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Second division dream still alive

The A-League may be independent, but that won’t get in the way of the big plans for a second division with promotion and relegation.

While it may seem like a barrier, Australian Association of Football Clubs (AAFC) chairman Nick Galatas is an optimist.

He has recently spoken about how these changes should be considered, despite the A-League being independent. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be put on the table, with a revamp for Australian soccer not outside the realms of possibility.\

“We have no reason to believe that the A-League owners will do anything other than support what we’re trying to do with a national second division,” Galatas said.

“We think it will help the whole game. It will create great excitement throughout the country when it’s formed.

“We see what the A-League is doing and we see that they are trying to raise the profile of their competition and of football and we believe that what we are doing will assist that and help to expand the game throughout Australia.

“We see a national second division as a necessary condition for promotion and relegation because we need to fill the gap that currently exists between the A-League and NPL.”

Having been involved in the game during the transition from the old National Soccer League to the A-League, Galatas believes he has a new model will help positively shape the future of soccer.

“No doubt many of our constituents will feel there was a time when they were left behind as the focus shifted on the professional side of the game at A-League level at the exclusion of others,” he said.

“But I’m seeing a lot of goodwill and I think everyone is starting to realise that the game as a whole benefit when everyone is involved and invested.

“Whether you’re an A-League club or a team below that with potential to grow and reach its potential, why shouldn’t that be welcomed?”

Since the AAFC has been formed, it’s made massive inroads for the potential of introducing a national second division, which came to light in a meeting between Victorian clubs.

“We always thought that the clubs would bind together because they have a common interest and the environment they were operating in has been difficult for them,” he said.

“I guess I’m pleasantly surprised with the level of commitment over a long period between so many different clubs from all across Australia.

“There are very, very different types of clubs across Australia and the fact that we’ve been able to keep everyone together, informed and moving in the same direction has been great.

“We were new at the time the old board’s tenure was coming to an end.

“I guess we weren’t on the landscape and we were a new organisation and there were a lot of pressures on that board at that time, so perhaps we were last on their mind.

“But we were still invited by them to all the critical meetings in which FIFA was involved so ultimately they accepted us and collaborated with us even before the new board was elected.

“We’re working very well with the new board as well and they’ve been very accepting of us and in particular Chris Nikou and Remo Nogarotto, which has been very encouraging.”

Galatas has had talks with the FFA board, the PFA and other related stakeholders, with the plan being a new second division should come into effect by the 2021-22 season.

“When we started we really sought to have a voice and be recognised on the congress, which we’ve made progress on,” he said.

“That’s obviously opened up the discussions around a second division and conducting and completing a national review of the NPL, so we’ve worked through some of the big-ticket items, I guess now the focus is on doing what we’re here to do and work with our club members and the issues they face from state to state.

“We’re here to make sure the NPL clubs are properly represented at every level, including at the FFA level and making sure their concerns are addressed through the FFA and the state federations.

“In Victoria, we’ve had a lot to do with the new NPL structure there, we’ve liaised with our clubs to liaise with Football Victoria to ensure it’s implemented as smoothly as possible.

“We’re getting involved in state-based issues and each director has an eye on their state.

“We believe a national second division will help in this area because it will help develop stronger clubs and unleash new investment in the game at this level.

“It will encourage greater participation and supporters which will lead to better facilities.

“As we develop as an organisation we’ve been able to put people in place who assist clubs in providing know-how and IP and general assistance we share amongst our clubs to help show them how to access grants and investment from local, state and federal government, the private sector as well as sporting trusts.

“It’s so important to our game because it’s lasting and can lead to exponential growth.”

Liam Watson is a Senior Journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on international football policy, industry matters and industry 4.0

How KEEPUP will revolutionise football in Australia

Late last week, the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) launched their new $30 million digital platform KEEPUP.

The main aim of the new digital hub is to convert a larger proportion of the 8 million football fans in this country into supporters of Australia’s premier domestic competitions.

“The platform was delivered to broaden and enhance the fan experience, connecting A-Leagues fans and international competition fans in one place,” a statement from the APL read.

“In its current form, the platform will focus on creating and curating content to bring fans close to the game however they choose, with significant expansion planned into the future.

“KEEPUP will feature compelling content from the best of the A-Leagues, European and world football, the Socceroos and Matildas, NPL, and FFA Cup.

“A-League clubs’ content hubs will also be integrated onto the platform to ensure fans are offered the most comprehensive football resource available in Australia.”

KEEPUP, across their website and app, have already begun producing a wide array of content from breaking news stories, expert columns from football journalists, articles on football culture, video productions and in-depth analysis features, not just on the A-League, but world football.

The KEEPUP team is led by Optus’ former director of sport Richard Bayliss, who is in charge of the editorial, social media and production practices across the platform.

KEEPUP will have a strong impetus on keeping editorial independence and not cheerlead for the APL and its clubs at every opportunity.

“Day one of the launch we had two A-League CEOs complaining about criticism on our platform, this is all about being authentic and you can’t have a propaganda site,” APL Managing Director, Danny Townsend, told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Football fans are extremely discerning and the minute they see something that is not authentic…they’ll call that out.”

Alongside the diverse content on the platform, KEEPUP will look to innovate in ways which will engage new audiences and provide those they already have connected with, with unique experiences.

“This is just the beginning,” Chief Commercial Officer at the APL, Ant Hearne, said.

“We have a bold plan to evolve KEEPUP into an unparalleled global digital hub, expanding functionality beyond a content base to include gamification, e-Commerce, ticketing, second screen live stadium experiences and loyalty programs.”

Other codes in Australia such as Cricket, AFL and NRL have all invested heavily in their own digital content over time, however the $30 million digital investment from the APL is playing to the strategic advantages that football has over other sports.

“I look at what the other sports are doing and they’re very much wed, fortunately, to TV deals that mean they don’t need to do what we’re doing,” Townsend told the SMH.

“We’re in a situation where we’ve got an enormous base, we’ve got the youngest fan base of any sport in the country who are all digital natives. We’re going to get into the direct-to-consumer business and that will preserve the long-term revenues and build the football economy.”

If you register an account on KEEPUP (which is free to do so), you will receive a four-week trial to Paramount+ – the service which is showcasing the majority of Australian football games for the next five years.

This offer is a slice of things to come between the APL and their new broadcast partner ViacomCBS, with future plans for content from the digital platform to be integrated further into the Channel 10 Network and Paramount+.

“What Channel 10 and ViacomCBS bought into was our strategy,” Townsend told the SMH.

“The ViacomCBS deal was a really critical one for us on many levels financially, but equally the reach it delivers us. But importantly, the owners have continued to invest and put their money where their mouth is.

“The sports media and commercial landscape is changing and the days of sports just serving up content on television, taking a big cheque and playing sport are over. It’s changing in a way that requires sports to take the initiative and connect with their fans.

“We’ve got to become an entertainment business because at the end of the day, if we’re going to grow revenues of the sport, we need to engage our fans more effectively.”

The APL’s KEEPUP platform has only been around for just over a week, but its long-term agenda has the potential to change the perception of the game in this country.

Football Australia welcomes Nathan Magill as Head of Referees

Magill

Football Australia has appointed vastly experienced national refereeing assessor and instructor, Nathan Magill, as Head of Referees.

Magill has had extensive involvement in refereeing across multiple levels of Australian football, including as a member of the Football Australia Referees Committee and a leading referee instructor.

Magill has worked in 10 seasons of elite competitions and has included the appointment as match assessor to the last two A-League Men Grand Finals and previous couple of FFA Cup Finals.

As a member of the Football Australia Referees Committee, Magill has also played a key leadership role in developing strategies to support the transition towards a high-performance model for officiating.

Magill has also played an active role in international sports diplomacy representing Football Australia at seven FIFA Futuro Referee Technical Instructors courses, enhancing and further developing his technical knowledge and football experience at a national and international level and strengthening his connection with FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation.

His sports administration career has also seen him hold positions with Cricket Australia, as the National Development Manager, Premier Cricket and Pathways and previously with Football South Australia as the Competition and Refereeing Manager.

Football Australia Chief Executive Officer James Johnson viewed Magill as the perfect fit for Football Australia and the strategic direction the organisation was heading in.

“The opportunity to reinvigorate our refereeing department in line with our strategic vision and XI Principles for the future of Australian football, is the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle as we bring the unbundling of the professional leagues from Football Australia to life,” Johnson said.

“Nathan was the stand-out candidate from a highly competitive field and brings an outstanding set of skills, experience and high-performance knowledge and acumen to Football Australia.

“We believe Nathan is the ideal person to help us drive this new direction for Australian referees and help develop and implement innovative high-performance strategies for our elite referees so that they are able to perform at their optimum.  This will be a focus of Football Australia and you can expect more announcements in the future.

“Nathan will work in close partnership with the Football Australia Referees Committee, the Australian Professional Leagues, our referees and all relevant stakeholders to enhance the culture of our referees across our professional leagues and Member Federations.”

Magill shared his excitement about commencing this new role with Football Australia.

“I am thrilled to be joining Football Australia as Head of Referees. Football has long been part of my life and I am looking forward to working with the team to enhance the profile and opportunities for Australian referees locally and abroad,” Magill said.

Magill will officially commence in his new role with Football Australia in early December. In the meantime, he will be actively involved in all aspects of the department.

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