Friday is showtime
The headlines are full of stories about marquee players, new recruits and our top coaches. That's the way it should be.
It's show time this Friday night when the Hyundai A-League kicks off a season of top class football, great sporting entertainment and the most colourful theatre in Australian sport.
The best news is that the headlines are full of stories about marquee players, new recruits and our top coaches. That's the way it should be.
The stars of the show are driving the interest that has sparked a 40% jump in attendances, a 100% spike in TV ratings and a tripling of digital traffic over the past two seasons.
Away from the spotlight, FFA and the 10 member clubs have been working hard on important reforms to strengthen our competition.
In my view, the fans want some insight into the business of football and FFA welcomes that level of interest. We are all part of football. We need to inform fans about the A-League's future development.
Put simply, the mission is to build a stable and sustainable competition. We all know that is the no. 1 strategic priority.
In the off-season, FFA and the clubs made significant progress towards this goal. I'm delighted to report that five of the 10 clubs are forecasting profits, breakeven results or manageable deficits for the year ahead.
We are making progress. It's never as quick as we'd like, but we have good reason to be optimistic about the outlook for Season 9.
In the past year, FFA has been able to strengthen the foundations in the following ways;
. The new broadcast deal which started on 1 July, worth $160 million over four years, has enabled FFA to plan for the future with some certainty. That's a huge step forward. At the same time, it means the game is not over-reliant on government funding. Another positive step.
. The involvement of SBS in the new broadcast arrangements will be a significant boost for the A-League. The audience reach that free-to-air provides will take the A-League and its stars into new homes across Australia, starting this Friday night. The 1.5 million audience that watched the Socceroos v Iraq FIFA World Cup qualifier in June shows what's possible.
. The extension of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with A-League players via the Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) was announced in July and is a milestone for the game. The agreement will see the salary cap rise to $2.5 million for the 2013/14 season and to $2.55 million for the 2014/15 season. The amended CBA includes provisions to ensure the security of player payments and contracts, and invests in player well-being and development programs.
. In tandem with the CBA certainty, FFA was able to increase Club distributions to match the Salary Cap of $2.5 million this season. That means the Club distribution is more than double the level of Season 6, which the clubs received $1.2 million. This is a significant financial equation on the road to stability.
Aside from these structural improvements, FFA is working on several operational matters with the clubs.
Last month, FFA and the clubs convened in Sydney for a conference on the business of the A-League. The focus was growth in membership, retail ticket sales, sponsorship and TV ratings.
If these numbers continue to grow, we move towards our goal.
Next month, I will complete my first year in the job as FFA CEO. It seems like much longer, because so much has happened in Australian football in the past 12 months.
I have a real sense of confidence that our best years are still ahead of us. The past two seasons have produced excellent results, but we need the trend to continue.
We can do that by putting fans first - fan engagement is what modern sport is all about. That's the core business we are in.
Every time a fan connects with the Hyundai A-League - on match day, via mainstream media, in digital and social channels or in broadcast - we need to make every touch count.
Football has made the breakthrough into the mainstream, but continued success won't follow as a matter of course. In the ultra-competitive Australian sports market, we can't rest for a moment.
Football has the potential to be the biggest and most popular sport in Australia. That's our mission, but for this weekend I hope you, like me, can just get excited about the new season.
We Are Football!