If you are under 30, especially under 20, your understanding of football is modern. You are used to seeing the A-League and football generally in the news and on television.
For those over 30, you have seen a paradigm shift in how football is being treated in Australia. The tipping point of becoming mainstream has happened, and the new reality is just how fast it is going to spread.
I thought I would nominate my line in the sand of people, events and clubs that have taken football from its difficult days to where it finds itself today.
By far our greatest strength has been the player base and the willingness of people in various communities to develop the district park teams.
The name says it all Warren was a very unique person loved by almost everyone. Arguably his greatest asset was to connect with the non-football media and keep the football flag flying. His ideas and vision are still being developed and his famous saying “I told you so” is coming true.
SBS and 2UE Sports Today
What more can be said about SBS? Without SBS I doubt football would have progressed as much as it has, there is far too much to write about – it is an article in itself.
2UE Sports Today was the most listened to radio sports show in Australia at its peak. Peter Bossely ran the show and often had Warren with him. 2UE‘s audience was many times bigger than SBS and this fair-minded radio broadcaster kept Warren in contact with the people.
National Soccer League
Showed Australia how to run a national domestic competition. Moreover, it showed football could support itself all over Australia unlike the other football codes.
Craig played for Liverpool as a right winger in the best European side of its day and a side many still rate as one of the best ever. He showed Australians could play football even if he never played for Australia.
David started the process of the need for football to present itself to the media as a broad-based game and the need for clubs to be seen as more inclusive. He also sold the NSL rights to Channel Seven, who buried the broadcasts. He was equally hated and loved, however he had a massive affect on the direction football took.
Showed there was a product and that people cared about the Socceroos, despite the years, nay decades, of negative press.
Nick Tana and Perth Glory
In my humble the best club administrator Australia has ever seen. The model he developed at Perth is the A-League model and the first time the mainstream started to look at football other than as a joke. It is a pity it was in Perth and not on the east coast as what was achieved was in many ways ignored by the eastern states. He was a true visionary
The Northern Spirit was another model for the A-League – they showed Sydney would support a regional community club.
Nick Greiner and Ian Knob
Took the bold decision that Soccer Australia was beyond saving, as was the NSL, so they created what was needed and then implemented the collapse of the NSL and Soccer Australia.
This was in the darkest days of the old NSL when Soccer Australia could hardly afford to fly the Socceroos home. One player kept making the headlines and carrying the torch and that was Harry. Other players were there as well with an honourable mention to Mark Viduka. But Harry was the poster boy and the good news story for the mainstream press.
2002 World Cup
For the first time a World Cup played on prime-time TV. This had a huge influence in showing what the football audience could be and also highlighted the skills and athletic ability of the players and the sport.
As with SBS, there is so much to write. In 1955 Frank lead a breakaway group in Sydney that led in time to the creation of some ethnic clubs in Sydney and being kicked out of FIFA. Then the in and out of the NSL, finally FFA and then the A-League. This time he got it right.
By no means perfect, however the developments of various standards and national structures has set up football for expansion targets it could never manage before.
What a night! I was there and it showed there was broad-based support for the Socceroos across the nation.
The same as 2005. All the journalists from the other football codes said the 2005’s World Cup qualifier was a one-off rating that would never happen again. Proven wrong.
That it has survived has amazed many, and that it is starting to thrive is rewarding for all those involved. Kids have something local to aim at.
Sydney FC, Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney Wanderers
These clubs have carried the rest of us and Sydney FC in particular have brought out some huge talent. I accept WSW is new but their influence has been huge.
Applied the finishing touches and pushed through huge changes at state level. The Australian FA Cup, the National Premier Leagues and the continual development of coaching and technical standards, along with the A-League, have created structures and pathways football has never had in Australia. He is the best national administrator football has ever had.
His coaching and communication ability is second to none. He connects to the AFL and has gained a respect for football that it never had before.
Has finally brought the ABC to football and much of the general media. Has been very important in the media seeing what football can offer.
These are my lines in the sand that have had a critical impact on the development of football, especially over the last 25 years. Over to you guys!