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Australian football must consider a new operating model

Is a Big Bash-style A-League experience the way to go? (Image: Twitter/FFA)
Roar Guru
21st February, 2017
31

The FFA are at a crossroads with the question of the best way forward. Most of it comes down to money.

If you believe everything you read, you could be forgiven for thinking football in Australia was on its knees, waiting for the executioner. The facts tell a different story.

Last year, football had $103 million in income on the back of a $40 million media deal. Most expect a new deal will come in between $70 million and $80 million.

Meanwhile, revenue for the Socceroos has fallen with the AFC rules, meaning the extra $30 million could be bigger if the AFC rules did not apply.

Football is also the only sport other than basketball growing player numbers, which have exploded since the start of the A-League.

This all means that football will have an income of around $135 million – possibly more – and somewhere between 14 and 16 bidders wanting to obtain a new A-League licence. Plus, if media reports are correct, football will be on a mainstream free-to-air station, with most thinking Network Ten.

That’s all within 12 years of the game being bankrupt and having next to no media exposure – hardly the work of an inept organisation.

Johnny Warren often used the phrase “We have the best game but the country’s worst administrators.” Today he could add that by a huge margin football has the most opinionated and critical sub-parts.

The players association are far more demanding than unions in other codes. Journalists, especially former Socceroos, believe they have all the answers, as do fans. Then there are the clubs which, being mostly privately-owned, are more powerful than in other competitions.

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Many are disappointed by the expected value of the media deal, hoping it would be around $100 million. Around 15 months ago, David Gallop even suggested this was possible.

A better, simpler way of running football is to have the FFA at the top of the chart, with a separate body to run the A-League, W-League and state associations. All competitions retain their own revenues, while the FFA takes enough to cover the shortfall between their own revenue and operating costs.

This will make each part responsible for its own future, which will allow an ‘A-League Commission’, for want of a better name, to decide what is best for itself without club influence.

Whoever finds themselves in charge of football in Australia will face these problems. Given changes are inevitable, the concern is that unless we carefully consider our options to choose the best model, we will simply replace one set of suits with another, who will get the same results.