Football Australia CEO James Johnson on National Second Tier: “It needs to be complementary to the A-League and also the NPL”

James Johnson

Football Australia CEO James Johnson had a chat with Paramount+ commentator and the host of SEN’s The Global Game podcast, Simon Hill.

Johnson was a recent guest on the show to discuss the National Second Tier, as well as the reason for the lack of funding in football for the national team.

Over 400,000 people have engaged with the social media posts of Football Australia, which is not a surprising figure due to the build-up of the Expression of Interest (EOI) which has been a topic of many football fans and players alike in the broader local community. From everything that James Johnson has seen to date, there is exceptional interest for this to go ahead.

With the men’s national team achieving their best result on the world stage since 2006, narrowly missing out in a hard-fought battle against the eventual winners in Argentina, and also to add the women’s national team preparing for a historic FIFA Women’s World Cup campaign co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, the interest and the ever-growing engagement and success of football in Australia has been more prominent.

The recent split of the A-Leagues from Football Australia presents a special opportunity for the governing body to direct and invest resources into an excellent standard of measure for football development and performance that is capable of producing and improving the connection of various levels, pathways and participants throughout the Australian football ecosystem. For these goals to become attainable, the Board of Football Australia is confident that this is the right time to create a National Second Tier and set in motion a new and exciting future for the sport in the country.

From his appearance on The Global Game podcast, Johnson stated:

“We’ve really tried to steer away from it from becoming competition with the A-League, it’s actually the opposite and it needs to be complementary to the A-League and also the NPL and broader ecosystem and that’s why this competition is really fabricated on a winter competition, one that’s going to be focused on sporting merit.”

In regard to how the two competitions will align in the future for the second division, as stated by Johnson these discussions have occurred with the CEO of Australian Professional Leagues, Danny Townsend, who has been very supportive of this concept, and also the process to introduce an aligned transfer system. This will be beneficial for the younger group of players who are not getting minutes for an A-League club to be loaned out to a second-tier club to develop their skills.

However, James Johnson briefly mentioned why the Socceroos do not even get $1 from Sport Australia via The Global Game:

“At this point, the Socceroos do not get $1 from Sport Australia, because the way the funding model works for high-performance sports in Australia, which is decades old, is it focuses first of all on Olympic tournaments only, the men’s World Cup is not considered important for the purposes of high-performance funding and secondly your probability of meddling at the Olympics is that we’re probably not going to get a gold medal anytime soon.

“Our view is that this model needs to be flipped on its head and we need to look at more competitions like the men’s World Cup that brings 2 million people together in Australia, we need to look at our competitors because governments in China and Japan now are investing millions and millions of dollars in their national teams.”

Interested clubs would have need to registered for the EOI Response, with the next stage due on March 3.

To listen to the full podcast between Simon Hill and James Johnson, click here.

A-Leagues Unite Round returns for a second season

The Australian Professional Leagues (APL) have confirmed the return of Unite Round to the A-Leagues for the 2024/25 season with some changes from the first edition.

The A-League’s ‘ultimate away day’ utilises the same idea as the AFL and NRL with ‘Gather Round’ and ‘Magic Round’ respectively, where one round for both men’s and women’s leagues will all be played in one city.

The second instalment of Unite Round will be once again hosted in New South Wales and will now start on 22 November and conclude on 24 November, instead of taking place in January.

The six games from each league will be split into three double headers throughout the weekend. All of the men’s games will be played at Allianz Stadium whereas the women’s games will be played at Leichhardt Oval. However, Commbank Stadium will not be a featured venue, unlike last season.

Due to the inception of Auckland FC into the A-League Men, there will be an uneven number of teams in the league and therefore each club must serve a bye each weekend. The bye will fall onto Melbourne City during Unite Round, but their women’s side will still play that weekend.

The APL seems to be satisfied to give it another shot, but it still raises many questions about what has been done to entice fans to make the journey to New South Wales and what improvements have been implemented to make this round sustainable for future seasons.

Last year’s fixtures showcased many high-scoring games, with four out of the six men’s games during Unite Round having five or more goals scored- with Adelaide United’s Hiroshi Ibuski and Macarthur FC’s Ulises Dávila both scoring hat-tricks during the weekend.

However, crowd numbers were quite low given the stadiums where these games were being played. To provide context, Leichhardt Oval, Commbank Stadium and Allianz Stadium have a venue capacity of 20,000, 30,000 and 42,500 respectively.

A-League Men Unite Round Crowd Numbers:

  • Macarthur FC vs Western United at Commbank Stadium: 3,441
  • Western Sydney Wanderers vs Melbourne City at Commbank Stadium: 7,117
  • Central Coast Mariners vs Melbourne Victory at Allianz Stadium: 8,147
  • Sydney FC vs Adelaide United at Allianz Stadium: 11,918
  • Brisbane Roar vs Newcastle Jets at Allianz Stadium: 3,948
  • Perth Glory vs Wellington Phoenix at Commbank Stadium: 1,632

A-League Women Unite Round Crowd Numbers:

  • Melbourne Victory vs Perth Glory at Leichhardt Oval: 1,130
  • Wellington Phoenix vs Central Coast Mariners at Leichhardt Oval: 1,938
  • Canberra United vs Adelaide United at Leichhardt Oval: 1,183
  • Brisbane Roar vs Newcastle Jets at Leichhardt Oval: 1,417
  • Western United vs Sydney FC at Allianz Stadium: 4,039
  • Western Sydney Wanderers vs Melbourne City at Commbank Stadium: 1,515

For the first time as a way to get more people to travel to New South Wales, full-season members at every club will be given access to complimentary tickets to their club’s fixtures at Unite Round. This could potentially see an increase in crowd numbers, but there are still other factors that may steer fans away from travelling.

According to the Unite Round FAQs on the A-Leagues website, the APL is working with a few providers on travel discounts for fans to travel to New South Wales, but at the moment, flights aren’t the cheapest if you decide to plan ahead.

The cheapest interstate flights in Australia can range from $200 to $600 depending on where you are travelling from. But when you take into account fans of Wellington Phoenix and Auckland FC who may want to travel from New Zealand, the cheapest flights will cost from $400 to $600. Also, fans would need to sort out accommodation and that too is still another expense fans will have to deal with.

The idea to bring Unite Round for a second season enables fans from Australia and New Zealand to come together and celebrate football in one location. The fixtures that have been released should excite all A-League fans as the two New South Wales derbies are being played that weekend.

Taking into consideration the expenses fans have to deal with, it may not be feasible for some fans to enjoy the festivities. However, it’s still early days and the APL could potentially sort out ways for fans to make it easier for them to travel.

Considering the league undergoing some financial troubles, they’ll be hoping to make the most out of Unite Round and continue it for more future seasons to come.

Football Victoria choose INTIX as exclusive ticketing provider

Football Victoria have confirmed a new and exciting partnership with ticketing and membership company INTIX, which will commence in 2024 in time for next season.

INTIX will become the exclusive ticketing provider for all FV-managed events and will be the preferred provider for events at The Home of the Matildas.

This collaboration will also make FV’s event management more efficient and improve communication with fans and sponsors through their CRM systems.

INTIX is an Australian owned and operated company that specialise in event operations, ticketing and marketing specifically for sporting events.

The company was established in 2017 by Alex Grant with an ambitious goal to provide the best ticketing platform available to event organisers, clubs and venues.

INTIX partnered with Melbourne Victory to provide digital ticketing for all its corporate hospitality functions, and they have worked many high-scale football events.

The company also has experience in the NBL with the Tasmanian JackJumpers and in 2021 worked with AFL Victoria to supply ticketing services to metropolitan leagues and clubs.

This partnership for FV scratches the surface for what is the possibility in the future for NPL and A-League matches that have completely different systems. The expensive processing fees of Ticketek and Ticketmaster have left many fans frustrated at the process of purchasing their ticket and success with this collaboration could see INTIX expand inside the sport of football.

FV Executive Manager of Commercial, Chris Speldewinde, spoke about the improvements to matchday operations that will be made through this collaboration.

“We are thrilled to join forces with INTIX. Their state-of-the-art ticketing and CRM solutions will not only optimise our operations but also elevate our engagement with fans and sponsors. This collaboration signifies an exciting new chapter for Football Victoria,” he said in a statement.

INTIX’s advanced ticketing system will simplify the purchasing of tickets to these events and be readily available to fans online, reducing wait times to provide seamless access into events.

As the Home of the Matildas begins to stage bigger events, this partnership importantly professionalises the experience of getting to the seat and helps FV manage big crowds a lot easier.

It’s a collaboration that allows FV to focus more on strategic growth initiatives and delivering a better experience for fans and stakeholders.

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