K-League’s beneficial partnership with La Liga: A blueprint for the A-League?

Late last year, the Korean K-League and Spain’s La Liga signed an MOU to advance the collaboration and communication between both leagues and mutually grow their competitions.

At the time of the announcement of the three-year partnership, matters that the two leagues were set to focus on included the development of sport projects, different training programs, addressing anti-piracy issues and creating an economic control mechanism for the K-League and its clubs.

Since last December, the leagues have conducted a wide range of joint workshops and campaigns on these different agenda items.

For example, La Liga has offered multiple training sessions to coaches and K-League staff based on the experience of the La Liga Sports Projects team in their initiatives across the globe. These sessions are held virtually (with a scope to return to face-to-face if COVID allows) with Spanish clubs such as Valencia CF and Elche participating in them, and is set to continue deep into the 2021/22 season.

Similarly to what has been done with coaching education, both leagues have held virtual training conferences on financial control to ensure the viability and long term growth of the K-League and its teams. Using an offline format, a mechanism which has allowed La Liga clubs to reduce their debt from €650 million in 2013 to €23 million in 2020 will also be explained this coming season.

A prominent area which the two leagues looked to address in the initial months of the agreement was the fight against audio-visual piracy. The K-League have launched the “Protect K-League” campaign and alongside the technological advancements developed by La Liga’s anti-piracy branch, this seems to be a high priority for the two competitions.

The eSports field will also be targeted in the coming months, with the K-League and La Liga to carry out joint projects and activations. Both countries have seen the importance of the gaming world and have grown significantly in this sector in recent years.

Yeon Sang Cho, general secretary of the K-League, spoke about the advantages of the arrangement with La Liga.

“Since the signing of the agreement last December we have seen how our relationship with La Liga has gone from strength to strength and how we have worked together to overcome such a difficult situation,” he told the La Liga Newsletter.

“We are impressed with La Liga’s commitment.

“Thanks to it we have been able to adapt to the limitations imposed by the pandemic; carry out virtual training meetings for K-League coaches and their clubs; and also an in-depth analysis of economic control mechanisms, which are key to creating a sustainable professional football industry. Here at the K-League we are very happy with the progress of the relationship and we look forward to a future where these ties become even stronger.”

Sangwon Seo, La Liga’s delegate in South Korea, spoke of the early success of the partnership.

“For us at La Liga it is a great source of pride to be able to count on such an important ally as the K-League and to share our knowledge and experience with them,” he told the La Liga Newsletter.

“These first months since the MOU was signed have been very productive and we have experienced a very enriching exchange of knowledge that has allowed us to move forward despite the global pandemic.

“At La Liga we face this season with great enthusiasm, and a desire to deepen our relationship with the K League and to bring our joint projects to fruition.”

It’s a great move for the K-League to improve their operations through help from one of the world’s top leagues, something which the A-League should envy.

Because of initiatives like this they are setting their clubs up financially for the long-term future and accessing training methods that are of a world class standard.

The A-League should be looking at this example of the collaboration between these two leagues if they want to become a more prominent competition in Asia.

Philip Panas is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

$200 million announced for women’s sport: All the credit but not full reward

Matildas vs Sweden FWWC 2023

Following the record-breaking FIFA Women’s World Cup played in Australia, the Federal Government has announced $200 million to women’s sport under their newly unveiled Play Our Way scheme.

The new program will aim to improve women’s sport across the nation helping to bring about much needed female tailored infrastructure and improve access to women’s sport generally as participation demand sees huge increases in the wake of the global competition.

The scheme will be open to all women’s sports across the nation, something that has led to much criticism from football fans who see it as an appropriation of football’s achievement for the benefit of other already better funded codes. However, the government expects football to be the major beneficiary as demand following the cup to participate in women’s football has skyrocketed.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese thanked the Matildas and expressed the importance of their historic run for all women’s sport when explaining the funds cross sport nature.

“The Matildas have given us a moment of national inspiration; this is about seizing that opportunity for the next generation, investing in community sporting facilities for women and girls around Australia,” Albanese said in a statement.

“We want women and girls everywhere in Australia to have the facilities and the support to choose a sport they love.”

The Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson met this announcement with some criticism.

“The passion for the sport is there, the players are there. It’s giving them a fair chance … to make sure there’s investment in grassroots football so more can play and stay in the game for longer. Making sure there’s pathways for every single player. Make sure the facilities are there to play. It comes down to investment,” he told media.

Although the federal announcement is not an allotment reserved just for football this does not mean that all the recently announced funding is so broad. In fact, the NSW government has committed $10 million just for football “at all levels” to act as a “legacy” of their hosting of the Cup and South Australia has promised $28 million to female sport in general, with $10 million reserved just for football.

The announcement was also a chance for the Federal Government to announce their exploration of new anti-siphoning laws that will aim to make more major sporting events in the coming years available via free-to-air TV. The report into these laws comes as a response to the Matildas’ semi-final against England being the most watched show since TV ratings began.

These announcements are clearly a huge victory for women’s sport in Australia and for consumers. However, there are clearly questions that rightful should be raised regarding the targeting of this funding and if credit is being given where credit is due.

It is indisputable that the nature of football itself was a key factor in financial and viewer success of Cup so why isn’t it getting to have the majority share of funding for the industry it is creating? In fact, football has often suffered this kind of slight despite participation in it being twice as large as Australian Rules football, netball, or cricket.

Therefore, we do welcome and applaud the government’s commitment to improving gender equality in sport, however in defence of football we disagree with the Matildas washing happening for the benefit of the other codes as it should not be used to side-line the game that helped it happen.

This is not advocating that this should be another battle in the code wars between football and the traditional major codes. Instead, it’s advocating that there is indeed a time for investment for everyone but when one sport does so much for the sporting landscape – it’s a matter of respect for them that they get to enjoy an unshared moment in the funding limelight.

Hence, as per Sam Kerr’s words following the semi-final – “We need funding in our development. We need funding in our grassroots. We need funding everywhere.”

Why one state premier’s mindset must be replicated across the board

Peter Malinauskas Labor Government

On Tuesday, before the Matildas took part in the heartbreaking loss to England in the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, we had already seen the enormous support across all sporting codes.

From record viewing numbers, to cross-code collaboration allowing Melbourne Cricket Ground patrons the chance to watch the Matildas before a Carlton and Melbourne AFL match, this is the momentum that will help shape the future of football in Australia.

Until now, football has been well behind in available funding, despite being an extremely high participated sport in Australia.

One state that has already taken swift action to build on a tournament that has seen the first men’s or women’s Australian side to reach the World Cup semi-finals is the Peter Malinauskas Labor Government in South Australia.

In a sign of what needs to eventuate for the game to grow in Australia, they have committed $28 million to dedicated female sporting facilities.

The Government is set to deliver $18 million for grant programs over the next three years that will improve female sporting facilities and participation.

In addition, $10 million of the money will be quarantined for soccer, as Football South Australia will chip in to match the grants dollar for dollar through funding sources that involve clubs, Football Australia, Local and Federal Government.

From South Australia alone, girl’s and women’s participation is predicted to increase by 33 per cent over the next three years, which is influenced by how well the Matildas performed.

Funding and investment will be of even more importance going forward, as clubs will be inundated with requests to start playing – as evidenced by Adelaide Comets who shared how their inbox started picking up rapid enquiries.

Following the conclusion of the tournament, this is the precise reminder of why investment is key, to compete with nations such as England who have their well-renowned training facility at St. George’s Park.

Ultimately, Football Australia will have their part to play as all states in Australia seek to capitalise on this golden opportunity.

Football Australia CEO James Johnson has now seen the men’s and women’s national teams do exceptionally well – now is the time to act.

“We warmly welcome the South Australian’s funding commitment – an important investment that underlines the need for collaboration between government and sport in order to address football’s urgent grassroots facility needs,” he said via media release.

“Following the feats of the Subway Socceroos at the FIFA Men’s World Cup, Football Australia has enjoyed a 10% rise in national participation.

“With the historic performances of the CommBank Matildas at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, we anticipate up to an additional 20% leap.

“However, as we grow, so does the pressing need to bridge our facilities gap – a challenge highlighted by our trajectory, which, if not addressed, will compromise the health of our community, and limit positive life experiences for women and girls.

“Our commitment to gender parity and inclusivity remains unwavering. Yet, we cannot overlook the infrastructure challenges our community clubs grapple with daily.

“This is why the South Australian Government’s funding commitment is pivotal. Together with our government partners, and armed with compelling national facility audit insights, we can make smarter, more impactful investments in community football, ensuring a brighter, more inclusive community for every aspiring footballer.”

We are now in a defining chapter of Australian football. If all state and federal governments and councils can get on the same page, we will be in a far better position than we have seen previously.

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