FFA CEO David Gallop hasn’t masked the massive issues facing the A-League, as Australia’s premier domestic soccer competition continues its almighty slump.
The A-League has suffered through low television ratings and minimal crowds this season, as it has gotten lost amid the congested Australian sporting market.
While admitting that aspect is a barrier the league faces, Gallop has made no apologises for the struggles the A-League has created for itself, saying nobody is pleased with the direction the competition is heading.
“No one could be happy with the pure output in terms of numbers around attendances and ratings,” he told SEN’s Whateley.
“Those never tell the full story. The quality of the football has been high, Sydney FC have played beautiful football and look almost unstoppable.
“It is just another reminder of the competition in the Australian market.
“We were hard up against it straight away, because the Socceroos were still in a qualification phase, and that took away attention in October and November.
“There was a Rugby League World Cup, there was an Ashes series, the BBL and the Australian Open.
“Australian sport is so busy, so that has had an impact. Football needs to actually think about how it is marketed, both at club level and our level, as we go into the next season.”
Despite securing a new free-to-air deal with Channel Ten and sister station Channel One in June, Gallop was blunt when asked if the ratings have yielded positive returns.
“That has been frustrating for us, the clubs, for Ten and for Fox Sports,” he said about the lack of viewers.
“The idea was to use that as a platform to grow our pay television numbers as well.
“The squeeze is on across a lot of sports in terms of how people are looking to get their sport. Everyone is challenged by new ways of people watching, and we are a part of that as well.
“No doubt the numbers have not reflected where we would have liked that to be.”
Even though the professional league has a flurry of issues flying in its face, the grassroots level of soccer remains steady and growing, according to Gallop.
However, there is a huge gulf between connecting grassroots to the A-League, a gap that must be shortened.
“I think the sport has a lot of reason to be optimistic and confident about the future,” Gallop said.
“The grassroots participation says we are growing, the challenge is to turn those grassroots participants into fans of the A-League.
“It is still a relatively young competition, it doesn’t have the generational support of the AFL and NRL.
“That’s our primary strategic goal, is to keep turning those people into A-League fans.
“I think it is making sure we continue to work on the conversion of thousands, millions of people who play the game, and rust them onto an A-League club in their area.
“It is not an easy or quick solution, but it has to be the right answer.
“There are an army of people there who love the game, but they aren’t connected to an A-League club.”
Many fans and commentators have declared expanding the A-League will lead to immediate dividends.
While acknowledging the current slate of 10 teams isn’t sustainable, Gallop eased the belief of new clubs equals success, saying a strong framework needs to be in place if new squads are to be introduced.
“Ten teams are not enough, we would like to move to 12 teams, but that also won’t be the panacea that I think some people portray it to be,” he said.
“You see across sport in the country that expansion can often have pitfalls and be a very costly venture.
“We have to think carefully about that.
“It is linked to the operating model of the A-League, the ability to raise capital for new teams and the ability to reward the investment of our current owners.
“Those are pretty complicated issues, but I think you will see progress of those things over the next couple of months.”