THE BLOG

Galloping Into The Abyss -- The A-League's Week From Hell

03/12/2015 3:08 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
NEW! HIGHLIGHT AND SHARE
Highlight text to share via Facebook and Twitter
Fairfax/Brendan Esposito

Those expecting David Gallop to launch an impassioned defence of football during the week were always on a hiding to nothing -- he's not a football person, and that's exactly why he was hired.

The FFA chief executive flew back from India earlier than expected and called a press conference in the wake of a week which saw walkouts and the simmering tensions building below the surface of the game burst open.

His response, to football fans, was limp at best.

He implored fans to use their passion to grow the game, and stood in defence of a banning process which may or may not have existed a week ago (we're still not entirely sure on that one).

What was missing to those in the football community was a staunch defence of the game against those who would tear it down. They wanted a spirited rallying cry against the likes of Rebecca Wilson, who splashed the identities of banned fans across the pages of a major tabloid.

They wanted him to go after the likes of Alan Jones, whose discussion of the aforementioned article descended into barely contained dog whistling.

They got neither, and were angry about it to the point where mass walkouts were planned.

The failure of Gallop to do so, combined with the insistence that fans should prove that they're not guilty of an offence under banning orders, rather than the other way around, meant that the fans had confirmation that he wasn't a "football person". But, that's kind of the point, and why he was hired in the first place.

Football in Australia is full of passionate football people who have tried to run the game but failed. What Gallop brings, and to a lesser extent Ben Buckley before him did, was a totally different viewpoint to the sport. A viewpoint which was about looking into the sleeping giant from the outside, rather than looking at the big bad world out to get them from inside the football bubble.

Gallop is in place to bridge the gap between the football hardcore and the commercial world that is skeptical about football in Australia and its ability to maintain a large, non-ethnic crowd.

So those who thought Gallop would all of a sudden go hard at News Corp, which together with Telstra is essentially underwriting the code, were perhaps on a hiding to nothing. Gallop failed miserably in football fans' expectations, but were football fans' expectations ever all that realistic?

He was brought in to do a job with an eye toward securing the next round of TV money. He rode in on the back of Ben Buckely's work during the last round, but this time he needs to demonstrate that football is a viable mass market product to which advertisers can hitch their wagons.

He has put a rather ambitious target of doubling the money under the previous round.

The commercial department at the FFA has also been overhauled to grab sponsorship dollars, and a range of commercial activities has been launched. So perhaps it is only natural that he does not understand the deep anger and hurt that has been unleashed over the past two weeks. It is now clear that Gallop has lost the dressing room in a big way.

Gallop has always had to walk the tight-rope between the commercial world and the hardcore fans who love the game like a cherished child -- giving two messages to two audiences.

It now appears that the hardcore has had enough of Gallop's messaging to the corporate world now actively prohibiting the FFA from acting as custodians of the game. Gallop may be a great administrator, but is he the man to unite the tribes of Australian football under one banner?

It appears that Gallop now appears more concerned with "talking tough" than talking with fans, and his lack of ability to hold that conversation with fans is getting to the point where we could very well be seeing the death-knell of the Gallop years.

When trying to sell TV rights, stadiums full of active supporters walking out will do very little to enhance the product. If Gallop can't turn this around, there won't be much of a product left to sell, and that's what he was brought in to do.

To put this in corporate-speak, Gallop now needs to co-opt a new skillset in order to drive quantifiable commercial outcomes for key stakeholder groups.

In plain English, he needs to sit down in a room with fans and talk with them, not at them.

More On This Topic

Advertisement
Advertisement