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An insight into the impact of the A-League’s marquee signings

Ever since the inaugural A-League season, clubs have been consistently on the lookout for marquee players. Players that are no longer in their primes, but are enough of a household name for fans to recognise.

It’s a simple, yet smart method of putting butts in seats and in most cases, genuinely adding to the quality of your side. It also puts the A-League on the map and helps to generate worldwide interest.

In the midst of rumours that Liverpool striker and Premier League star Daniel Sturridge could make a move Down Under this offseason, now’s as good a time as any have a look at the impact marquee players have made in the past.

It’s also a good opportunity to analyse whether the consistent use of such players has impacted on Australian football in a positive or negative manner.

We don’t need to look too far back to see who some of the biggest marquees were. Alessandro Del Piero, David Villa, Emile Heskey and most recently, Keisuke Honda.

These players amongst more are some of the best footballers their countries have produced, making their names in the biggest leagues in Europe. It’s no surprise that at least financially, they were a success in the A-League.

Del Piero, a World Cup winner and genuine legend of the game signed for Sydney in 2012. After over 500 appearances for the Bianconeri, he made the move to the Harbour City. Bear in mind that at the time, he turned down a move to Liverpool, one of the biggest clubs in Europe.

So it wasn’t as if his absolute best was behind him. He still had a lot to give.

He subsequent 24 goals from 48 games in the A-League goes a long way to proving that. He was still a star.

Emile Heskey joined the Newcastle Jets that same season and his impact, safe to say, left a little to be desired.

A solid first season was followed by a dismal second season, which saw him depart the club with a goal to game ratio twice that of Del Piero’s.

David Villa had the shortest stay of the four, managing four games at Melbourne City whilst out on loan from MLS club, New York City FC.

Despite his brief run, Villa garnered a following from all fans of Australian soccer, simply because he was still seen as a player in his prime. It was a real shame to have him leave so soon, but it will have done no harm to anyone or anything.

Finally, Keisuke Honda played at the Melbourne Victory this season and in short, he made a massive impact. One of Japan’s greatest ever, someone’s who’s travelled the world and been good wherever he’s been. Victory were lucky to have him.

But one has to think that with all these successful marquees, what’s the flip side of the coin?

Massimo Maccarone wasn’t the worst marquee in A-League history, but he was far from the best. He had been a modest striker at clubs like Empoli, Siena and Middlesborough.

However, as someone most fans won’t know, someone who was 37 when he arrived at the Brisbane Roar, some if not most may think that he, along with other marquees who had limited impacts, take away opportunities for youngsters.

In the past, we have seen numerous players who have been on A-League rosters move to NPL clubs across Australia, due to lack of opportunity.

One player we can pinpoint is current Avondale FC player Joey Katebian.

At just 23 years old, Katebian still has his best years ahead and for any A-League club, his ability and his age would present a great asset. But that’s not how the Melbourne Victory and Brisbane Roar saw it.

Katebian was forced to reevaluate after limited opportunities at the A-League clubs, with a mere five appearances combined from 2015-2017. He made the move to the NPL before the start of the 2018 season.

In 2015/2016, during his time at the Victory, Katebian was forced to compete with marquee players Fahid Ben Khalfallah and Gui Finkler. Whilst those two helped the Victory achieve good results in the league and abroad, Katebian didn’t seem to be in future plans for Kevin Muscat’s side.

It was much the same at the Roar. Katebian joined prior to the 16-17 season and was made to compete with seasoned attacker, Spaniard Manuel Arana.

Arana managed 18 games with no goals to his name, whilst Katebian was barely sighted.

Now we don’t know the full story behind why Joey wasn’t played too often by his A-League clubs, but it is fair to assume that the marquees were considered before him at just about every opportunity.

Now averaging a goal every two games and a proven talent at the level, A-League clubs should be looking at Katebian.

And he isn’t the only one who has been overlooked by A-League clubs in favour of marquees, despite their potential.

Jake Brimmer of Perth Glory is a great example of when prolonged gametime helps develop a young player into a pivotal member of a footballing side. In the case of Perth, he helped them make a Grand Final this season.

When done right, signing marquee players can do wonders for an organisation. But when done wrong, it can set the future of the club back several years.

Soccer is the most popular sport amongst youths in Australia. We should be giving them the most opportunities.

Caelum Ferrarese is a Senior journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on micro policy within Australasia and industry disruptions at grassroots level.

FIFA’s commercial partnership structure unlocks opportunities

FIFA has introduced a new commercial partnership structure that will provide companies worldwide with increased opportunities to partner with soccer.

For the first time in eight years, FIFA has introduced a new commercial partnership structure that will provide companies worldwide with increased opportunities to partner with soccer.

Three partnership variables have been launched which include women’s football, men’s football and Esports/gaming. As a starting point, brands will now be able to negotiate dedicated partnerships with women’s football and Esports.

FIFA are building on their Women’s Football strategy implemented from 2018, by launching a dedicated women’s soccer commercial vertical to show their commitment to making soccer more accessible for women and girls across the globe. Their main aim from this vertical is to accelerate the growth and equality of the women’s game.

As for opportunities that provides for Australia, it could be a key driver for broadening the business side in women’s soccer, as well as the ever-growing Esports.

FIFA Chief Women’s Football Officer, Sarai Bareman:

“This marks a groundbreaking moment to maximise the growth of the women’s game and its marketing appeal, as we create equal commercial models across Women’s and Men’s Football for the first time,” she said.

“We’re excited about the opportunities for brands who want to support women’s sport, help accelerate women’s equality, and wish to align themselves with the unparalleled momentum around women’s football.”

A dedicated partnerships structure for Esports will allow FIFA to further broaden its gaming footprint. The structure provides exciting opportunities to participate in one of the world’s fastest growing markets.

Overall, FIFA’s new partnership structure includes the following:

  • All partners will receive extensive global commercial rights across national team tournaments.
  • Sponsors will receive global activation rights surrounding the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the FIFA World Cup and/or across all FIFAe competitions.
  • Tournament Supporters will be able to select territorial activation rights for any of the above listed tournaments.
  • FIFA partners continue to hold the highest level of association with global partner status and category exclusivity across competitions.
  • FIFA’s new commercial approach will enable brands to benefit from new opportunities to associate with FIFA’s brand for business-driven purposes

FIFA Chief Commercial Officer, Kay Madati, on the impact these changes will make:

“As we continually work to make football truly global, accessible and inclusive, we recognised the need for a nimble and customisable commercial structure that enables brands big and small, global and local, to connect with all aspects of the beautiful game,” he said.

“The new model will allow our partners to create more tailored programming and marketing activations that align directly with their strategic business goals, and connect them to the world’s most passionate fans, in the world’s most engaging sport.”

Sport Republic acquires stake in Southampton FC

Sport Republic – backed by billionaire Serbian businessman Dragan Solak – have acquired a large stake in the club.

English Premier League club Southampton has confirmed that Sport Republic – backed by billionaire Serbian businessman Dragan Solak – have acquired a large stake in the club.

They have purchased the stakes that were previously owned by Chinese businessman Gao Jisheng, and will work in collaboration with Katharina Liebherr – daughter of Swiss businessman Markus Liebherr – who owns the remaining stake in the club.

Sport Republic are a London-based investment firm for the sports and entertainment industry. They were founded by Henrik Kraft and Rasmus Ankersen and headed by Dragan Solak. Their portfolio includes Tonsser – a football player app that empowers youth players to progress and unlock their potential.

Southampton CEO Martin Semmens:

“Over the last two years, together with the shareholders of our club, we have searched for the right partner to take the club forward. Today we have found the perfect solution,” he said.

“Sport Republic are experienced investors, but also experienced within the world of elite professional sports. That combination is very hard to find, and we are thrilled to have reached an agreement that secures our short and long-term future.

“We are grateful for the support of Mr Gao and Katharina that allowed us to take our time, turn away the wrong options and ultimately find the right partner for the future of this great club, its fans, staff and the people of Southampton.

Sport Republic Lead Investor Dragan Solak:

“My partners and I have experience in long-term investments in the sports and entertainment industry and Sport Republic has been founded to combine this expertise and deliver something unique to the market,” he said.

“Southampton has so many of the qualities we have been looking for in a major sports organisation. It has a great management team, excellent talent development, talented teams playing attractive football and a dedicated fan base. We are delighted to be able to complete this acquisition.”

Sport Republic Chairman Henrik Kraft:

“We will be an active and engaged owner, but we will not be starting any revolutions. We were attracted to Southampton because it is already a well-run club that follows a clearly defined strategy,” he said.

“Whilst Southampton is Sport Republic’s first acquisition, we expect more investments to follow over the coming years. Our ambition is to build a portfolio of high-influence stakes in football clubs and other sporting assets across the world.

“At the same time, we will also invest in early-stage sports technology companies and use our portfolio to accelerate the development of these companies. The acquisition of Southampton is a great first step and we are very excited about the journey ahead.”

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