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Opinion

The AFL and NRL have nothing to fear from the A-League

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Roar Guru
30th November, 2021
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1665 Reads

Something just feels different this time. Football has not made war cries, no ‘choose football as your second code’, or ‘we are coming to get you and claim our place’.

The Australian Professional Leagues (APL) have stated they’re not chasing either AFL or NRL fans, saying that those over and many approaching 40 have already made up their mind, so increasing viewership in this demographic is difficult.

Beyond this, APL have also said that media broadcast revenue will not be the main income earner and they don’t see themselves being able to compete with other codes on traditional media platforms.

Given that traditional media, especially free-to-air, brings in sponsors, government and business influence, it’s a big item to tick off your list.

Not that football won’t be on traditional platforms, it’s just APL does not see this as important as other areas.

APL only want football fans and are directing their efforts at engaging them.

Wanderers fans

(Photo by Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

They want to connect to the player base, their contacts and others who follow football – often overseas leagues.

APL have said it will take at least three years to rebrand and rebuild the A-League after the turmoil of the last four years. CBS have also reportedly accepted that it’s the back end of the current deal is when things will pick up.

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Back to it’s different this time, football’s structure is different, SBS – aside from the World Cup they own – ignore football today, whereas before SBS and PFA agendas often became key discussion points.

Most different is APL has clearly identified who they wish to market to and have invested heavily into developing systems to connect to that market.

To date, the wrap song, the new website Keepup and the CBS ad have all been quality. There are plans to keep expanding Keepup, plus a major use of egames using A-League sides.

Essentially, the APL have identified fans and developed systems to connect to them – and there is much more to come.

The decision not to chase fans of other codes seems a sensible way forward. Rather than have a big bang at the start and fall back, this approach is geared for rebranding football with a view to long-term but steady growth.

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The elephant in the room will be future change after stabilising the competition.

Sooner rather than later, Danny Townsend’s position needs to be clarified by taking on the APL CEO role full-time and leave Sydney FC or stay at the club and sit on a board. He cannot run both – aside from it being an obvious conflict of interest, it’s simply too large a task to be a part-time job.

In closing, football doesn’t want to become another AFL or NRL. All the plans are yet to materialise, and we can only hope they are well done, but change is in the air.

Finally having the APL solely focused on developing the professional game in Australia should drive clever decision-making.

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