If Perth Glory owner Tony Sage is on the money and A-League franchises are on the verge of acquiring somewhere near an extra $80 million, a significant change is looming in Australian football.
Should the clubs financially benefit to the full extent of the numbers that Sage predicts, when an independent A-League finally moves beyond returning a mere 30 per cent of generated revenue back to them, the allocation of those funds will require some careful and strategic thinking.
Prioritising the allocation will be paramount and also difficult, considering the differing viewpoints and needs within the game.
The first order of business when increased finances are available should be to vastly improve the way the A-League is marketed and promoted in Australia.
Generating a professional and extensive promotional campaign that puts more sets of eyes than ever before on the A-League should be the No.1 item on the agenda when the clubs eventually meet to discuss their spending options.
Frankly, promotions of the past have been weak, limited and failed to engage new fans. Thus, the league’s growth has stagnated.
A successful campaign starts with a catchy song and visually showcases the best local and international talent from across the league.
Tina Turner’s Simply the Best nailed it for rugby league in the ’80s and ’90s and the Hoodoo Gurus’ What’s my Scene did wonders for the game soon after. Hunters and Collectors’ Holy Grail proved equally successful for the AFL.
From time to time, the NRL has attempted more subtle and obscure approaches, discovering that they don’t work. The Tom Keneally-inspired ‘Blow the whistle, ref’ campaign was laughable and lacked the throw-your-hands-in-the-air emotion that promotions need to inspire in fans.
Jimmy Barnes’ No Second Prize might work in the A-League, as could Boom Crash Opera’s Talk About It – a song that might just deliver a perfect message about drawing attention to the league and talking up its prospects.
There are undoubtedly many other possibilities and I would love to hear your suggestions, yet whatever the future of A-League fan engagement looks like, it must be better than previous attempts such as a young boy wandering the nation searching for a club to support.
Should Sage’s estimated $80-million figure prove to be accurate, a consensual agreement between the soon to be 12 A-League clubs to allocate $2 million each towards marquee talent would also be a prudent move.
Along with a significant increase in or an abandonment of the salary cap, permitting the recruitment of a third international marquee player and/or an additional overseas visa player could well prove pivotal.
A decent portion of the players who visit our shores on long or short-term deals entertain us commendably on the pitch and do much for Australia’s young players off it. Increasing the number of quality foreigners and luring even more notable talent should be a high priority when it comes to any decisions about where to allocate additional money in the A-League coffers.
In turn, the Y-League cannot be ignored, with considerable investment required to keep pace with our Asian Confederation opposition, many of whom appear to be light years ahead.
With greater numbers of experienced international players in the A-League and a potential improvement in quality thanks to an enhanced carrot with which to lure them, Australia’s Y-League talent pool needs to be ready to graduate.
Investing in the competition and fast tracking the development of local players via improved instruction and enhanced experiences will make their transition to fully-fledged top-tier professional football more fluid when it does occur.
Ignoring or under funding the Y-League now is tantamount to damaging the next generation of A-League stars and leaving them under-prepared for the rigours of the competition.
With women’s football also surging ahead with no apparent ceiling on its international popularity, a re-branded W-League must also be a part of the broader strategy, when the larger piece of the pie is indeed fed back into the clubs.
Investing in stadium facilities to allow for more double-headers and offering attractive joint club memberships to both the men’s and women’s teams will mesh the three leagues neatly.
With much criticism made around the lack of care many Australians have for A-League teams and the obvious disconnect between them and the NPL competitions around the country, investing financially, establishing a sense of community within and building connections between the three competitions will attract new fans.
Sage is looking at the injection of funds as a red-letter day for the leagues, envisioning eventual expansion into Asia within a decade.
He cites a potential figure of $1 billion in television revenue should a portion of that Asian audience become emotionally attached to the A-League.
That is debatable and still some time off, yet would see the competition become a truly burgeoning league.
As for now, there is the small matter of the decisions to be made by the clubs in terms of the additional profits they will receive in the shorter term.
Let’s hope some sage advice sees them spend it in the right way.