has more participants than all the other codes combined and as mentioned is the fastest-growing sport among women and girls.

    Importantly, our demographic skew towards youth means we are a growth story, particularly in this digital age.

    The next four years are truly exciting times for the football in Australia, and with the cooperation and support of all our stakeholders there will be plenty more positives to be proud of for future generations of our football family.

    The Roar’s CEO Series: In this series of articles, John O’Neill (Australian Rugby Union), James Sutherland (Cricket Australia), David Gallop (NRL), Andrew Demetriou (AFL), and Ben Buckley (FFA) all share with The Roar their thoughts on the year that was, or will be, for their respective codes.

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    The Crowd Says (132)

    • March 27th 2012 @ 8:44am
      lazelle said | March 27th 2012 @ 8:44am | ! Report

      I hope “we are football” includes the central coast. If we win the right to host the GF and you take it away again, there will be ALOT of unhappy people, and you won’t win everyone back so easily this time.

      • March 27th 2012 @ 9:07am
        mahony said | March 27th 2012 @ 9:07am | ! Report

        So you are such strong football people that you would leave the showpeace of our domestic code becasue you did not get to hold a grand final in a tiny stadium at a time when the game needs funding.

        Dont let the door hit you on the way out I say!

        • March 27th 2012 @ 1:07pm
          PeterK said | March 27th 2012 @ 1:07pm | ! Report

          Not fair, mahony, IMHO.

        • March 27th 2012 @ 2:10pm
          lazelle said | March 27th 2012 @ 2:10pm | ! Report

          I didn’t make the rule about where the GF is played. I also didn’t tell the many members to not renew their memberships the last time we got the second class citizen treatment over hosting rights.

          It’s not how much we are football people, it’s that get told we are a part of the league then treated differently.

          I would be happy for CCM to boycott the GF if it comes to it. We are a region. We are a club. We are people.

          We aren’t here to be dicked about for your spectacle or monetary issues.

      • March 27th 2012 @ 9:26am
        Kasey said | March 27th 2012 @ 9:26am | ! Report

        IMO the positives to the image of the sport of a full Gosford stadium as opposed to a 60% full SFS and the message that sends (empty seats at the HAL GF) is an investment into the game that the FFA makes. Sure it receives less revenue from the finals series, but the goodwill generated on the Central Coast and the positive image of the game being played in front of a full stadium are huge and surely worth the hit to the hip pocket. Regardless, it would be great to hear the FFAs view on this (should CCM earn the right to host and then lose the home advantage) to the SFS direct from Mr Buckley the actual decision making process, to understand the reasoning rather than just fill the empty space with suppositions, especially from people affected negatively: i.e. the fans on the Central Coast.

        • Roar Guru

          March 27th 2012 @ 9:34am
          The Cattery said | March 27th 2012 @ 9:34am | ! Report

          After a second premiership, if CCM make their 4th grand final in 7 seasons, they deserve the right to host it – FFA must go with what’s right here.

          • March 27th 2012 @ 10:42am
            mahony said | March 27th 2012 @ 10:42am | ! Report

            I agree in footballing terms – but I question the financial whisdom and the loyalty of those to the game who, if you pardon the pun, describe it as a ‘game breaker’….

          • March 27th 2012 @ 2:22pm
            lazelle said | March 27th 2012 @ 2:22pm | ! Report

            Yeah but we aren’t a capital city, we don’t have the highest crowds (though we do well on the crowd/population), and we don’t have the biggest stadium.

            These are clearly the only things that matter. /sarcasm

        • March 27th 2012 @ 2:18pm
          lazelle said | March 27th 2012 @ 2:18pm | ! Report


          We have been banging on about this for months.

          Add a screen in the field outside for people to gather and watch, food and entertain on the water front and there’s a whole lotta publicity and TV spectacle that money can’t buy.

          And FFA can even rope the whole place off and charge to enter if Buckets having trouble paying for his yacht.

          Yes I’m mad.

          • March 27th 2012 @ 2:43pm
            Kasey said | March 27th 2012 @ 2:43pm | ! Report

            In Canada, the right to host the CFL’s Grey cup is contested between interested cities and each city puts on a Grey Cup carnival (Like a FIFA FanZone) in the immediate surrounds of the stadium hosting the cup. Imagine having a HAL Fan Zone around Bluetongue Stadium in the lead up to the HAL GF where fans could buy Merch, get their picture taken with the Trophy. Play pick up games of 5 a side football and just generally hang out and talk football with other fans, like you do when you are Overseas at a FIFA World cup. MLS does something similar for its MLS Cup, except the commissioner of MLS has an auditorium or marquee set aside to deliver a State of the Game address to the press and importantly to the fans. A HAL GF hosted in Gosford doesn’t have to be all about the total number of seats for sale in the stadium.[20,100 @ Gosford] it should be viewed as a way to further connect with the football community for the small investment of $50,000 (10,000 seats sold at roughly $50 a pop) if anyone thinks CCM v non NSW team would get more than 30k at the SFS, they are on serious drugs. That and the incalculable benefit of the positive images for the game of football of a full stadium being beamed around the country.

            • March 27th 2012 @ 2:56pm
              Nathan of Perth said | March 27th 2012 @ 2:56pm | ! Report

              “Imagine having a HAL Fan Zone around Bluetongue Stadium in the lead up to the HAL GF where fans could buy Merch”

              Just thought about this with Perth Oval and then cracked up when I remembered that about 50m down from the edge of the stadium grounds are two … uh, houses of ill-repute. Not quite conducive to the festival atmosphere!

              • March 27th 2012 @ 3:16pm
                Kasey said | March 27th 2012 @ 3:16pm | ! Report

                GF in Perth would be at one of the Ovals:(, Subi, or its replacement, same same for rAdelaide, more bloody Ovals:( Adelaide Oval once the redevelopment is comlpted in 2014 would be the likely venue for the Reds. It will take us at least that long to get a team worthy of hosting a GF. Just so you’re aware Mr Buckley. I am a true believer in the game and I am not alone in thinking that watching football at an Oval Stadium really sucks!

              • March 27th 2012 @ 3:32pm
                Nathan of Perth said | March 27th 2012 @ 3:32pm | ! Report

                Perth Oval is the best oval for watching football … because its not an oval anymore!

                Hyuk hyuk ahem…

                Allegedly retractable seating is on the card for the new oval stadium in Perth, which would go a long way to making for an adequate experience if it hosted football. No idea what they would do for Adelaide Oval though.

                It is a shame, of course, but I suppose it just doesn’t make a great deal of sense to have a GF in a city of 1.6+m in a 20,000 seat stadium. First final is still at nib though. Not sure what venue is in the offing if we beat Heart though.

            • March 27th 2012 @ 3:13pm
              lazelle said | March 27th 2012 @ 3:13pm | ! Report

              Yes, yes and yes.

              This is exactly what Turnbull + delegates will be proposing to FFA.

              The sad thing is, they’ve pretty much already made up their minds. This is how short sighted our governing body is.

              They do try though.

            • March 27th 2012 @ 3:24pm
              Kasey said | March 27th 2012 @ 3:24pm | ! Report

              calculation error, $50 x 10,000 = half a million. a not insignificant sum, but if viewed as an investment, the rewards could be calculated in terms of goodwill surely.

            • March 27th 2012 @ 5:38pm
              Cpaaa said | March 27th 2012 @ 5:38pm | ! Report

              Smack bang on the money Kasey. IF CCM are entitled to a home final and dont get it. I will seriously believe that BB is an AFL informant.

      • March 27th 2012 @ 10:20am
        Penalty said | March 27th 2012 @ 10:20am | ! Report

        Sorry but FFA won’t give up their cash cow.

        • March 27th 2012 @ 1:34pm
          Nathan of Perth said | March 27th 2012 @ 1:34pm | ! Report


    • March 27th 2012 @ 8:55am
      stu said | March 27th 2012 @ 8:55am | ! Report

      I like this approach, rather than silence from the guys running the game BB is out on the front foot with an article such as this. We all will have our own thoughts on how the game should be run, however the key is to air those views with marturity and have the FFA continue to flag the plans, hopes and desires in public forums such as this. From day one this game and this a-league competition was only goig to survive if the supporters supported the bigger picture of the game in Australia and developed an ingrained sense of passion for club and league survival. I find that I must add here that Craig Foster has been a glaring example of one who gives the impression he will only settle for the destruction of the authority currently in place, only recently I get the impression that he is forcing himself to add support to the a-league. However, that support seems to eminate through clenched teeth as he reaslises he needs to back of if the game is to survive imo. So back to the ariticle, keep these coming as the fans need to hear from FFA on a regular bases.

      • March 27th 2012 @ 9:10am
        mahony said | March 27th 2012 @ 9:10am | ! Report

        Agree with every word.

      • March 27th 2012 @ 1:11pm
        PeterK said | March 27th 2012 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

        Well said, stu, and I also agree with other posters that it should happen much more frequently.

    • Columnist

      March 27th 2012 @ 8:58am
      Brett McKay said | March 27th 2012 @ 8:58am | ! Report

      Again, a bit of a coup for The Roar to get a national body CEO to share his thoughts with us, and thanks to Ben Buckley for doing so.

      Hard to argue with any of the insights Ben has outlined here. There are certainly exciting time ahead for football in Australia. One thing I would’ve like to hear his thoughts on, though, is the FFA’s plans for the W-League if HAL clubs follow through with their predictions that funding to the women’s teams will be cut or dropped completely. With the Matildas improving with every outing, and looking to defend their Asian Cup, it would be a travesty if this comp was allowed to fall away due to a lack of club backing.

      • March 27th 2012 @ 1:14pm
        PeterK said | March 27th 2012 @ 1:14pm | ! Report

        I very much hope the W-League continues!

        • March 27th 2012 @ 3:33pm
          Kasey said | March 27th 2012 @ 3:33pm | ! Report

          As do I mate.

      • March 27th 2012 @ 5:44pm
        Cpaaa said | March 27th 2012 @ 5:44pm | ! Report

        Did BB do it because ol mate did. It just seems to me that BB just plays follow the leader and blows his own trumpet more sophisticatedly then any other sports CEO in Australia. There are 1001 questions lined up for BB (with out reading further in this article) but if i was a betting man, I would say he will not return to answer one of them!

      • March 28th 2012 @ 7:46am
        Bondy said | March 28th 2012 @ 7:46am | ! Report

        Womens football is just as important as Mens which of the two sex’s will obtain better results Internationally thats a no brainer .
        And watching the womens W League the top few teams put down some very decent football .

    • March 27th 2012 @ 9:02am
      mahony said | March 27th 2012 @ 9:02am | ! Report

      Thanks Ben,

      For those without the temperament of a 2yo and the attention span to match. None – I repeat none of this is news to me (bar the latest A-League KPI data). The good news about this is that it demonstrates to me that the Board have a plan and are going about the job of implementing it and will not be distracted.

      Is the FFA guilty of some ‘stuff ups’ – you bet.. But ‘rolling the dice’ on expansion to build a credible World Cup Bid (technically speaking) was an understandable gamble given its once in a life time context. The rest of the World Cup nonsense was exactly that – and from the usual sources. Was I disappointed? – sure – suppressed? – no. Maybe expectations management could have been better executed.

      Like some above I am interested in some of the lower profile, ‘football business infrastructure’ work going on around national databases and building out technical capacity from kids to the Socceroos. While this stuff isn’t sexy, but I understand why they are priorities.

      Without wanting to end on a sour note I do endorse the views of those who want to see and hear more from you – particularly in the media. I understand football is a big and complex game and your job as CEO of this code is about much, much more than CEO’s in other codes. Having said this I believe you need to find a way.

      Fingers crossed for the remainder of the Board’s term and getting the job done. Especially on the TV rights….

    • March 27th 2012 @ 9:04am
      Midfielder said | March 27th 2012 @ 9:04am | ! Report

      Goods words from BB….

      Interesting and lost in the hype this year…

      Crowds up 27% with less games
      TV ratings up 48%
      Memberships up 20%
      Web Traffic up 20%
      Facebook & Twitter up 15%.
      ACL 2015 team established

      Plus some of the other things they did like the late start, the community round etc…

      Its not all doom and gloom….

      • March 27th 2012 @ 8:41am
        Australian Rules said | March 27th 2012 @ 8:41am | ! Report

        Agreed Midfielder.

        These are good reminders for those that love the game. Thanks to Buckley for his contribution.

      • March 27th 2012 @ 9:54am
        jbinnie said | March 27th 2012 @ 9:54am | ! Report

        Just a slight correction Midfielder. The increase in crowds (actually 27.5%) is measured over the 135 games of this season and the first 135 games of last season (which had 172 matches). Last year, with the extra team, the 172 games pulled 1,380 475 fans. This year ,with a team less, the 135 game ,10 team comp, pulled 1,414180,so to get a true comparison you have to measure the increase over a set number of matches. Cheers jb

      • March 27th 2012 @ 11:40am
        Daryl Adair said | March 27th 2012 @ 11:40am | ! Report

        A bit of perspective needed. The average crowd for 2011-12 was the third LOWEST in the A-League’s seven years. See below:

        2011-12: average crowd – 10,487
        2010-11: average crowd – 8,393
        2009-10: average crowd – 9,796
        2008-9: average crowd – 12,180
        2007-8: average crowd – 14,610
        2006-7: average crowd – 12,927
        2005-6: average crowd – 10,955

        At least the average is now above 10,000. The other thing to keep in mind is TV ratings. They were higher than the previous year, but were dwarfed by T20 cricket (typically 3-4 times the audience size). So a successful year for the A-League, but the spin doctors need to be careful about hyperbole. The thing I liked most was the increase in memberships – that’s the heart and soul of any sustainable club culture. The big challenge is to secure a higher broadcast deal, though with the possibility of 9 teams or 9 + 1 thrown in at the last minutes makes that a challenge.

        • Roar Guru

          March 27th 2012 @ 11:48am
          Fussball ist unser leben said | March 27th 2012 @ 11:48am | ! Report

          Daryl – why should Football fans care about T20 ratings any more than we care about MasterChef ratings?

          The fact that T20 rated well, MasterChef rated well & HAL rated well suggests to me that there may be limited overlap between these audiences for the entertainment dollar.

          If T20 were not around, do you honestly think HAL would have picked up another 150-200k viewers? I’d be surprised if even 1-2% of the T20 cricket audience would have made a switch to HAL, if T20 were not being broadcast.

          • March 27th 2012 @ 12:01pm
            Daryl Adair said | March 27th 2012 @ 12:01pm | ! Report

            The point I was trying to make, but didn’t articulate well, is that Fox has an overall budget spend for sport. Within the summer period, two of the main products are T20 cricket and the A-League. If one rates significantly higher than the other this has flow on effects in terms of the next broadcast deal. The A-League broadcast deal is, as I understand it, due next season – precisely when Cricket Australia is negotiating a new deal for T20. How the money is then allocated by way of deals is something Fox will determine based on a range of considerations, but given the success of T20 in terms of eyeballs it stands to reason that they will command more money, which may then compromise the capacity of the A-League to demand the type of increase it is looking for. Of course, the Fox budget for summer sport may be considerably larger than last year, and so significant increases for both products is possible. However, they are in direct competition for Fox $ … Masterchef (free-to-air) is not part of that picture.

            • Roar Guru

              March 27th 2012 @ 12:22pm
              Fussball ist unser leben said | March 27th 2012 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

              Why would FoxSports have a limited budget for sport content?

              Surely, if FoxSports finds any sporting content that generates an adequate return, they will buy & broadcast the product.

              Obviously, if there is insufficient bandwidth then FoxSports has to prioritise the products they broadcast. But, from what I’ve noticed on FoxSports scheduling, they are eager for MORE product NOT less product.

              We’re not talking about some government grant, where all sports are competing for a limited pot of money!

              We’re talking about a commercial enterprise that makes commercial decisions to purchase LIVE sporting content & the decision will be dependent upon the likely returns from broadcasting the live sporting event.

              • March 27th 2012 @ 1:19pm
                Daryl Adair said | March 27th 2012 @ 1:19pm | ! Report

                There is always a limited spend, even if it is not conceived in terms of a ‘pot of money’. Another way of looking at it is what drives Fox (or anyone else) to pay for sport product. It’s eyeballs in volume, but also eyeballs in context. That means the A-League deal is examined as part of a suite of decisions about the summer sport program; the AFL and NRL deals are configured differently, since they are direct competitors in a different part of the calendar. There is no bottomless pit for Fox expenditure on sport; they will negotiate hard to garner rights in terms of commercial return, as you rightly state. Bandwith has nothing to do with it; it’s all about returns from subscribers and advertisers. I think we are agreeing with each other, actually. By the way, remember that many sports that appear on Fox are secured very cheaply, such as ‘minor’ sports like darts and snooker. It is more product, but there are less ratings per individual sport (unless the overall audience becomes larger). The same principle holds for ‘major’ sports: the more sport product you offer the lower overall ratings, which compromises returns to some sports compared to others.

          • March 27th 2012 @ 12:03pm
            pete4 said | March 27th 2012 @ 12:03pm | ! Report

            Plus T20 cricket is a competition which only runs for 6 weeks so some perspective is required when you are comparing it to the A-League which runs for 27 rounds + finals

            • March 27th 2012 @ 12:09pm
              Daryl Adair said | March 27th 2012 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

              Good point. I should have mentioned that the new T20 competition (as mooted) is likely to be much longer than what was offered last season. Another thing that the A-League power brokers should consider is finishing their season earlier. The finals are being staged just as the AFL season is starting and with the NRL season iand Super Rugby in full swing. Again, it’s about ensuring that your product has the clearest focus and the greatest opportunity for TV eyeballs. It’s common sense in the industry, but too often poorly understood in sport management contexts.

              • March 27th 2012 @ 12:38pm
                pete4 said | March 27th 2012 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

                Using FIFA’s domestic calendar I actually think the October-April window is perfect for the A-League (besides from the reality of shared stadium use which effects the surface of venues here). You’ll notice bigger leagues run from August-May window

                Gives our clubs the best chance of competing in the ACL (March onwards) and providing players for FIFA tournaments (June) in World Cup years

              • March 27th 2012 @ 12:51pm
                Gweeds said | March 27th 2012 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

                Daryl. Is swings and roundabouts with the season start and stop. You may remember that the last A-League season started earlier but this clashed with the AFL and NRL finals and the attendances were down quite a bit and took some time to recover. The flipside as you say is that the finals clash with the start of the AFL/NRL season, but the numbers show that perhaps this is the better way to go.

              • March 27th 2012 @ 1:18pm
                PeterK said | March 27th 2012 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

                Agree, Gweeds. If we try to not overlap at both ends we’ll end up getting squeezed into a smaller and smaller number of months — maybe with many more mid-week games?

                We MUST overlap at one end or the other, and it’s probably better this way round.

              • March 27th 2012 @ 1:23pm
                Axelv said | March 27th 2012 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

                Gweeds I don’t understand it, the A-League has been starting in August just before AFL finals for over 6 seasons, and that didn’t stop Melbourne Victory from getting 40,000 against Sydney at Dockland’s, and this was the first week of AFL finals. They also got crowds of 32k, 29, 23k, 25k and 22k in the following years, and this was during August/September.

                Historically there was nothing wrong with the A-League starting during the AFL season, yet for some reason in the past few years the crowds have been falling and it has been blamed on a whole range of excuses.

                Personally I’d like to see our Finals finish before the AFL and NRL seasons start. I’m worried that our crowds and exposure will suffer greatly and this great season will finish on a low with little to no coverage.

              • March 27th 2012 @ 2:10pm
                j binnie said | March 27th 2012 @ 2:10pm | ! Report

                Daryl – Your figures say it all. For the first 3 years we got steady growth in the average attendance figure,then a drastic drop,why?
                Season 2009/10 saw the introduction of some of the “expansion” clubs with the resulting low attendances generated by those clubs affecting greatly the “average” attendance figure.With all three playing in the competition we actually recorded the lowest average in 6 seasons in 2010/11 and, dare I say it, it took the demise of Fury’s crowds out of the equation, plus the “coming” of Kewell and Emerton to boost the average figure to where it is today. That is the factors a statistician would look at when searching for improvement and how it was achieved.
                To prove that point let us look at what could be considered to be the original 8 team gates and the average they achieved during the season just gone. They pulled 1,224,062 to 108 games for an average of 11520/game.
                The 2 expansion clubs pulled 161,462 to their 27 matches for an average of 5980/game.
                Worse still,if you deducted their 4 “derby” games, that total drops to 95,460 in 23 games getting an average of 4150/game.
                Expansion has not been a good exercise to date and if nothing else these figures should point out to the fathers of the HAL that much greater care should be taken when granting licences to what should in fact be being regarded as our “super” league in football in all of Australia.jb

              • March 27th 2012 @ 2:25pm
                Nathan of Perth said | March 27th 2012 @ 2:25pm | ! Report

                If we removed the regional games the result would top the 10.5 mark as well, it should be noted.

              • March 27th 2012 @ 5:22pm
                Kasey said | March 27th 2012 @ 5:22pm | ! Report

                jbinnie, we got three years of growth on the back of the “”shiny new thing” syndrome. with worldly knowledge of the J.League and MLS examples, that 3 years was hardly sustainable long-term in a perfect environment. Of course we didn’t even get the perfect environment…we got the double whammy of “the honeymoon is over” colliding with the GFC. Some teams like Brisbane made silly errors at the end of s3 by jacking up ST prices, and its only due to the extraordinary football of Postecoglu’s teams that we are seeing some of those Browned Off fans return. Imagine how bad things would have been if the resources boom hadn’t shielded Australia’s economy for the large part from the worst of the GFC. I think you will find that all sports have done it tough over the last 3 years as discretionary spending gets eaten up by rising costs. We should celebrate the fact even more on the basis of this background that the slide of the last 2 years has been not only arrested, but reversed somewhat. I see no reason just yet that next year can’t be another solid year for the A-League. All it needs is for MVC and ADL to get it right on the pitch and there’s another boost to this years numbers. 2 years of more modest growth would be more realistic heading into media rights re-negotiation IMO.

          • March 27th 2012 @ 12:35pm
            Kasey said | March 27th 2012 @ 12:35pm | ! Report

            Daryl: What an incredibly negative way to view the turn of events. With declines in average crowd numbers 2 seasons in a row isn’t it enough for you to see that the decline has not only been arrested, but significantly so? It takes time for new football league in sports landscapes dominated by other codes to develop their own niche and solid foundation from which to build up. It took MLS in the USA/Canada 19 seasons to surpass the initial season1 ‘high-water mark’. The A-Leagues high water mark of season 3 2007-08 [14,610] shows that with some astute decision making at FFAHQ, the league can post some very impressive numbers going forward, but as any sailor will tell you, you have to plug the hole in your hull first before you start pumping out the water or attempting to restore propulsion to make headway.
            2 seasons of declining crowd numbers was incredibly damaging to the image of the league. That ‘hole’ has now been plugged and the FFA can concentrate on the 1%-ers required to bring back some of the fans that drifted away as the shine wore off a new competition. Hopefully Mr Buckley is reading the responses here and taking notes direct from interested stakeholders so that the A-League can surpass its high water mark long before 19 years pass.

            • March 27th 2012 @ 12:50pm
              Daryl Adair said | March 27th 2012 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

              Kasey, it is certainly welcome news that the slide in crowds has been arrested, but some perspective is needed moving forward. There are fundamental challenges ahead, not least of which is securing a decent TV deal. A key problem for many sport codes in this country is their basic lack of attention to the economic fundamentals required to sustain a professional sports league. I cheer for all sports and codes, but am amazed at the lack of managerial acumen that accompanies much of their decision making. This leaves fans vulnerable as their clubs teeter under dysfunctional or even bankrupt regimes (GCU and Titans the latest). So I don’t believe that I’m “incredibly negative”; rather I have my eyes wide open as to what is taking place in the most crowded sport marketplace in the world.

              • March 27th 2012 @ 2:23pm
                King Robbo said | March 27th 2012 @ 2:23pm | ! Report

                I think if Melb victory had a successful year, we would of seen avg crowd figures near the 2007-08 season. Its great to see the average crowd figure go up based on a number of clubs increasing attendances rather than just one or two big clubs.

              • March 27th 2012 @ 8:46pm
                j binnie said | March 27th 2012 @ 8:46pm | ! Report

                Daryl -You’ve spelled it out again but I don’t think Kasey will get your message for, from his reply to me, he is too busy comparing our performances with countries that have 300.million populations &, in the case of the USA have reduced their area of operations into smaller,more workable sections (greatly reducing the cost of travel). He then introduces the GFC as a reason for reduced attendances but ignores completely the much smaller crowds being attracted to the new entries which had a DIRECT effect on the average crowd figure being calculated.This was despite the actual figures being presented to him.We then wander a bit blaming Roar’s bad management,Ange’s super team, & the mining boom protecting us,all basic schoolboy economics.Then after a further lecture on this subject he tells us what we all know,that is,if everything remains the same & Adelaide,Victory,(he forgot Perth),improve their playing performances & add the lowest support (GCU) being taken out of the equation things will get even better next year.Thanks Kasey for working all that out for us. Cheers jb.

              • March 28th 2012 @ 9:16am
                Kasey said | March 28th 2012 @ 9:16am | ! Report

                C’mon jb, I thought we’ve both been here long enough to have developed a basic rapport, there’s no need to get sarcastic on me. I would have thought my point was clear. Keeping in mind I am that rare creature in Australian football. The optimist.
                My point – in bullet form for ease of digestion.

                -The existing Soc/Aus-NSL structure failing to grow the game to new audiences.
                – Govt supported Crawford report to determine what needs to be done.
                -FFA created to implement report.
                – NSL disbanded.
                -A-League created.
                NB: When the new league was created, the level of optimism in the game was pretty high. The profile was also high as at launch is where the corresponding ‘maximum spend’ on Advertising occurred. Also include the contra coverage of ‘new soccer league launched’ as a general news media story on many TV stations.

                The shiny new thing syndrome ensured that the HAL had much positive publicity in its infancy. Worldwide experience in any product you care to name would indicate that the ‘honeymoon period’ is of a limited time only.
                – The HAL grew very well from its smallbase in its first 2 seasons. This lead to unrealistic expectations amongst the many fans of the game that thought their time in the sun and a chance to stick it back to the other codes – who had long looked down upon poor old Soccer had finally arrived.
                – In implementing the HAL, FFA made some crucial (in hindsight) mistakes in only creating one team to service the whole Sydney basin. This is a mistake hat continues to haunt FFA to this day.
                – As the gloss wore off the new league (remember the same 8 teams played over the first 3 seasons (the away team always in white) lead to a sense of sameness and driving of the desire to expand.
                -We as fans practically demanded the FFA expand to take advantage of the 3 years of growth. We as fans generally had unrealistic expectations that the growth would just continue as before. What we couldn’t see coming was the GFC. The GFC cruelled Don Matheson and basically screwed NQ Fury from the beginning. It appears thatFFA failed to do basic due diligence on the background of Clive Palmer and once admitted, his inability to run one single club lead to many inches of negative press for the HAL and the game. Clive’s failure to spend wisely in engaging the local community lead to the criminally low attendance on the glitter strip. By contrast, each of the last 4-5 MLS expansion teams(Seattle, Portland, Toronto and Vancouver) has entered that league and posted numbers above the previous seasons crowd average(Montreal will likely do the same this year) this grows the league. No expansion team has done that in Australia. No matter which way you cut it, blame it on the GFC or not, FFA has botched expansion. The way they look to rush in perhaps a team from West Sydney rather than give them time to build the structures before playing a game indicate that they have not learned their lessons yet. This is almost as disappointing as the failure of FFA to have effective communication with us the fans.

            • March 28th 2012 @ 10:16am
              jbinnie said | March 28th 2012 @ 10:16am | ! Report

              Kasey – Like you with me, I thought you a reasoning,logical thinker,& I still do, but you keep citing dangerous areas in your discussions that have very little or any bearing on the theme being put by other writers. Global economics like the GFC, (a name probably generated by a sensationalist press) probably has very little to do with the size of a football crowd in Australia.
              You venture into another dangerous area when you cite what is going on in the MLS ,for in fact that esteemed body is almost the same age as our HAL but it should also be spelled out that it has taken over 40 years & 2 failed attempts to get it to it’s present status.(Van.Whitecaps started in 1974).
              Now to get positive.I agree with your “bullet” in what happened to cause the FFA to be formed.
              However since the league was formed there has been consistent errors made & it is in the area of measuring success by using crowd figure, that some of these major errors come to the fore.That is why I cite expansion as a major error & yet discussion constantly refers to more expansion.Forgetting all the things like shiny new syndrome (which I agree with & was borne out this year with Kewell & Emerton debut crowds) I tend to look at the overall picture & try to separate what I term are poor attendance figures from the norm, & unfortunately it was the 3 expansion clubs that ,after 3 seasons, were dragging that average crowd figure lower than it should be.The figures I showed prove that with no argument.
              My view of the HAL?. Only 7 years ago someone ,somewhere,decided we should have a “super” football league in Australasia consisting of 8 teams. Why 8?. I like to think that it was because that someone thought that it was the number of teams this country could support in terms of playing standard, travel costs,suitable grounds,finance, management experience & skill,coaching expertise et. al. for remember, I ,as a positive thinker,hope to see the day all these positions will be filled with Australasian talent.
              Will I see that day? This season has seen 2 “local” coaches again dominate in the HAL,we have seen the emergence of some outstanding young talent at HAL club level (but not at international level?????), we have seen a growth in crowds & hopefully the grass roots figure is still on the increase despite the costs being widely debated.
              Now to the personal.Sarcastic to you? not intentional but if you took it that way my apologies. Keep scribing. jb

              • March 28th 2012 @ 11:03am
                Midfielder said | March 28th 2012 @ 11:03am | ! Report


                Well argued… the expansion has been the major error of judgement by FFA…

                Two things about the expansion concern me…. first the lack of a plan to move forward… IMO WS and Woolongong were and are the two obovious teams to be 9 & 10… settle things down … add second Melbourne & a new region … look at Canberra, Gold Coast, Tassie, Nt QLD & Dawin…

                Second the lack of control by FFA in some areas but over control in others… over control in operational matters but little control over whether the owner has to stay in…

                Nothing that in time cannot be fixed, but in the grand scheme of things a massive error …

        • March 27th 2012 @ 3:05pm
          Sam el Perro said | March 27th 2012 @ 3:05pm | ! Report

          Also the average was only this high because one of the two low performing teams for crowds (The Fury) were booted. The average will go up next year without GCU as well.

          • March 27th 2012 @ 3:17pm
            Nathan of Perth said | March 27th 2012 @ 3:17pm | ! Report

            If that were the case the aggregate crowd would be LOWER, not HIGHER.

    • March 27th 2012 @ 9:07am
      leaveforthecup said | March 27th 2012 @ 9:07am | ! Report

      No mention of the FFA Cup in your future planning? Also, you may not be able to discuss the relationship with Palmer, but you should be able to discuss the fate of Gold Coast United. I mean, it will be FFA that have the final say on whether thy stay or go, right?

      Why not keep them in the league, keep your ten teams for at least five years, let West Sydney, Canberra, Tasmania, Woolongong and any other aspiring team work towards a goal of being included within the next five years if they meet the requirements set by FFA.

      Work towards stabilizing the current league over the next 5-10 years, with the plan of expanding the competition to include an A2 League. Invite the top teams in each state league to apply. Let teams like South Melbourne, Marconi, Sunshine Coast etc apply to be part of the second division.

      Clearly I don’t work for FFA, I don’t know what plans are in place for the league in the next few years, I don’t get paid to make these decisions, but someone does, and it would be nice to hear more about the ten year plan for the A-League, not just the game of football.

      While I’m on football in general though, why is it so difficult to introduce a program along the lines of AusKick? Cottees Small Sided Games are great, but still don’t seem to have the same reach or appeal that something like AusKick provides. You talk of the sport reaching the youth? I think a dedicated, targeted promotion along the lines of AusKick would also go a long way to capturing the imagination of kids early, and hopefully keeping them excited about football for the rest of their lives.


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