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SBD Global/November 12, 2013/International Football

Football Federation Australia Chief Says Sport Will Be Country's Most Popular In Near Future

David Gallop just completed his first year as FFA CEO.
A "big increase" in the number of people playing football in Australia over the past three years has "led to claims the game can soon become the biggest in the country," according to Michael Lynch of the THE AGE. New analysis by sports research group Gemba says that 1.96 million "are now playing soccer," up from 1.7 million in '09-10, an increase of around 15% in the past three years. Football Federation Australia CEO David Gallop believes that "after decades of false starts, the game is finally getting its act together on and off the pitch." Gallop: "Today, the powerful idea that football could become Australia's biggest and most popular sport is no longer just a dream. Football is a game on the move. Our best years are still ahead of us. Football is now entrenched in the mainstream of Australian society" (THE AGE, 11/11). In Sydney, Ray Gatt reported Gallop "embarked on a heavy round of media interviews to mark his first 12 months" as FFA CEO. He said that he "had been struck by the diversity of the sport very early in his tenure and admitted to still trying to cope with the enormity and scope of Australian soccer." Asked about the toughest part of his job, Gallop said, "There is nothing in particular other than getting an understanding of the breadth of the role." Gallop said he was "like a new kid on his first day in a new school" when he started after FFA Chair Frank Lowy hand-picked him to replace Ben Buckley. Football in Australia "has made giant strides under Gallop's watch," including a new A$160M ($150M) broadcast deal, gaining free-to-air TV coverage of the A-League and Socceroos, record crowds and TV ratings, the introduction of Western Sydney Wanderers, the introduction of the FFA Cup ('14) and the launch of the National Premier Leagues. However, Gallop said that "there is no way he or the head body will rest on their laurels." Gallop: "But we still have work to do with protecting the investment of owners in the A-League and rejuvenating the Socceroos on and off the field" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 11/12).

In a Q&A with the Sydney DAILY TELEGRAPH's Tom Smithies, Gallop talked about dealing with Lowy, what his priorities are for the future, and the A-League clubs that "deserve some love."

Q: What score would you give your first year?
David Gallop: It's always difficult to rate yourself, but I've been in the fortunate position of being able to tell a good story about Australian football. Most people would score Australian football's performance pretty healthily.

Q: How frustrating is it working for Frank Lowy?
Gallop: A great part of the job has been the relationship between Frank and me -- he's allowed me to run the business on a day-to-day basis, but clearly he takes a huge interest in how things are travelling.

Q: Has your view of the club owners changed over the year?
Gallop: No -- I think the more I've drilled down into that dynamic, the more I've appreciated the significance of the historical investment and the need to make sure we protect it, and provide security for the future.

Q: What's on your to-do list?
Gallop: Preparation for the World Cup, not only around the performance of the team but the continued renewal of the Socceroos brand in the market; we're defending our women's Asian Cup title, and continuing to build the profile of the W-League; there are issues around the sustainability of the A-League which require attention; on a more long-term basis, continuing to review the football plan for the game and its development pathways; at grassroots level, look to create value for the fees that are paid to participate in the game (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 11/12).
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