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DAVID GALLOP: Football needs to talk directly to the fans

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    Australia needs their fans to show up against Syria. (Photo: AFC Asian Cup)

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    My third anniversary in the job as FFA CEO arrived on Thursday 12 November, which was very nice timing. I was back in my home town of Canberra and had the chance to mingle with the Socceroos fans at the FIFA World Cup qualifier against Kyrgyzstan.

    Taking World Cup qualification matches outside the main metro cities has been a deliberate strategy following the Socceroos’ AFC Asian Cup success. We believe the Socceroos and the Westfield Matildas are the national teams that truly reflect Australia in all its diversity.

    The fact that the Socceroos have fans everywhere means the team needs to hit the road. An Asian Cup Semi in Newcastle in January, the opening home game in Perth in September and this month’s qualifier in Canberra shows the plan is coming to life. In the past 12 months the Socceroos have also played in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, driving national interest in the national team.

    In every city, we make sure we make time for fan days when the Socceroo players and coaches meet the people. The joy I see in the faces of the fans reminds about the power of football to unite and inspire Australians, and I know the Socceroos really enjoy these opportunities as well. Once upon a time, they too were youngsters with dreams.

    My football friends in Canberra are always very polite, but insistent about pushing for a bigger place on the national stage. The near 20,000 crowd showed the football community will get behind our national teams. The wonderful community support of Canberra United in the Westfield W-League is another example.

    Talk of a A-League club is never far from the top of the list, but I think everyone understands FFA’s current position. In the first instance, our strategy is all about the stability and sustainability of the current 10-club competition.

    We firmly believe that any new clubs should be located in markets where there are millions, not just a few hundred thousand in population.

    I was a teenager in the ACT in the heady days when the late Johnny Warren kick-started Canberra City in the inaugural season the National Soccer League. At the Socceroos game I had a walk down memory lane with Danny Moulis, one of the young tyros of the Warren era.

    Danny was an overnight sensation in 1977, literally going from an unknown schoolboy to the national stage. You might recall that the Ten Network covered the first few seasons of the NSL and the local paper the Canberra Times gave the new football club a huge run.

    As a schoolboy myself a few years behind Danny, I was in awe of this local hero and his new-found stardom and subsequent selection for the Socceroos. I will have more chances to reminisce after Danny was last week elected to the Board of FFA.

    Putting nostalgia aside, the fact is that Canberra City struggled against bigger clubs for 10 years before getting relegated to the local competition in 1987. That’s nothing against the city, the coaches, the players or the passionate fans. It’s a product of simple economics and the size of the market.

    In FFA’s Whole of Football Plan, we’ve set an aspirational target of having 1 million Australians directly connected to the A-League clubs by 2034. That is the quantum we realistically need to achieve if we want to be the largest and most popular sport in Australia.

    If we count the collective club membership today, our 10 clubs have around 105,000 members.

    To grow the membership base tenfold in 20 years, football will need lots of things to fall our way. We need to put fans first. We need to work hard on fan engagement, improve match-day experience and have digital channels that connect with fans everywhere, every day.

    Our clubs will need to live up to the mantra that a club exists because of fans, not the other way around. Above all, the A-League needs to be an authentic and entertaining competition.

    Where are the 1 million members going to come from?

    Today, around 70 per cent of A-League members live in Sydney and Melbourne, the nation’s two biggest cities and home to four of our 10 clubs.

    Urban density in Australia is expected to continue rising over the next 20 years. Given that you need fans before you have a club, any strategy to achieve 1 million club members needs to take a view about where football fans are living.

    Of course, having multiple clubs in a market gives us derby football. It’s hard to imagine where the A-League would be today without the Sydney and Melbourne derby games.

    There are other major population centres that fit the criteria of having millions, not just hundreds of thousands. South-east Queensland and Perth are the two that are top of mind.

    Providing this insight to FFA’s thinking is timely. Early next year the national body will release a Strategic Plan for 2016-19. It’s the first instalment in setting firm objectives that will carry the game toward the ambitious vision in the Whole of Football Plan.

    A new chairman Steven Lowy and a reinvigorated Board were elected last week. They bring impressive skills and experience from across the sporting and corporate sectors. The new Board has already made it clear that growth is the top objective.

    No doubt, there will be a lot of energetic and passionate debate among fans on these topics. That’s a good thing. We all want what’s best for the game. We want to put fans first.

    We Are Football

    This is the first column of The Roar‘s revamped CEO series, where we invite all the heads of the big codes in Australian sport to have their say on the state of their game.

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    The Crowd Says (180)

    • Roar Guru

      November 24th 2015 @ 4:22am
      Mister Football said | November 24th 2015 @ 4:22am | ! Report

      It’s always good to see the CEO of a major sporting competition expressing their opinions on the Roar.

      I’ve just read that the Melbourne Victory has recorded a profit of $1.5 million, in stark contrast to every other A-League franchise which is a loss-making venture.

      I think that provides some evidence that A-League clubs need to be located in cities with millions of people rather than hundreds of thousands, which remains the Mr Gallop’s core tenet.

      • November 24th 2015 @ 9:30am
        Post hoc said | November 24th 2015 @ 9:30am | ! Report

        No that is not true, Victory have made a good profit (better than most AFL and NRL clubs) whilst the other A League clubs have not released their financials as yet so to claim they are loss making is incorrect. Considering Wanderers made a substantial profit last year, and we have signed significantly more partnerships

        • Roar Guru

          November 24th 2015 @ 6:03pm
          Mister Football said | November 24th 2015 @ 6:03pm | ! Report

          there’s a pretty good reason why the others are not so keen to release their financials, and why MV is always keen as mustard.

          • November 25th 2015 @ 8:26am
            Post hoc said | November 25th 2015 @ 8:26am | ! Report

            Could it be because they are not finalised? Considering the season is not yet 1/3 of the way through. Do many NRL and AFL teams release their financials in April?

      • November 24th 2015 @ 10:33am
        Uncle Junior said | November 24th 2015 @ 10:33am | ! Report

        Yes, Melbourne Victory’s financial results are staggering. $18.5 million revenue, $1.5 million profit, capital reserves are now up to over $5 million. The ownership model has 50 equity owners (ie real ownership not quasi ownership based on buying a season ticket) which is more owners than any other professional sporting club in Australia.

        This result by Melbourne Victory means that, within 10 years of forming, the club is more profitable than 14 AFL clubs.

        • Roar Guru

          November 24th 2015 @ 11:20am
          Redb said | November 24th 2015 @ 11:20am | ! Report

          Easy to make money when you win. How did Victory compare to Hawthorn.

          • November 24th 2015 @ 12:22pm
            Uncle Junior said | November 24th 2015 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

            Melbourne Victory’s profit would compare very well with Hawthorn if we remove the profit Hawthorn receives (estimated at $4-5 million per year) from gambling addicts losing money when playing poker machines. Only 5 AFL clubs would make a profit without poker machines. Every A-League club would turn a profit if they decided to go exploit the Poker Machine revenue stream. But, I sincerely hope A-league clubs never resort to such gutter sources of revenue.

            • November 24th 2015 @ 12:31pm
              Pat malone said | November 24th 2015 @ 12:31pm | ! Report

              Fuss, are all pokie players addicted gamblers? Great to see that you know all these things about individual afl clubs and their revenue streams. Are the victory going to buy their own clubhouse?

              • November 24th 2015 @ 1:06pm
                Ian said | November 24th 2015 @ 1:06pm | ! Report

                Hi kevin dustby, smell the fear.

                now they are here saying my afl club earns more profit through gambling machines so we are better.

                funny the biggest game in half of Australia still gets massive amounts of subsidies.

              • November 24th 2015 @ 2:22pm
                Pat Malone said | November 24th 2015 @ 2:22pm | ! Report

                Ian (fuss cousin). Fuss has made a bunch of comments about the intricities of an AFL clubs revenue sources (all of them) strange for a guy that doesn’t follow the game and tells everyone to stick to what they are experts in

              • November 24th 2015 @ 1:09pm
                offsider said | November 24th 2015 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

                Does fuss/uncle junior ever post without mentioning AFL.
                Something must of happened 11 years ago, for there to be such hatred.

              • November 24th 2015 @ 4:00pm
                Ian said | November 24th 2015 @ 4:00pm | ! Report

                Pat – i’m honoured you replied. you usually leave a derogatory remark all over a football article and don’t respond.
                not that any poster has replied to you just because of your derogatory remarks.
                i’m sure another poster made you come on here first.

            • Roar Guru

              November 24th 2015 @ 1:28pm
              Redb said | November 24th 2015 @ 1:28pm | ! Report

              AFL clubs are not for profit where funds are ploughed back into the football dept.

              Good luck to Melb Victory but comparing to AFl clubs is like comparing apples and oranges. Different model, different market.

              • November 24th 2015 @ 5:24pm
                Uncle Junior said | November 24th 2015 @ 5:24pm | ! Report

                Well, just as well AFL clubs ar non-for-profit since most of them make losses every year and are on life-support being effectively owned by the AFL.

              • November 24th 2015 @ 6:06pm
                Roy said | November 24th 2015 @ 6:06pm | ! Report

                The stars must be aligning for all things Melbourne…


                Australia’s oldest football club ! It wasn’t that long ago when talk of this sort of result came up people would say in chorus . . . “I’d like to see that ! ”

                p.s. Roy = BigAl = me

              • Roar Guru

                November 24th 2015 @ 6:10pm
                Mister Football said | November 24th 2015 @ 6:10pm | ! Report


                that’s not a bad result for Australia’s oldest football club, which hasn’t won a premiership in 51 years.

              • November 24th 2015 @ 6:14pm
                Roy said | November 24th 2015 @ 6:14pm | ! Report

                Can Roy get up without waiting for moderators ?

                Looks like it – somethings changed .

        • November 24th 2015 @ 1:56pm
          AR said | November 24th 2015 @ 1:56pm | ! Report

          In an article written by David Gallop about the state of the ALeague, Uncle Junior’s first post is to mention the AFL and its clubs. Where have I seen that before?

          • November 24th 2015 @ 2:40pm
            aladdin sane said | November 24th 2015 @ 2:40pm | ! Report

            funcle jussball!

            • Roar Rookie

              November 24th 2015 @ 3:12pm
              Horto Magiko said | November 24th 2015 @ 3:12pm | ! Report

              “funcle jussball!”

              Lol! Shut the blog down. Aladdin wins the internet.

      • November 24th 2015 @ 10:40am
        Arnold Krewanty said | November 24th 2015 @ 10:40am | ! Report

        No, it suggests that clubs need to do more the engage their local communities and get more memberships.

        It means clubs need to spend more on decent players and decent coaching staff to ensure they have regular success.

        t means, clubs need to have stable ownership.

        It doesn’t mean we need to cluster the A-League into major cities.

        • Roar Guru

          November 24th 2015 @ 6:09pm
          Mister Football said | November 24th 2015 @ 6:09pm | ! Report

          Don’t look now, but the FFA CEO disagrees with you, and he has said this many times before:

          “We firmly believe that any new clubs should be located in markets where there are millions, not just a few hundred thousand in population. ”

          The rest of the article rotates around the exact same theme.

          There’s a very good reason for that.

          It’s not just that your prospective members live (primarily) in the major cities, but those paying for TV rights want to get to those very same people (and thus ratings focus mostly on 5 city metro figures) – and the sponsors want to reach those people – and what are they looking at in their decision-making? 5 city metro figures.

    • November 24th 2015 @ 4:40am
      pete4 said | November 24th 2015 @ 4:40am | ! Report

      Great to see you here David:

      1. To protect our game will the FFA at least respond publicly or consider taking legal action against Wilson and Jones?

      2. Does the expansion strategy now mean we’ll see 2 new Sydney clubs most likely based in Cronulla and Campbelltown next TV deal?

      • November 24th 2015 @ 7:54am
        bobbym said | November 24th 2015 @ 7:54am | ! Report

        Jones and Wilson are only relevant in their own minds.

      • Roar Rookie

        November 24th 2015 @ 9:22am
        At work said | November 24th 2015 @ 9:22am | ! Report

        It’s too risky to take on the media, they will always win in the end.

        The best we can do is ignore it, and the people that listen to Jones and Wilson aren’t likely ever going to support the A-League anyway.

        • November 24th 2015 @ 10:42am
          Vic said | November 24th 2015 @ 10:42am | ! Report

          “It’s too risky to take on the media, they will always win in the end.” – At Work wrote

          TOTAL nonsense!

          When a media company, breaks the law which in the case of News Ltd is virtually everyday, they can be taken to court and damages awarded against them!!

          • Roar Rookie

            November 24th 2015 @ 11:05am
            At work said | November 24th 2015 @ 11:05am | ! Report

            @ Vic- Yes the FFA could take News Ltd to court and get awarded some compensation, but where is that going leave us them??
            Likely with a lot of bad will between the organisations and any positive stories may well dry up with it.

            • November 24th 2015 @ 11:07am
              AZ_RBB said | November 24th 2015 @ 11:07am | ! Report

              It doesn’t need to end in court action. Just at least show that you’re disappointing at the comments and disagree strongly. At the moment the FFA seems to have no issue with people calling its stakeholders terrorists.

    • November 24th 2015 @ 6:55am
      Franko said | November 24th 2015 @ 6:55am | ! Report

      Fishing where the fish are is a valid concept, but please remember the fish must errr like football.

      A second Perth team for example would be a failure as they’re struggling to get enough fans to support one team. Canberra may not have the millions you require but they do get derby-esq games with the two Sydney sides without cannibalising support.

      Fish where the fish follow football……!

      • November 24th 2015 @ 7:09am
        Waz said | November 24th 2015 @ 7:09am | ! Report

        At last weeks Brisbane Roar fan forum a general question on expansion was put to the Roar CEO was put; the answer given was similar to the above re stability of the 10 and then he explained the modelling for the next locations was already done and was driven by how any new clubs location would impact media rights (the TV and associated desks). In order if impact the following locations were given:

        1. South Sydney
        2, Melbourne
        3. Canberra
        4. Brisbane

        So even though Perth crops up here and Canberra isn’t exactly being promoted it would seem the capital is third in line on a fairly short list to get a team.

        • November 24th 2015 @ 9:55am
          Paul said | November 24th 2015 @ 9:55am | ! Report

          The 2nd Melb team isn’t going gangbusters right now. Don’t know how a 3rd team will fare.

          • November 24th 2015 @ 1:01pm
            Waz said | November 24th 2015 @ 1:01pm | ! Report

            Can’t argue with that, City remain a mess despite rich owners, but the model was calculated on what impact they would have on media rights. It may not be the only consideration but what was also nice to see was Canberra in 3rd place

      • November 24th 2015 @ 7:30am
        Baracuda said | November 24th 2015 @ 7:30am | ! Report

        Exactly, Perth has a population of 2 million which sees it the 4th largest city in the country, a prime candidate for further expansion? Based on metrics, Yes, on physical support, No. Teams in Wollongong and Canberra would attract greater crowds not only becuase they would be the sole representatives from thier respective regions but becuase thier is a GENIUNE appetite for professional football; stadiums already available in those regions further sweetens the cause.

        • Roar Guru

          November 24th 2015 @ 10:02am
          Kaks said | November 24th 2015 @ 10:02am | ! Report

          Anyone else find it funny that the Original comment said “Fishing where the fish are is a valid concept” and Baracuda commented on it?

        • November 24th 2015 @ 10:19am
          jbinnie said | November 24th 2015 @ 10:19am | ! Report

          Baracuda -Your observation is not really based on fact.The only comparison we can really get is how Perth performed in the old NSL & the figures from then may surprise for ,for a team that only entered that competition in 1996/97 their performance figures are somewhat startling. In the 8 remaining years of the NSL they came from a middle of the league team to winning the comp twice and finshing 2nd. That is not only where they excelled for in “sampling” their crowds over that period their “average” crowd in 96/97 was 11,603 per game & in 2002 it was 10,600 per game. (Remember there was no “derby ” affecting those figures
          In the 2 grand finals played in PERTH attendances of 40,000 were achieved far outstripping finals played previously in Sydney.!!!!!!!
          What has happened in the HAL???I don’t know but here is little doubt that only 10-15 years ago there were a lot more “fish” there than what Glory can attract at the moment (7186). Any suggestions???? jb

          • November 24th 2015 @ 10:47am
            jbinnie said | November 24th 2015 @ 10:47am | ! Report

            Baracuda.- While researching the figures for the above statement I also had a look at how Canberra,the team so lovingly referred to by DG in his article and found figures just as depressing as Perth’s had been surprising.
            The club was a founder member of the NSL in 1977 but performed rather poorly under different names City and Arrows until season 1987 when they dropped out only to reappear in season 1995 under the name Cosmos,but again their on field performance were not what one would say good finishing last in 3 seasons,with another 3 season gaining only lowly positions. By season 2001/02 they were again out of the league but it is also in attendance figures (compared with Perth’s)at the same time that show up an unwanted difference for by sampling their figures in the same manner their average crowd over 3 seasons were 2,600,3418, and 2067, not what one would say was a “lot of fish”. Cheers jb

      • November 24th 2015 @ 9:58am
        Daniel said | November 24th 2015 @ 9:58am | ! Report

        I think it needs to be clarified that the lack of interest in the Glory is based solely on the club itself not football in general. Perth has proven in the past that it can sustain crowds upwards of 15,000 on a consistent basis, but Tony Sage and the club have simply lost the faith of all but the most rusted on fans. A change of ownership, management and strategy would see many fans return. Positive results and attractive football will see the casual supporter come back too.

    • November 24th 2015 @ 7:00am
      Waz said | November 24th 2015 @ 7:00am | ! Report

      There are also many fans who support the removal of the Nix so that’s perhaps not a good example. Besides, the Nixs situation is driven by the AFC who’s approval for them to participate runs out in 4 years hence the offer of only a 4 year licence extension.

      • Roar Guru

        November 24th 2015 @ 9:19am
        Kaks said | November 24th 2015 @ 9:19am | ! Report

        Thank you Waz.

        People dont seem to understand that it was always known that the AFC did not want a NZ/Oceania team in our competition and the Nix’s time was always going to be up at some points.

        • November 24th 2015 @ 10:52am
          Ryan said | November 24th 2015 @ 10:52am | ! Report

          The AFC and FIFA told the FFA and the Phoenix that they would be happy with an 8 – 10 year license extension, hence why WelNix asked for 10 years rather than 20 like the other teams.

          The discussion by the FFA is purely commercial and has nothing to do with politics or the sport of football.

        • November 24th 2015 @ 1:10pm
          Waz said | November 24th 2015 @ 1:10pm | ! Report


    • November 24th 2015 @ 7:15am
      Waz said | November 24th 2015 @ 7:15am | ! Report

      Hmmm, it’s possibly a long bow to draw. My opinion is the leak and subsequent article were designed to harm the game, it was an attack on football as well as a breach of individual privacy. So yes there is a responsibility on the ffa to protect that lists confidentiality especially with whom it is shared. Yesterday questions were being asked of the NSWs Police and SFG Trust who both had legitimate right to access. If the leak was deliberate and came from a legitimate organisation with access to the list then it is difficult to know how they can be blamed, there’s only so much any organisation can do.

      • November 24th 2015 @ 7:34am
        marron said | November 24th 2015 @ 7:34am | ! Report

        Waz, I get what you are saying. Bur my understanding is the FFA have a legal responsibility for that data no matter who leaks it. Thst they haven’t even criticised the DT for publishing it speaks volumes. perhaps more importantly they were aware that this story was going to be published for at least a week and did nothing.

    • November 24th 2015 @ 7:21am
      Baracuda said | November 24th 2015 @ 7:21am | ! Report

      Exactly, Perth has a population of 2 million which sees it the 4th biggest city in Australia, a prime candidate?
      Yes, based on metrics, No, based on physical support. Teams in Wollongong and Canberra would attract greater crowds, noting they would be the sole teams in their regions; their is an appetite for professional football in southern nsw with stadiums already available only sweating the cause.

      • November 24th 2015 @ 9:43am
        My2cents said | November 24th 2015 @ 9:43am | ! Report

        A team in Wollongong would canabalise the Sydney market. While Melbourne is a passionate sports city. Sydney doesn’t care as Much. Especially with the Mariners likely to get the support of the North Sydney/ Hornsby/Warringa crowd. Sydney essentially has 3 teams.

        A team that split its time between Canberra and Campbeltown ( they are only about 1hrs drive apart. It would be much easier for a Campbeltown football fan to get to Canberra then to the SFS despite supposedly living in Sydney.) would be much more viable then a Wollongong team.

        Although 2nd teams for Perth and SE QLD ( either Toowoomba or the sunny coast) would be much better choices

        • November 24th 2015 @ 10:10am
          Ian said | November 24th 2015 @ 10:10am | ! Report

          Canberra and Campbelltown are about 1 hr apart if you are driving at 200km/hour.

          Sydney isn’t passionate about sport? (of course Melbourne is….yawn….) though Sydney has essentially 3 teams while Melbourne has two.

          • November 24th 2015 @ 10:46am
            Arnold Krewanty said | November 24th 2015 @ 10:46am | ! Report

            1hr pffft! What speed are you driving to Canberra from Campbeltown!?!

            Wollongong would not cannabalise the Sydney market – CCM and Newcastle haven’t, and they’re the same distance compared the Gong.

            Canberra is a must, however the risk is similar to the Gold Coast – a transient population (albeit with more money) with outside allegiances.

            • Roar Guru

              November 24th 2015 @ 1:45pm
              Kaks said | November 24th 2015 @ 1:45pm | ! Report

              If the support from Canberrans for their W-league team, the National Team or the Asian Cup is anything to go by then I would put my neck on the line and say that a team in Canberra is a risk worth taking.

        • November 24th 2015 @ 10:41am
          spruce moose said | November 24th 2015 @ 10:41am | ! Report

          Wow, someone drives mighty quick to make Canberra to Campbelltown in an an hour considering the distance is about 220km.

        • November 24th 2015 @ 11:55am
          jamesb said | November 24th 2015 @ 11:55am | ! Report

          My 2cents wrote:
          “A team in Wollongong would canabalise the Sydney market.”

          That comment is definitely worth two cents.

        • November 24th 2015 @ 2:31pm
          Matthew said | November 24th 2015 @ 2:31pm | ! Report

          Perth cant support a 2nd team. Perth now has some of the most ordinary crowd attendance figures in Australia at the moment. NIB stadium while a nice ground has issues with use (Western Force) during the season: there is no Alternate ground really that is commercially usuable

          And the rent paid to use the oval there, If I was a prospective owner of a new club there is no way in the hell Id have my team play games out of there.

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