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LaLiga’s growth rests largely on match day experience, is Australian football watching?

Discussions around football attendance figures in Australia are constant.

One school of thought suggests that the challenge of drawing new people towards both the A and W Leagues and enhancing the appeal and reach of NPL competitions across the country is far from being met.

Another cites a more general trend in many sports, where the physical presence of fans has become far less important than what it once was; with broadcasting and streaming rights seen as the most critical factors in providing both exposure and revenue.

It could certainly be said of sports like tennis, golf, and test cricket, where events are often played in near empty venues. Marquee match-ups draw big numbers yet general run of the mill events continue to offer top prize money despite the often ghost-like fan presence.

Football in Australia does not have the luxury of vast television audiences, contracts or streaming services to generously fund the top Leagues or in turn, the game at the grass roots level.

What the game does have is a solid base of over 100,000 A-League club members, passionate support at NPL level through the traditional and community based clubs and a current boom in women’s football that stands to bring more income and growth to the game as a whole.

Without the significant financial investment enjoyed by some international competitions, Australian football should emulate one of the biggest leagues in the world and focus on fans; without them, there may well be nothing left on which to cling.

Spain’s top two leagues are showing quite clearly that enjoying immense media exposure across the globe and possessing massive television contracts need not come at the expense of growing attendance and bums on seats. In fact, improving the match day stadium experience has been a cornerstone of their approach over the last decade, with much success.

If LaLiga’s numbers indicate anything, it is that primal support lies at the very core of growth and subsequent ratings and corporate interest. Australian football’s challenge is to look closely at the model that LaLiga employs and take the best bits of it in order to improve our domestic product.

2019/20 statistics indicate a 1.53% increase in attendance across the top two leagues in Spain. If the trend continues for the remainder of the season, it will be the sixth consecutive increase. Total attendance grew from 13.1 million people in 2013/14 to 14.8 million in 2018/19. Should this season’s numbers hold firm, LaLiga’s top two tiers will surpass 15 million fans for the first time.

No doubt the quality in Spain creates a more conducive environment for growth than many other leagues across the globe, Australia in particular. However, any thoughts that much of that growth stems merely from the presence of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo is currently being disproven.

Messi is still brilliant, yet ageing and more often injured, whilst Ronaldo is long gone. The league continues to surge forward despite both realities. It is thanks to astute management, planning and a focus on improving the match day experience of fans, rather than an unhealthy dependence on a couple of world class superstars whose days were always to be numbered.

Whilst both Barcelona and Real Madrid remain strong, the growth has led to the increased competitiveness of Sevilla, Real Sociedad, Valencia and Getafe FC. Clubs like Valladolid, Osasuna and Grenada have had their moments in the sun already this season whilst Villarreal and Valencia have also threatened the top six; with inconsistency proving their Achilles Heel.

As a result of that depth, competitiveness and visibility, LaLiga is surging. The governing body of Spanish football respect and enjoy the EPL, Bundesliga and Serie A, yet aim to make their product the second most watched league around the globe.

It is a bold endeavour and one based on providing a magnificent fan day experience for local people that draws them into grounds at an ever increasing rate; no doubt a lesson for the Australian game.

Removing itself from cavernous stadiums and offering affordable ticketing to encourage attendance during the summer months, should be high on the ‘to do’ list of the newly independent A-League. Putting the next broadcast deal aside and making football fun for Australian fans is paramount in a current climate where many feel over-charged, over-policed and under-valued.

The extra money now available at the top tier should be used to build the game from the local level; forging connections, establishing more feeder clubs and engaging with communities.

Adding ‘bright sparks’ into middle management does little for the domestic product. If LaLiga’s growth and success teaches us anything, it is that large stadiums and television deals are not the ‘be all and end all’ when it comes to growing the game.

What is far more important is giving people a compelling reason to go to a football match.

SA Premier Steven Marshall to offer football clubs bushfire relief grant

Football clubs in South Australia that have been affected by the recent bushfires will be able to apply for a special grant.

The State Government led by Premier Steven Marshall, will provide recovery assistance to South Australian communities that have been ravaged by the catastrophic bushfires.

Grants of up to $10,000 will be available for sporting clubs in need, to help the rebuilding process.

These payments will be available immediately and can be used for initiatives such as replacing destroyed equipment.

Minister for Recreation, Sport and Racing, Corey Wingard claimed the grants are a vital source of help to organisations faced with the challenging task of cleaning up and rebuilding.

“These fires have been devastating for so many communities with lives, homes and livestock tragically lost,” the Minister said.

“Community facilities have also been affected with damage feared at up to 20 sporting clubs following both the Adelaide Hills and Kangaroo Island fires.

In many communities across the State, these clubs play a much larger role than simply facilitating sporting events.

As a government we want to do everything we can to support these communities to help with the rebuilding process.

It will take time but we are committed to ensuring the process is as smooth and pain-free as possible and we are focused on making sure these sporting clubs can get back on their feet and continue to serve their broader communities.”

Any sporting association affected by the recent fires can apply for the grant at https://ORSR.smartygrants.com.au/Bushfire or call 1300 714 990.

Illawarra-Based Sides Join Forces in Bushfire Appeal

It’s been a rough few weeks for rural Australia, to be very blunt.

The bushfires ravaging the country have caught worldwide attention, with donations and help coming from far and wide.

Elton John, Chris Hemsworth, Gordon Ramsay, Russell Crowe and Leonardo Di Caprio are just some of the celebrities who have financially pledged for the cause.

In the cricket, various Big Bash League players including Matt Renshaw, Chris Lynn and Glenn Maxwell are donating for every wicket or six they hit in the tournament.

Brighton and Australian national team goalkeeper Maty Ryan is also making an effort from the other side of the world, as are various Australian-born players in the NBA including Ben Simmons, Dante Exum and Matthew Dellavedova.

The list of those who have donated is very extensive and it’ll only get longer, which is fantastic, especially from those overseas.

One of the worst affected areas is in rural NSW, in and around the coastal area of Illawarra, a region of NSW that holds over 300,000 people and the metropolitan city of Wollongong.

In response to the horrific events that have dominated the headlines, Football NSW have joined forces with the NRL and NBL in hosting a round of golf featuring players from various codes.

Despite being a much smaller city than the likes of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, Wollongong is a very competitive sporting city. The Illawarra Hawks compete in the NBL and the St. George Illawarra Dragons in the NRL.

NPL NSW side Wollongong Wolves, who recently won the National Championship against Queensland-based side Lions FC, will also partake in the charity golf game.

Illawarra Hawks guard LaMelo Ball, who has taken the league by storm in the few games he’s played, also donated a substantial amount at a time when the fires were still in their initial stages.

It will be an 18-hole game with every hole available to be sponsored for $1000.

It has been truly amazing to see the support received from across the globe in response to these bushfires. As a country, we always help our fellow man or woman when they’re in a sticky situation. It’s in our nature.

But sometimes, we need a helping hand and we’ve received a lot of those.

The fight is far from over, with blazes raging across the country at the writing of this article.

But with fundraisers such as this, combined with the selfless donations from millions, we’ll be on the road back to normalcy before we know it.

The full press release from NPLNSW that came out last Wednesday can be found below:

The Wollongong Wolves, St George Ilawarra Dragons and Illawarra Hawks have joined forces to announce a first of its kind Illawarra combined codes bushfire appeal golf day.

Players and coaches from the Dragons, Hawks and Wolves will convene on Monday, February 3 at Wollongong Golf Club to help raise funds for the NSW Rural Fire Service, Salvation Army Disaster Relief Appeal and Australian Wildlife Rescue (WIRES) following the recent bushfires that have devastated Australian communities.

Entry for a four-man Ambrose team is $2000 and includes an afternoon of golf, cart hire, food and beverage package as well as a post-presentation event and the chance to mingle with all your favourite players across the three different codes that represent the Illawarra.
Each of the 18 holes are also available to be sponsored at a cost of $1000.

Spots for the day are extremely limited, with all queries and purchases available by emailing partnerships@dragons.com.au or partnerships@hawks.com.au.

Dragons coach Paul McGregor hailed the bushfire appeal golf day as a unique and significant opportunity to raise funds for several special causes.

“The codes combined bushfire appeal golf day is one of several causes the Dragons have chosen to back in response to the horrific fires that have overwhelmed the country,” McGregor said.

“The chance to see your favourite players across Illawarra’s three main codes on the one day is an opportunity that cannot be missed, all in name of a very good cause.”

Wolves coach and former Socceroo Luke Wilkshire echoed his fellow coach’s sentiments regarding the recent bushfire devastation.
“As far as sport in the Illawarra region goes, it is great that we can support each other and work collectively,” Wilkshire said.

“To showcase a strong, positive message by bringing our different sporting identities together as one for a great cause is very important.”
Hawks coach Matt Flinn gave a personal affirmation to the bushfire appeal golf day.

“This is an exciting event that all three sporting clubs are collaborating on,” Flinn said.

“I’ve been personally affected, with family members caught up in the bushfires, as have many of our members and supporters within the south coast region, so this is a way in which we can help unite our community and raise funds for a terrific cause.”

 

State Federations unite together for bushfire relief

A number of state football federations in Australia have expressed their support for those affected by bushfires across the summer.

Football Victoria, Football NSW, Football Queensland and Football South Australia have already released statements and will roll out initiatives to help contribute their donations to the cause.

Football Victoria CEO Peter Filopoulos has kickstarted the campaign by donating $10,000 to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal.

It has also been confirmed that the annual Community Shield matches and Round 1 of the NPL Victoria Men’s season (February 13th-16th 2020) will be a Bushfire Relief Appeal round.

Both Community Shield games will take place at City Vista Reserve, the new home of Caroline Springs George Cross FC.

In the men’s match, 2019 Dockerty Cup holders Hume City FC will take on 2019 NPL Victoria Champions Bentleigh Greens SC on Saturday, February 8, 2020, from 5pm.

The women’s match will see 2019 Nike F.C. Cup winners Calder United FC face NPLW Victoria Runners-Up FC Bulleen Lions on the weekend of March 15, 2020 (exact match date and time TBD).

In a statement by Football NSW CEO Stuart Hodge, the entire federation have expressed their sympathy for the people who have been caught up in the bushfires that have shocked everyone here and around the world, while thanking all the brave firefighters and emergency workers for the selfless role of protecting affected towns and communities.

Football NSW have said they are working with Football Federation Australia (FFA) and other Member Associations and Clubs about how to unite and add to the massive fundraising efforts already on display.

So far, Football NSW have confirmed they will make a donation to the Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Appeal and also dedicate Round 1 of the NPL NSW competitions as a Bushfire Relief Round.

Football Queensland have committed to the bushfire appeal by working closely with Football Federation Australia (FFA), Brisbane Roar, regional zones and clubs.

CEO Robert Cavallucci has been involved in engaging the football community through fundraising initiatives and kick-started this with a donation to the Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Appeal.

Not only will Round 1 of the NPL Queensland men’s season be dedicated as a Bushfire Appeal Round, but two special charity matches will also take place.

The first is a charity match between Brisbane Roar Legends vs an NPL Queensland Select Team and Celebrity VIP’s. It will be played before the Brisbane Roar v Wellington Phoenix A-League match at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday January 18, 2020.

The second of the charity matches will be The Football Foundation Cup, FQ’s curtain-raiser to the NPL Men’s season. NPL Queensland Premiers Lions FC will take on FQPL Premiers Sunshine Coast Wanderers on Saturday February 1, 2020 at Lions FC.

In a statement by Football South Australia, they have also given their support during this tough time, with more details to be released from them soon.

“Football SA is deeply saddened by the tragedies, losses and suffering that have resulted from bushfires in South Australia and around the nation.

We want to support the community at this time and will provide details in the coming days.

Our thoughts are with all people affected by the devastating events.”

In addition to these vital initiatives, FFA will dedicate the upcoming two rounds of Hyundai A-League and Westfield W-League to raise funds for those impacted by the disasters.

If you have been affected by the bushfires and need support, please reach out to Lifeline.

Support is available 24/7 on 13 11 14, or nightly via Lifeline Text.

Lifeline Text is available 6pm – midnight (AEDT) on 0477 13 11 14.

You are not alone. Bushfire Relief tool kits are also available at lifeline.org.au

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