Summer of football: Shinji Ono of the Western Sydney Wanderers and Alessandro Del Piero of Sydney FC at yesterday’s launch at Bondi. Photo: Ben RushtonBarely had the champagne stopped flowing from Australia’s Ashes triumph before FFA chief executive David Gallop issued a stark reminder about the nation’s new sporting order.
Branding the round-ball code as “unstoppable”, Gallop boldly claimed that the Big Bash League was relatively meaningless when compared with the Ashes. The Twenty20 competition begins on Friday, and will compete for media and public attention with the A-League over summer.
However, Gallop dismissed the shortened game’s legitimacy, saying the A-League had proven pulling power with the public. “The proper cricket ended yesterday. Well done to Australia, but what we’ve got over the next 17 days is right at the core of our competition that runs over 30 weeks, and it’s a make-or-break time. Every match counts,” Gallop said on Wednesday. “We’re part of a six-month competition that Australian sports fans are going to take interest in.”
Gallop was speaking at the launch for a period being promoted as the “Summer of Football”, where there will be 16 A-League matches in the next 17 days, beginning on Thursday night when Central Coast host Wellington Phoenix.
“We’re unstoppable in Australian sport, and the next 17 days gives us another opportunity to demonstrate that,” he said. “We’re really confident that the seriousness of the A-League, that battle for the six [finals] spots, is going to command attention over this holiday period.”
While there are still two Ashes matches to go, Gallop said he expected ratings for the Tests to drop now the series had been decided.
“The main action was always going to be whether Australia could win back the Ashes, and they did that,” he said. “We’re now really confident that the seriousness of the A-League and the battle for the top six is going to command attention in the holiday period.”
The A-League began with a bang this season, smashing the aggregate crowd record in round one by topping 100,000 for the first time, before tapering off. The average for each match this season is 14,103, just shy of the all-time record for a season, 14,610, posted in 2007-08.
“We obviously went into the start of the season with an emphasis on some big match-ups and then we went into an inevitable period where we didn’t quite have those games every week,”’ he said. “But now, with the summer of football, these match-ups, particularly with the Melbourne derby this weekend, I think you’ll see our crowds are going to be boomers over the next few weeks.”
Gallop said television ratings were pleasing in the first year of the combined free-to-air and pay-television broadcast deal.
“TV ratings have been tracking ahead, and obviously complementing Fox Sports with free-to-air on SBS on Friday nights has given us a huge boost,” he said.
Sydney FC marquee Alessandro Del Piero and Western Sydney Wanderers’ talisman Shinji Ono joined Gallop for the launch, but the Italian was uncertain how many games he will be fit for in the next few weeks, starting with the Sky Blues’ trip to Wellington this Sunday.
“I really don’t know …” he said. “A lot of us play all of the games so there’ll probably be someone who needs time for recovery. But this is trouble for Frank [Farina, coach], not for me.”
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