Lack of Socceroos sponsor our ‘biggest challenge’, admits Football Federation boss


David Gallop addresses media after his keynote presentation at the Mumbrella Sports Marketing Summit

The chief executive of Football Federation Australia has admitted there have been no takers to sponsor the Socceroos, describing it as the “big challenge” in commercialising the sport.

Speaking at the Mumbrella Sports Marketing Summit at the Melbourne Cricket Ground this morning, David Gallop said the A-League and the women’s W-League were drawing good support from brands.

It was the reluctance of anyone to buy the naming rights for the national team that was the biggest headache.

Gallop, who outlined the FFA’s ambitions to surpass the NRL, AFL and cricket to become the number one sport in Australia, said its task was “not helped” by last week’s withdrawal of players from all commercial events in Perth in the absence of a Collective Bargaining Agreement.

“We have some good supporters in particular the A-League with Hyundai, National Australia Bank and Qantas, and Westfield with the W-League, but the challenge for us is the Socceroos,” Gallop said. “That’s where we don’t have a naming rights sponsor.

“I think it’s an interesting case study for Australian sport when we go and talk to companies about the Socceroos

“They say ‘how much access do we get to the players’ and the short answer is not much.

“Many of the players play overseas and come together for a relatively short period of time in Australia, there are narrow commercial windows within our current collective bargaining arrangement, and of course it doesn’t help when last Tuesday they decide to boycott that stuff.

“But getting away from that boycott, it is hard for us say to prospective sponsors come and sponsor the Socceroos because when they play in World Cup all the branding has to be removed because it’s held by FIFA, and it’s the same when they play in the Asian Cup.

“When the alternative is [sponsoring] Collingwood or South Sydney Rabbitohs, where you can get access to the players every week through your sponsorship, whether it be a golf day or a lunch, it makes it a real challenge for us.”

The vacancy for a naming rights sponsor emerged in 2013 after Qantas withdrew after a decade-long deal.

Despite the lack of brand interest, Gallop said the Socceroos remained an “unbelievably powerful sponsorship property”.

“They are playing the world game and putting us on the world stage in a way that no other sporting team does in the country,” he told delegates.

“They are representing the country and represent all the diversity and multiculturalism of the country. We see that as a positive. But if you talk about our challenges the Socceroos is the big one.”

Asked how the FFA is looking to combat the issue, Gallop said: “We are continually out there banging on doors reminding people that this is a amazing sporting property and that it has a ‘for sale’ sign on it.”

Earlier in a keynote presentation, Gallop spoke of football’s ambition to become the most popular sport in the country. He said the “unique atmosphere, colour, the chanting and the noise” in stadiums is unparalleled in Australian sport and “something we need to capitalise on over the next couple of decades”.

The CEO identified the typical A-League fan as between 16 and 35, who are tech savvy for whom disruption “is the norm”.

He added that football can become a “connection point across so many levels of the Australian community”. But Gallod admitted it needed to close the gap between those who play football and those who attend A-League games.

While 70 per cent of people who play AFL, and 60 per cent who play NRL, class themselves as fans of a club, only 22 per cent of those who play football follow a team in the A-League.

“We have got to lift that 22 per cent up to the 60 and 70 per cent mark to really convert those people over to a competition that is only 10 years old,” Gallop said.”We don’t have that generational support that the AFL and NRL clubs have. We are new and we need to get people who came out to the MCG in July and saw Real Madrid or Manchester City play but don’t necessarily then go to A League games.

“We need to convert those people from being football fans to becoming A league fans.”

He added by 2035 the FFA wants 15m out of the predicted population of 30m to be in “some way connected to the sport”.

“The numbers are already healthy – 7.5m from a 23m population,” he said. “Our targets are ambitious but ones we feel are important to set.”

But Gallop drew criticism after talking of the importance of the women’s game but showing a football highlights package which only featured the men’s game.

“I’ll take that on board,” he said.

Steve Jones


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