Australian Professional Leagues welcome two new executives

The Australian Professional Leagues (APL) have announced Ant Hearne and Michael Tange as their two new executives.

Ant Hearne joins as Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) of APL, to set up and lead all commercial activities – involving user experience, marketing, content, sponsorships, rights negotiations and other revenue opportunities. He comes across from Foxtel’s streaming division, Streamotion, as CCO of Kayo, BINGE, WatchAFL and WatchNRL which has seen significant growth in recent years. His career in Australia, Asia and the US focuses on senior marketing and commercial roles in telco, digital media, marketing tech and sports entertainment.

“Football represents the biggest growth opportunity in Australian sport – we’ve got twice as many participants as any other game in this country, we’re leaders in women’s sport (with all eyes on the game in the lead up to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup), and key to our future growth is the fact that we have the youngest and most diverse fans of any sport,” Hearne said.

“It’s now time to deliver commercial outcomes that will fuel the sustainable growth of the game. Our teams are playing exciting, fast-paced, uncompromising football in front of the most passionate fans and it’s the APL’s mission is to take that direct-to-consumer in order to unlock the power of the fan and ultimately grow the whole game. It’s going to be an exciting ride.”

Michael Tange joins as Strategy and Digital Director, following 15 years working in global roles with sports, data and technology companies. He will lead the strategy, digital development and media rights for APL. He arrives from Nielsen Sports in New York where he spent a decade working on commercial strategy, broadcast, digital and fan development with leading sporting codes such as the NBA, NFL, MLB, PGA TOUR and Major League Soccer.

APL Commissioner Greg O’Rourke continues to lead the operational side of the business in conjunction with Deputy Commissioner Tracey Scott. She joins APL after six years with Football Australia in various leadership roles, most recently as General Manager (GM) of Leagues. She is also an Appointed Member of FIFA’s Professional Women’s Football taskforce.

Since the unbundling of the four professional leagues from Football Australia on December 31, these are the first official APL appointments.

“With full ownership of the four leagues, we have an ambitious vision for the growth of the game at every level,” Chair of APL Paul Lederer said.

“The new, expanded executive team have been tasked with unleashing the APL’s commercial and entrepreneurial capabilities, and we now have a structure that will enable them to deliver the right outcomes for all of Australian football.”

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Liam Watson is the Co-Founder & Publisher of Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy, industry matters and technology.

German football ends 70 years with Adidas for Nike deal

The German Football Association (DFB) has inked a mega eight-year deal with American sportswear giant Nike and move on from incredible 70-year partnership with Adidas.

The deal commences in 2027 after the next World Cup and runs to the end of 2034 with the company securing kit rights for at least two World Cup campaigns.

Nike were able to blow away Adidas’ offer and the deal was one they simply couldn’t refuse. It is reportedly worth AU$169.3 million a year, exactly double the amount Adidas currently gives the DFB which is $84.6 million.

Adidas has been a DFB partner since the 1950s and has been synonymous with the success of Germany’s men’s and women’s national teams, who have supported the company’s logo during 14 World Cup and European Championship triumphs.

This deal has caused huge public backlash from German fans and politicians who believe it goes against the traditions and history of the sport.

However, the DFB has defended its decision to drop Adidas as Nike made the better financial offer which would help the federation fund the future of German football as it would be invested into the grassroots game.

DFB President Bernd Neuendorf explained the controversial decision and gives his well wishes to Adidas.

“We understand every emotion. It’s also a drastic event for us as an association when it becomes clear that a partnership that was and is characterised by many special moments is coming to an end after more than 70 years. That doesn’t leave us cold,” Neuendorf said in a statement.

“The DFB has to make economic decisions against this background. Nike made by far the best financial offer in the transparent and non-discriminatory tender process.

“The federation will do everything we can to achieve shared success with our long-standing and current partner Adidas, to whom German soccer has owed a lot for more than seven decades.”

It is a huge loss for Adidas’ legacy, losing a long term relationship with the country’s biggest sporting team to its main rival and ultimately showcasing the bargaining power Nike has over the company.

However, the company still has a huge standing in football despite this issue and won’t be too affected by it. At the international level, Adidas has deals with higher-ranked Argentina and Italy and will still supply Germany’s kits at the 2026 World Cup – a tournament which it will also sponsor.

This new deal allows more money to tackle issues in the grassroots game in Germany and help stabilise the system as it looks towards returning to long-term international success.

Football Victoria celebrates establishment between Sydenham Park SC and Calder United SC

A striking partnership has been established between Sydenham Park SC and Calder United SC, with the Western United affiliated club to play 11 home fixtures at Keilor Lodge Reserve.

The Club Changer Club Development Program, an incentive created in 2023 to assist clubs fostering and strengthening inclusive environments for multiple diverse communities within society to participate in football, supports the growth of women’s football, among many other ranges of football within the country.

Last year, all federation members dedicated a strong focus upon women and young females in football as a main element of their Legacy 23 campaign. This enables club development officers across the state to work in conjunction with clubs in order to foster a positive football experience within female football, both on and off the field.

In this facility sharing partnership, Sydenham Park SC vice-president Davis Lisolajski showcased his clubs enthusiasm.

“When we learned that they were without a home venue, it was an obvious choice for us to reach out and assist,” he said via press release.

“Women’s football holds significant importance for us at Sydenham, and we believe this partnership will benefit our young girls and both senior women’s teams. They will witness professionalism first-hand during match days.”

Calder United SC President Amanda Stella expressed excitement towards developing a sustained and effective partnership to spearhead National Premier League Women’s football to Sydenham Park in 2024.

“The support from Sydenham Park President Nick and Vice President David, along with the broader Sydenham Park community, is greatly appreciated, and we eagerly anticipate playing our senior and 20s home games for the 2024 season at Sydenham Park,” she added via media release.

“A special acknowledgment to Football Victoria’s Josephine La Pila for her work with both clubs to achieve an outcome that promotes collaboration among football clubs for the betterment of our beloved sport.”

Football Victoria have endorsed the partnership between these two growing clubs within female football across the state.

With Calder United establishing themselves as a competitive club amongst the NPLW competition, the partnership allowing the club between the Western United sister club and Sydenham puts a focus upon both sides allowing their playing and coaching staff to use one of the best pitch surfaces within the north-western district of Melbourne. The use of these highly elite facilities will allow them to have an advantage, perhaps being the difference in furthering themselves away from their competitors.

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