Ange Postecoglou’s trail blazing J-League success finally silences the critics

Former Socceroo manager Ange Postecoglou stands just 90 minutes away from potentially the most significant achievement by an Australian football coach.
For the past two seasons, the 54-year-old has been at the helm of J-League club Yokohama F Marinos. With a three point lead on the ladder heading into the final round of play and a comfortable seven goal advantage in the tie-breaking for and against column, Postecoglou’s men appear sure things; a done deal and J-League champions.

Barring some sort of bizarre final day flake out or the most stunning of all victories by their opponent this weekend and second placed FC Tokyo, an Australian manager will for the first time, have his hands on one of the most valuable pieces of silverware in Asian football.

The club is emerging as a potential Japanese powerhouse, with the City Football Group investing in a minority share in 2014. It had an obvious eye towards leading the club back to J-League success after what had been a ten year stretch of disappointment.

Not that the club could ever have been described as a minnow of Japanese football. Three league championships and a J-League Cup in 2001 are testament to its success. However, aside from a second place finish in the league in 2013, Yokohama has recently done little more than sniff around the fringes of the top rungs.

It’s most proud achievement is quite probably the fact they have played in the top flight of Japanese football since its inception. Never suffering relegation and always being competitive.

The involvement of the City Football Group usually signifies immediate change, thanks the increased investment and resourcing undertaken at the clubs with which they become involved. There are now eight such clubs across the globe, with trophies and more trophies a clear motivation for the owners.

A key part of the new investment in Yokohama and a potential change in fortune was to find the right mentor and Postecoglou, after successfully qualifying Australia for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, accepted the challenge laid out before him. He would follow in the footsteps of the now Melbourne City manager Erick Mombaerts in Japan, who was unable to produce the results which City Football Group demanded.

For the Aussie, it required a forgoing of another trip to the world’s biggest football tournament, something for which Postecoglou took much criticism. Many believed there was a sense of desertion. However, the manager had been explicit that his term was to only ever cover the four year period for which he had signed. When family ramifications, an attempt to sure up his long term future and his continued development as a manger were also considered, Postecoglou had a simple choice to make.

Yokohama it was to be and after moments of promise in 2018, his first season saw the club finish in 12th place on the J-League ladder. In truth, there were moments late in the season where they appeared a far better team than that result indicated.

Consistent with his past, Postecoglou was content to experience two steps backwards to eventually take a commanding three forward. It has long been his approach. Postecoglou has a plan, vision and philosophy about football. The chances of him stepping into a role and continuing with the style and methodologies of the previous boss are slim and none.

It was the approach he took with Brisbane Roar and Melbourne Victory in the A-League. It brought about multiple championships. At the helm of the Socceroos he took the same approach, starting from scratch and trialling a vast number of players before settling on the men he knew had completely bought into his way of thinking and could best execute his plan on the big stage.

Such an approach will potentially be the greatest legacy he leaves when the clip board is eventually shelved and his career is done and dusted.  An Australian with the confidence to back his own systems and without the need to replicate the approaches of managers at the helm of some of the biggest European and South American clubs, is a new phenomenon.

Postecoglou never sought the tick of approval from those whose methods are supposedly the ‘right’ and ‘tested’ way to approach the game. He always had a clear plan and had the courage to back it no matter the outcome, fallout or any personal criticism that may come his way because of it.

Even Postecoglou’s critics, and there were many at times, would applaud him for having the courage of his convictions.

Now the Greek born manager will have a rather impressive J-League title to add to his resume. In a week where Soccerscene’s own Philip Panas’ interview with Phil Moss as Australian football coaches deserve better explored some of the challenges faced by domestic coaches, Postecoglou’s success is timely.

With Moss correctly identifying the limited opportunities presented to Australian coaches and the need for a solid support network to aid them in their development and growth, Ange Postecoglou has once again set the bar, broken the glass ceiling and pioneered the way forward.

It is a success most Australian football fans will celebrate, whilst a few doubters may be forced to eat a rather large piece of humble pie.

Staff Writer
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Juventus Creator Lab: a novel strategy for football media

Over the years Juventus FC has had to endure substantial challenges on and off the field, however, they are making a robust return in the digital space. The club’s digital team is working diligently to establish new, stable revenue sources through the Juventus Creator Lab, initiating partnerships and launching new online platforms.

It is evident that the Italian giants have not been very forthcoming about their vision, strategy, and future plans for the club in recent years.

Considering the pressure they’ve faced after being docked 10 points by the Italian football federation’s appeals court, it’s understandable why they’ve been less communicative. This penalty resulted from an investigation into the club’s transfer activities.

The legal case remains unresolved, as the club maintains they have operated within the rules. Additionally, several executives were banned from football due to their involvement, leading to the appointment of a new executive team to bring stability to Turin.

One of the newer executives at Juventus Football Club is Mike Armstrong, who became Chief Marketing Officer in September 2021. The Canadian leader brings a diverse background in technology, having worked with Google and YouTube, and in advertising, with experience in fast-moving consumer goods brands like Kraft Foods and AB-Inbev, as well as in an esports start-up.

The Juventus Creator Lab is the birthplace of Juventus’ digital products, a fresh creative approach inspired by LA-style creator houses and gaming studios, designed to cater to a global fanbase.

The Juventus Creator Lab is designed to enhance accessibility and foster a closer connection across all areas of Juventus, including the men’s and women’s first teams, Next Gen, legends, esports teams, and even the innovative animated kids’ series dedicated to the younger fanbase, Team Jay.

With a rich background in corporate America, Armstrong objective is where the overarching aim has always been clear ever since he joined: to outpace competitors in growth while simultaneously enhancing profit margins.

This mentality is what Juventus and the entire football industry needs, a defined objective of consistently generating revenue to fund the development of a football team capable of competing with the world’s top clubs.

Armstrong talks about the instability within the industry via an interview for Off The Pitch, which he acknowledges as a fundamental aspect of sports. Success or failure in qualifying for competitions can cause substantial revenue fluctuations.

“For me, this is the approach we need to pursue. Players are always crucial, but they come and go, and their presence can be unpredictable. So, I believe all football clubs need to explore ways to make their business less susceptible to volatility. In my case, along with my colleagues, we confront a reality where players serve as key distribution drivers due to their social media followings,” he explains.

“However, recently, out of necessity, we decided that we had to develop a business model capable of ensuring substantial revenues even when major players departed the club. With this goal in mind, we’ve witnessed a significant transformation in our approach and operations, and we believe we’ve made considerable strides in recent years.”

With an annual revenue of $741 million, Juventus has faced difficulties in their digital operations after the departure of key social media influencers such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Angel Di Maria, Leandro Paredes, and Paul Pogba.

To determine the type of content creator you should become, it’s essential to understand your audience. Armstrong recognised that with 90 percent of Juventus fans living outside Italy and 40 percent of them being under 24 years old, the club needed to significantly rethink their approach.

They have achieved impressive milestones with 60 million followers on Instagram, 30 million on TikTok, and 7.5 million on YouTube. Armstrong mentions that they have exceeded initial expectations, and he anticipates substantial revenue growth from sponsors in the coming years.

A clear indicator of their progress is the addition of 2 billion more video views last season compared to the one before, and an overall increase of 159 percent in video views across their ecosystem over the past two seasons.

Simultaneously, they initiated several partnerships, including one with Celine Dept, a rapidly growing digital sports creator with 43 million followers. Juventus also partnered with 433, one of the world’s leading football communities boasting 115 million followers, and Wave Sports + Entertainment, which has over 130 million followers across its various accounts.

The difficult part for Juventus, as with all other clubs, is making sure they create content that connects with all their fans.

Looking at all this from a football landscape in Australia, it seems too good to be true to have a physical laboratory of where a clubs digital products are born, this would greatly benefit the Isuzu UTE A-League men’s and Liberty A-League women’s to enhance the clubs around the country not only on social media platforms but also both in a traffic and engagement aspect to be seen by global brands.

Football West launches innovative Arabian Engagement Strategy

Western Australia grants

Football West have confirmed its Arabian Engagement Strategy in partnership with the Council for Australian-Arab Relations and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

Simply, it seeks to enhance Australia’s bilateral ties with Arab countries through a shared passion for the world game.

In what is truly a first of its kind in Australian football, Football West and the Federal Government are using this Arabian Engagement Strategy to grow international engagement between Australia and Arab countries specifically through the delivery of training, education, school programs, tours, competitions and the development of players, coaches, and referees.

DFAT has confirmed a $50,000 grant from the Council for Australia-Arab Relations with the total project value listed at $297,786.

Football West CEO Jamie Harnwell spoke about the potential of growing WA football through this innovative collaboration said via press release: 

“The incredible growth of football in the Arab region is well documented and Football West is excited to be involved.” he said in a Football West statement,” he said. 

“We saw Qatar host the FIFA World Cup 18 months ago, while Saudi Arabia will host the tournament in 2034 and has currently attracted some of the biggest names in world football including Cristiano Ronaldo. And the UAE has the current AFC Champions League winners in Al Ain FC.

“Below the headline acts there is massive potential at grassroots levels in the three countries through sporting and cultural exchange visits.

“The primary objective is to position football in Western Australia as a prominent player within the three countries and offer West Australians unique opportunities in sports, culture and education.

“This includes joint development, training and technical programs; coaches and referee workshops; and matches between WA State teams and sides from Qatar, UAE and Saudi.

“The Arabian Engagement Strategy will further promote Football West and the Sam Kerr Football Centre as hubs for team base camps, professional training and exchange programs.

“We have seen the value of the Sam Kerr Football Centre with the recent visit of the Socceroos, and last year with the Matildas. Perth can deliver and that is being seen around the world.”

It is an interesting initiative that is innovative and ambitious as it seeks to reach the Middle East through the sport.

With the grant money tied in there is clearly a plan in place to execute it properly and hopefully provide WA teams with better training and development workshops for its players and referees.

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