Recent data shows huge growth in the A-Leagues

Recent data has come out of Australia’s top leagues for both men’s and women’s to show a huge increase in support and viewership.

The Isuzu UTE A-League has built on a three-year continuous growth with 1.44 million fans attending the 2023-24 season. The highest number since the 2018-19 season.

This has resulted in a 33% increase in club memberships and a 36% increase in consideration for purchasing membership.

This has also followed a trend of increasing interest in the younger age group with 18-25 marking a 38% increase in fan interest.

This is evident that there is growth in support of the sport and investors and stakeholders should consider this positive data.

The final series is a prime example with the highest numbers of fans since 2009-10 with 138,000 attending. Also, on Channel 10 alone, 1.2 million people watched the finals.

The digital and broadcast viewership has also indicated a year-by-year growth with a 53% increase in Paramount+ viewership and a 16% increase in free-to-air viewership.

This comes in unison with social media which has developed staggeringly the most. On the social and digital channels, there were 530 million video views up 210%, 1.9 million followers which reached a 44% increase and 1.2 billion impressions which is up a significant 70% from last season.

These results indicate that a strong digital and social media presence is key for the A-League’s popularity.

Not just with the fans and supporters the league itself crossed some milestones with record transfer fees and 3.92 goals a game (most in any league worldwide).

Also, it continues to be a league that supports the Australian footballing system and future stars with 15 A-League players called up to the Socceroos squad and a 46% increase in minutes for under 23 players.

This proves the league is not only still supporting the growth and opportunity for young Australian players, but also continues to be expanding and competitive, which are key goals to achieve for any footballing league, especially one that is continuing to try and develop every season.

The Liberty Women’s A-League on the back of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup has shown promising growth in similar sectors as well, indicating that there is a flow-on effect between international support and an embracing of the local national game.

19 players who played in the 2023 Women’s FIFA World Cup played in the Liberty A-League, showing worldwide talent presides and is attracted to this league.

The 2023-24 season ended with the highest attendance ever with 312,176 patrons a 123% increase. This goes in hand with the huge 611% increase in club-specific memberships.

There was also the highest attendance of any women’s club sports match this season at 11,475.

Broadcasting viewership has also had massive growth. There was a 53% increase in average 10Bold FTA audiences and a 68% increase in 10play minutes viewed. The Grand Final itself got 279,000 views up by 64%.

The social media of the Liberty A-League has followed the trend with a community size increase of 32%, impressions up 64%, engagement increased by 80% and a huge 192% increase in videos viewed.

These numbers are a telling sign that these leagues are growing in popularity and have all the support needed for more future success if they are further invested in and supported with long-term strategies and goals. The fans want to maintain support the game and they need the necessary investment to deliver it.

Uncertainty looms around National Second Tier’s future

The highly anticipated National Second Tier (NST) in its proposed format is set to be postponed by Football Australia, with the body looking to find alternative ways to include these NPL clubs into a similar structure that would be more financially viable.

Vince Rugari of the Sydney Morning Herald broke the news on Tuesday claiming the highly ambitious second tier was likely going to be put on hold after the original plan was to have 10 to 14 foundation clubs forming a separate league, without promotion or relegation to start.

There was a very high financial threshold that the eight foundation clubs needed to reach in order to be granted a licence and unfortunately with rumours of some in the eight sceptical of its viability, other NPL clubs with a proposal in the original plan have backed away from the idea for the time being.

For what is meant to be a ‘national competition’, having clubs from NSW and Victoria only is quite restricted but the search for a financially strong club outside of the two states, willing to take that massive financial risk, is a task that is too difficult in the country’s current state of football affairs.

There has been a lack of a clear message from Football Australia across the past 12 months. The eight foundation clubs were left on standby about important information like the correct format, whether it was going to expand to 10 or 12 teams that Football Australia promised multiple times, or when the league would actually kick off in winter of 2025 or beyond that considering the shaky A-League finances being the main subject of discussion surrounding the initial success of the NSD.

After the A-Leagues controversial call to reduce initial funding of top tier clubs to $530k a year from its usual $2m a year, a properly run second division seems like a task too far down its priority list despite the positive feedback it has received from fans and clubs about implementing a ‘transformative’ system mirroring European football.

An idea being floated around as a possible solution to the unviability of a separate league is to add existing A-League teams to the ‘Champions League-style’ second division, which would essentially be a more exclusive version of the existing Australia Cup.

Football Australia CEO James Johnson told The Asian Game exclusively that “we will have a (national) second tier it will exist,” but the home and away format played during the winter is a long shot and the foundation clubs are left in limbo wondering what their immediate futures are considering the heavy financial investment they will have to make if it goes ahead.

This whole saga has been a case of Football Australia pushing away the problems that quickly arose from this ambitious idea and being too reactive when it comes to finding a solution that would be fair for the foundation clubs financially.

The NSD must wait and not force itself into a fragile Australian football landscape that has many more issues it must worry about in the top flight before building a second division that could financially damage some of the most historic clubs in Victoria and NSW.

In a world where Australian football needs authority and structure, the collapse of the original idea of the NSD proves there is a long way to go and communication towards the clubs and fans involved has to improve.

Newcastle Jets’ new owners add key pieces for upcoming season

Newcastle Jets’ new owners, Maverick Sports Partners, have hired Ken Schembri as General Manager of Football and Ben Hawes as General Manager of Commercial, Digital and Marketing for this upcoming season.

The appointment of Schembri and Hawes reaffirms Maverick Sports Partners’ intent to invest in high-quality resources, which should excite Newcastle fans for this upcoming season.

Schembri had previously worked with the reigning champions, the Central Coast Mariners, being an essential part of establishing the Central Coast Mariners Football Academy and their Centre of Excellence when he joined in 2014.

Schembri will manage the A-League Men’s roster, oversee player performance and development, and handle recruitment for all football departments.

The Mariner’s Academy has produced many young and exciting Australian talent including Garang Kuol and Max Balard who have all gone to join clubs in Europe after their time in Gosford. Schembri has most recently played a key role in Central Coast’s recent success as Head of Football.

Maverick Sports Partners Director Maurice Bisetto commented about the new additions.

“We are excited to have both Ken and Ben join the Newcastle Jets team. They will be integral to the strategy and direction of the Club’s New Era, providing expertise and support, on and off the pitch,” said Bisetto in a club statement.

These two joined the Jets after the club were bought by the Australian company only last month.

Hawes has prior experience in Sponsorship, Marketing and Content roles at the National Rugby League, Sportsbet, BlueBet and Sydney FC.

Hawes will focus on expanding and diversifying the clubs commercial revenue streams which includes growing the sponsorship portfolio. He will also deal with commercialising the club’s digital channels as well as implementing new marketing and fan engagement strategies.

Due to these recent moves, Newcastle have the potential to produce exciting Australian talent and grow its brand across the league which will help the club continue to improve both on and off the pitch and ultimately strengthen their stability for future seasons.

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