In my life I have watched and studied a lot of various sports management systems and leaders in sporting codes.
In Australia, two sports leaders stand out, taking their codes from being in decline when they took over to major growth and establishing excellent systems with clearly defined pathways for those following.
They are Wayne Jackson in AFL and Ken Arthurson in rugby league.
Both changed the perception of their codes at the time of their appointment. Both found ways stop their code’s decline, start growth, and find ways to connect to and expand their fan-bases.
Kerry Packer with cricket had a similar effect.
Today in football, we have Danny Townsend and James Johnson, arguably the best management team in Australian sport today.
They operate a spilt system with FA running the national teams and football in general and APL running the A-, W-, Y- and E-Leagues.
The media deal with CBS by both APL and FA is by light years the best media deal we have ever had, especially so given the recent freefall in ratings.
We won the rights to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup. Transfer fees between clubs and levels are in an advanced stage. A second-tier structure is close to being finalised.
James Johnson is slowly moving FA towards a national federation more in line with traditional FIFA models. There is still a long way to go and promotion and relegation is still a while off, but the direction and planning is there for all to see.
Danny Townsend has put the football fan at the centre of his plans. All his systems and structures centre around providing for fans.
In doing this Townsend has also identified a ways to connect to the football player base and non-A-League fans via the hub for the digital investment.
Channel Seven has shown all the Matildas and Olyroos matches live and both have rated well. The best proof is they are being broadcast a lot on the main channel.
Further, in the opening ceremony, football was mentioned a lot and I can’t ever recall that happening before. This is good for the start of the CBS broadcast with Socceroos matches scheduled for World Cup qualification starting in August.
The backgrounds of these two young executives is what has been argued is needed to lift Australian football. Both are football people. Both are vastly experienced in their chosen fields and are now operating with defined roles.
We are in good hands and look forward to being positive again.
I have listed below two videos. Both are interviews with Danny Townsend, which clearly demonstrate not only details of the new media deal but equally illustrate APL plans.
The first highlights the degree of planning APL is undertaking.
I have never heard any Australian sports administrator talk with such a deep understanding of their code, providing detailed and modern plans to connect to the often-talked-of player base. It is a long interview but unbelievably good.
The second is an interview with Lucy Zelic on SBS, showing Townsend clearly has the respect of football media – something I can’t recall any other leader aside from Frank Lowy at the start of the A-League having.