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Opinion

Sponsors come and go, but Hyundai's reported FFA exit a symptom of greater ills

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Expert
4th February, 2020
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2634 Reads

It doesn’t take much for #SokkahTwitter to break into pandemonium.

As some almost gleefully cheer on the A-League to what they hope is its demise, you would be forgiven for thinking that the reports that Hyundai is seeking to end its 15-year association with the FFA and the league is music to some people’s ears.

For others who take a more favourable view, there’s concern that the reports signal yet another insurmountable problem for the competition and its clubs.

Is there another sport in Australia that whips up as much nonsense and hysteria over a report about a sponsor as football? Probably not.

While early reports indicate the car company wants out, there’s no need for anyone to run to their panic rooms or exclaim with glee that the A-League is dead and buried.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s never nice to read about one of football’s largest and longest-standing corporate partners looking to depart (at least at the level they currently support the sport).

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But without understanding why Hyundai wants out and if there are other businesses waiting in the wings to take on the sponsorship, there’s really no reason for outrage.

A quick look at Hyundai’s December 2019 global sales report, for instance, shows that the Korean motor giant had a year-on-year decline of 3.9 per cent.

In December, Hyundai Motor and its affiliate Kia Motor announced their sales numbers for the year, which were their lowest in seven years.

Is Hyundai out solely because the A-League has not grown as many wish it had? Are they out because of some major discrepancy on the FFA’s part? Or are there other factors at play too?

Sponsors come and go, and as the A-League’s inaugural naming rights sponsor, one might argue that the 15 years football got is an outstanding result.

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That’s not to say the performance of the A-League, from TV figures to attendance figures, should not be a concern and aren’t a factor in Hyundai’s reported decision to cut ties, but no sponsor is forever.

While it is tempting to view every latest development in Australian football as glass half-empty, this is equally an opportunity for FFA’s new board to prove their worth and work their contacts to find a replacement.

If a replacement can’t be found, then feel free to panic or celebrate depending on your stance.

In any case, the major concern should not be about one sponsor.

Hyundai pulling out is perhaps another symptom of the greater problem the FFA must solve. That is, how is the model at a national level going to create greater engagement from the vast football community and create a greater connection between the professional level and grassroots.

If Australian football is too reliant on top-down funding – big deals with the likes of Hyundai and Fox Sports – it’s because the existing model does not encourage enough investment at the lower levels.

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George Blackwood

Photo by James Elsby/Getty Images

Couple this with the current lack of engagement at the top level, and it’s little wonder Hyundai and Fox Sports are looking to get out, or at least decrease their sponsorship.

In that respect, the FFA can always look for another sponsor, but unless the underlying problems are solved, then we will find ourselves in the same position in another five years.