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Will Australia now finally put football ahead of power and pettiness?

Ange Postecoglou’s comments on ABC’s Offsiders Program in regards to putting Australian football first, were compelling and accurate.

The former Socceroo mentor and now coach of Yokohama F Marinos in the J-League was explicit, precise and curt when commenting on the necessary response to the COVID-19 pandemic within the Australian game. For Postecoglou, it is an opportunity to do something rarely seen. That being, an active positioning of football well above all the vested interests and personalities that for decades appear to have thought themselves bigger than the game itself.

The former South Melbourne player stated, “Never forget what your prime product is and your product is the sport……..If you devalue the sport, you can save as much money as you want, eventually that devaluation is going to cost you.”

For Australian football, the reference to money is the hottest topic of conversation right now. Foxtel appears to have reneged on its most recent payment due to FFA, with A$12.5 million yet to hit the savings account of the governing body.

With three years to run on a broadcast deal that was signed in 2016 and valued at A$346 million, the media giant is within inches of walking away and leaving Australia’s elite professional league without a host broadcaster.

That deal was originally cheered home in 2016 by then Chief Executive David Gallop, yet in the years that followed, little was done to advance, promote and forward the game by the powers at be. Postecoglou was on the sidelines in a coaching capacity with the Socceroos for some of that time and his comments were no doubt directed towards those whom he sees as having failed to keep football as the focus.

No doubt FFA were jubilant each and every time the Socceroos qualified for the World Cup and the subsequent financial windfall that came their way. However, little effort was made to bring the domestic game together as one. Despite increased awareness of and interest in NPL competitions around the land, the governing body baulked time after time when it came to making the essential leap to full promotion and relegation across the country.

Essentially, Postecoglou’s words ring true to all those who have observed the first 15 years of the A-League competition. Efforts were made to expand the game from the elite level and little done to engage with the grass roots and the hundreds of thousands of Australians who showed little interest in the top tier competition.

By providing pathways for clubs to advance in league play and the ensuing incentive provided for players not directly involved in the rather limited junior and developmental systems of the ten A-League clubs, football in Australia has the potential to become interconnected and united; something of which Postecoglou is well aware.

Instead, the elite men’s competition had a few highs, many lows and ended up treading water over the last five years with little change, growth or development. High hopes were placed on expansion and Western United have made anything but a weak start to their existence. However, with the financial realities of COVID-19 hitting home, it is now likely we will see some A-League clubs fold or tread close to extinction.

A third Sydney team was looking shaky in its infancy and with the current climate now leading to seven of the eleven A-League clubs unable to pay players and staff, their birth seems unlikely; most probably postponed indefinitely until the football landscape becomes a little easier to read.

Postecoglou’s comments were almost certainly a less than cloaked attack on many Australian football relics whose failures of the past are common knowledge; the men involved in the failed final days of an NSL competition that fell victim to infighting and power struggles that served no purpose to the game.

They were also undoubtedly a direct attack on the lack of vision shown by the FFA in recent history; a governing body hampered by risk aversion and people possessing little knowledge of football.

Mark Schwarzer alluded to those power struggles when he called for the abolition of state federations on April 20, citing them as the “biggest problem in Australian football” due to a reluctance to relinquish power and influence.

Both Postecoglou and Schwarzer know the landscape all too well and have been to places that very few Australian footballers and/or managers have even dreamt. Something tells me that we should be listening to them as an industry and taking the advice of people with knowledge that extends far beyond our shores.

FFA boss James Johnson shares such knowledge and experience and it will be interesting to see how he incorporates their advice with that formed by the ‘Starting XI’ think tank he has assembled in an effort to guide the game through the problems created by the pandemic.

Mark Viduka, Josip Skoko, Clare Polkinghorne, Ron Smith, Mark Bosnich, Paul Okon, Frank Farina, Heather Garriock, Vicki Linton, Joey Peters, and Connie Selby will no doubt have strong opinions.

Whether they have the nous and vision to right what currently looks like a sinking A-League ship after Foxtel’s clear intention to walk away is unclear. Hoping they do should be the wish of each and every football fan in Australia.

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Melbourne Victory extends partnership with CoachNick Business Coaching

MVFC

Melbourne Victory have announced the continuation of CoachNick Business Coaching as an Associate Partner for the 2021/22 season.

CoachNick Business Coaching has been associated with the Victory brand and Victory in Business over the last 10 years and has supported the Club since its inception.

Melbourne Victory Managing Director Caroline Carnegie was excited to see the Club continue their collaboration with CoachNick Business Coaching.

“CoachNick has been an integral part of the Victory in Business family and we’re excited to further our partnership, elevating CoachNick Business Coaching to an Associate Partner for the upcoming season,” she said.

“The company’s business solutions have helped small to medium organisations in Melbourne and across the country and we’re proud to have CoachNick continuing his ties with the Club and Victory in Business.”

CoachNick Business Coaching Managing Director, Nick Ikonomou – who has been a member of Melbourne Victory since 2005 – is thrilled to broaden his partnership with the Club.

“It’s a proud moment to be involved yet again with Melbourne Victory this season, expanding our partnership and seeing how the next generation of Victory professionals take the next step,” Ikonomou said.

“This is not just a commercial partnership. My ties to the Club run from the first game as a supporter and as a Victory In Business member to now, as an Associate Partner and right throughout the history of the Club.”

CoachNick’s variety of services range from business owner and senior management training in sales and marketing, customer service, goal setting, time management, systemisation, financial management, recruitment, leadership, negotiation, conflict resolution, franchising and succession planning.

CoachNick Business Coaching has provided top class business support and training to over 400 small to medium businesses in all industries in Australia for 22 years. You can find out more here.

10 ViacomCBS Executive Producer Geoff Bullock: Bringing a fan-first approach

Fans

10 ViacomCBS’ concerted efforts to aid in the revitalisation of Australian football over the last few months has stirred a largely positive response from the passionate Australian fanbase. The extensive coverage seen across Channel 10’s news networks and various social media channels speaks volumes of the broadcaster’s dedication to help football reach its lofty potential.

The clarity provided by a primary broadcaster who is aligned in its passion for the game, coupled with the governing bodies, is undeniably promising for football going forward.

Geoff Bullock has been a vital part of our collective matchday experience of Australian football since his beginnings at Fox Sports as a Producer for for football in 2006. Bullock has certainly ridden all of the highs and lows that have come with being an adherent of the game like the rest of us.

In a wide-ranging chat with Soccerscene, the current Executive Producer for football at ViacomCBS gave us insight into the strategic direction, plans and thinking behind the new broadcasting home.

Football home

What has it been like taking on this project of 10 ViacomCBS being the home of all things Australian football? Have you always had an interest in football?

Geoff Bullock: I’ve been involved in football since I was about four, playing for the Gosford City Dragons with my dad as the coach. So, it’s always been my number one sport for the past 15 years as I’ve been lucky enough to be working on the broadcast of Australian football. And now to get to do it at Channel 10 for a new era is really exciting.

It’s just good to be involved when there’s a fresh start for football on the horizon. And I’m just excited about the role that we can play to hopefully energise football in Australia.

How is the 10 ViacomCBS production team looking to differentiate how football will be presented in comparison to any previous broadcaster’s time in charge of Australian football?

Geoff Bullock: What we want to do is provide a fan-first approach to broadcasting football here. And with the two platforms in Channel 10 and Paramount+ it gives us – in addition to the live broadcast – the opportunity to offer replays on-demand, mini matches and highlights for A-League Men and Women’s. That includes the Socceroos and Matildas internationals, which we’ve been broadcasting on 10 and 10 Bold and putting mini-matches on 10 Play.

I think it allows viewers to digest football in different ways to what they maybe traditionally have. We’ll also preview and review all of the games with our team as well. Each game will have a preview and review show attached, which allows our experts to dive in and give viewers a deeper look. And we’ll do some magazine shows and podcasts through the week as well to provide extra content.

The other thing I’m excited about is that we’re looking to do a deeper stats dive than we’ve done before. So, there’ll be greater insights on potential players and matches that we’ll be able to get from the deeper stats dive.

Traditionally, for the domestic game whilst they have been comprehensive in terms of milestones and players, we’ve never really taken the leap to include expected goals, pass mapping and possession mapping. That’s the territory I’m hoping we can get into for the A-League which will take it to a new level.

AL

Within the envisioned coverage, what areas of football are being focused on as its key points of difference in comparison to other sporting codes? How valuable do you believe embracing active support is?

Geoff Bullock: I think COVID-19 has shown how important it is to have fans at the game. Whether we’re in the stands or watching on TV, we know what we’re missing when the atmosphere isn’t there. It’s just a massive game-changer at the venue and on TV to have that buzz of the crowd at the games. I can’t wait to have that back.

And I think it’s even more important with football than other sports because of the unique nature of active support. It provides a soundtrack for the game that we’ve missed. The interesting contrast is probably the Euros where we finally got some crowds back at games and it was a massive lift.

That’s so important for us to take advantage of, that active support. We’re trying to provide a fan-friendly experience as well. We’ve worked hard with the APL to provide two fan-friendly Saturday 7:45pm timeslots, so that fans are able to get to more games that are on at a better time.

We’re looking forward to covering active support in the broadcast as well when we can. It’s no doubt been a while since we’ve seen a massive Wanderers march to the stadium which was always huge in the broadcast. Seeing that amount of people marching to the ground definitely provides a sense of occasion and anticipation before the game. It makes people want to stick around and watch.

March to stadium

We’ve seen football over the last few months covered extensively on Channel 10’s news and socials. What are some examples of the strategies being taken to entice younger social media savvy modern audiences?

Geoff Bullock: Quite a few strategies are in place, like our Saturday night coverage is going to be built around a multi-screen experience with those two simultaneous matches that I mentioned on Channel 10 and Paramount+. This is being done with the younger fans in mind.

Football fans, as we know, are accustomed to basically consuming their content on multiple devices. I believe a lot of people in that under-30 age bracket very rarely watch any kind of TV or stream without their phone in their hand.

So, we’re going to build the Saturday night around that multi-screen experience where you’ll be able to watch a game on 10 and on your device with Paramount+. It’ll be a chance for those fans to be across all the highlights and talking points from two games live as it happens.

We’re also exploring a few solutions that might allow us to scale up a separate coverage on a Saturday night that will deliver alternate commentary across the split-screen experience of those two games. That’s something that we’re going to work towards as the season unfolds, and also potentially a social media or influencer-driven commentary stream which we’ll look to do.

With the deep-dive stats that I mentioned earlier they’ll be going out on our social media platforms as well. That’s something that will allow those younger fans to engage in more analytical discussions around football. When you talk to young football fans, you find that there’s not much about the game that they aren’t across, and I think this will give them more of an opportunity to talk more in-depth about Australian football rather than the default of European football.

I think that’s one of our big challenges, to try and engage football fans in Australian football in the same way that they’re engaging with European football. And I’m hoping that if we can bring our level of detail up to the same sort of standards that fans are seeing overseas, then hopefully that will help them to switch on to the local game.

MVC

In terms of coverage beyond matchdays, are there plans to produce content that dives deeper into Australian football and its various stakeholders (clubs, fans, players)?

Geoff Bullock: Definitely. I think part of the strategy that we’ve been talking about is not taking Australian football fans for granted. Basically, bringing our coverage up to the standard that they’d expect. We want to give them the experience that they deserve based off their level of intellectual buy-in to the game.

Young fans here in Australia commit very heavily. You just look at the hours they have to stay up at night to watch these teams overseas. They’re committed to learning about these teams that aren’t even on their doorstep.

I think we need to match that in our level of commitment to them to be able to deliver that. With the APL we’ll be delivering features and exclusive content across broadcast, digital and social media platforms that will give them that detail of the local game – both the A-League Men’s and Women’s – that will allow them to basically have that same sort of intellectual connection that they should have. Because these are the clubs that are actually here and that means they can support them in the stands week-in week-out.

Fans here in Australia can get so much closer to the stars of these teams, like they’re far more accessible than they are in any other league. The access for these fans is so much different to what it is for some stars overseas and that’s what we want to encourage. We want fans to know that they’re amongst their heroes at these clubs.

World Cup qualifiers

Australian football has undoubtedly seen some rollercoaster times in recent years. Why do you believe now is a critical time for 10 Viacom CBS to get involved in football?

Geoff Bullock: It’s ridden a few waves that’s for sure. We all know it’s had its ups and downs based on national team performance and marquee players in the league, but it’s never really had a long-term sustained period of growth. Particularly over the last couple of years the popularity of the competitions has dropped off.

So, I think the timing of a longer-term broadcast deal with free-to-air exposure really couldn’t have come at a better time. And the fact that that deal has come along at the same time as the unbundling of the A-League from Football Australia (FA), it should provide clubs with a bit of confidence to invest further in the game and hopefully that’ll provide a better, more marketable product. Not only whistle-to-whistle but off the pitch as well.

I think there’s now an opportunity, like there never really has before, for the clubs to back themselves and have a crack. And maybe we’re starting to see that with Perth Glory getting Daniel Sturridge on board, which is a huge boost.

There’s always a bit of a knock-on effect when you’ve got these big stars signing for a club and suddenly there’s clubs looking over their shoulder not wanting to be left behind. The building blocks are there for a really exciting season, and with a number of clubs with spots to fill hopefully they follow the lead that the Glory have taken and they have a go.

Daniel Sturridge

How can 10 Viacom CBS help to capitalise on interest and grow women’s football leading into and following the 2023 Women’s World Cup?

Geoff Bullock: It’s exceptionally exciting. The World Cup is going to be massive here in Australia. But the one thing we always know in Australia about having a tournament on home soil is that people get behind it. We saw how Australia embraced the Asian Cup back in 2015. Particularly with a lot of Asian teams we don’t traditionally get behind. So with a World Cup it’s going to be even bigger.

The women’s game is really important to us. I think everybody is aware in Australia it is the fastest growing asset within football. And we’re going to treat A-League Women’s exactly the same as we treat the Men’s. The same sort of program will be structured around each game. Our best commentators and experts will work across both competitions, so you’ll hear Simon Hill calling A-League Women’s matches as well as A-League Men’s.

We’re massively excited about the Matildas returning to play some games on home soil in October. But we’ll also be tracking it because we’ve got the Women’s Asian Cup starting in January early next year. And we’ll have programming around those games and that competition which will be hosted in India, so the kick-off times will be pretty decent for an Australian audience. So, it might really work well with the A-League still going on here. In that period, it will be a frenzy of football which is pretty exciting.

WWC 2023

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