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Volume 10 No. 25
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A-League Popularity Soaring; FFA Boss Claims Football Overtaking Aussie Sport Codes

The A-League is "set to see a wave of high-profile stars lining up to play in Australia" after Sunday's grand final drew record TV ratings and "an unprecedented global audience," according to Dominic Bossi of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. The arrival of standout players Alessandro Del Piero, Shinji Ono and Emile Heskey have drawn the eyes of more than 2.8 million viewers this season as well as millions more from abroad "that has amplified the competition's profile." Football Federation Australia CEO David Gallop said, ''Certainly the marquee players have been part of the success story this season. The fact is that they came with big reputations and lived up to those reputations by the way they played on the pitch." He added, "The game was broadcast internationally wider than ever before. That's an enormous opportunity to showcase our competition and could see more marquee players taking an interest in playing in our competition.'' The arrival of the new TV deal next season "is expected to draw more than a million viewers" for the next grand final, as the A-League will be broadcast on free-to-air TV "for the first time, in conjunction with Fox Sports." Gallop: "Going forward, we add free-to-air coverage through SBS next season, which will lift our television audiences and general interest in the competition. It’s foreseeable that we will have over a million viewers of our grand final next season" (SMH, 4/23).

GALLOP SIT-DOWN: In Sydney, Dean Ritchie reported Gallop "made the shock revelation" that football had surpassed cricket in popularity. Gallop also warned rival codes. Gallop: "Football is only going to get bigger and bigger in this country. There is no doubt rival codes are already concerned about football." Gallop answered questions from Ritchie in a "candid sit-down interview."

Q: After decades in the doldrums, has football finally become a mainstream Australian sport?
Gallop: This has definitely been a breakthrough season for the A-League due to a number of factors.

Q: Should rival codes be concerned about football's growth?
Gallop: There is no doubt rival codes are already concerned about football. Football is the only game that can truly represent Australia in all its diversity and multiculturalism. Football is the only true international game. The base of the pyramid at 1.7 million participants is more than a threat, it's a reality for our opposition.

Q: Has the A-League swooped past cricket as Australia's No. 1 summer sport?
Gallop: In the 18-34 male demographic bracket, our research says we overtook cricket this summer. The importance of that age group is that these are young missionaries for the sport -- going to games, watching it on TV, buying replica shirts, talking about the game on social media. They are the future business leaders of the country and, indeed, are the future fathers of kids in Australia.

Q: Can football potentially go past rugby league in popularity?
Gallop: As the world gets smaller, football gets bigger. Football is only going to get bigger and bigger in this country.

Q: You didn't answer my question, David.
Gallop: The other codes are very well established but there's no doubt football has the biggest growth opportunity (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 4/23).