After ‘effectively doubling’ revenue, Football Australia eyes more growth

A year and a half on from Australian football grinding to a halt in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, Football Australia CEO James Johnson says that both the game and his organisation are in a “pretty safe and healthy position”.

Football proved no more immune to the headwinds of COVID than any other sport as the virus descended upon Australia in the early months of 2020; the game’s already shaky position in the local marketplace placing its administrators in somewhat of an existential crisis. 

Described as being an “ugly time” for the sport by Johnson, both the A-League and grassroots football were suspended, while Football Australia was forced to stand down 70% of its staff. Fox Sports activated a force majeure clause in its contract with the federation to walk away from its broadcasting deal and force a renegotiation in terms, while sponsors such as Hyundai and Caltex exited the sport. 

This reduction in revnues forced not only a major readjustment, but almost sparked a civil war between players and the A-League over stand downs and attempts to slash wage bills.

See Also: Australia men at crossroads after Tokyo Olympics disappointment, Graham Arnold exit

But now, 18 months on from the pandemic’s onset, Johnson said that the organisation had been able to weather the storm and touted the implementation of major reforms, a new broadcast partner in ViacomCBS, increasing revenues (albeit starting from a very low base), and further opportunities for revenue growth. 

“We’re in, I think, a very healthy position as an organisation and as a sport 18-20 months into COVID,” Johnson said. “We’re not out of COVID yet but we’re in a pretty safe and healthy position as a game. 

“The good news is that we’ve got a lot of growth opportunities, particularly in the lead up to the 2023 Women’s World Cup. 

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“We have a vision, we have the Women’s World Cup, and we’ve effectively doubled the organisation’s revenue in the past 12 months with new deals that are kicking in this month — with Commonwealth Bank, Channel Ten. 

“We’ve unbundled the league finally and that’s now in place, it’s happening on the ground following a 17-year vision. We’ve released a new FFA Cup, and a new Domestic Match Calendar. 

“We’ve got government funding coming into the sport like we’ve never seen with the Home of the Matildas in Melbourne, which is a $112m investment. There’s investment going into high performance – particularly on the women’s side of things. 

“So things are, in general, pretty good in spite of the difficult times that we’re living in.”

Thanks to the Matildas status as one of Australia’s most beloved teams and the upcoming Women’s World Cup, much of the sponsorship coming into the game in recent times has been centred around the women’s game. 

The Matildas have been a significant driver of new sponsorship in Australian football
Image: Football Australia

Priceline, Cadbury, and the Commonwealth Bank have all emphasised the Matildas and the exploding number of girls playing the sport across the country, with the latter set to become the naming rights sponsor of the national team following the departure of long-time partner Westfield. 

The Socceroos, in contrast, are still without a naming rights sponsor after the departure of Caltex, an area the Football Australia CEO identified as a “significant opportunity”. 

Nonetheless, Johnson was quick to tell a zoom hook-up with journalists on Thursday evening that funding for all national team programs was strong. While the devil is always in the details of such matters — proportion and size are not the same things — the funding was touted as being at historic levels. 

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“We do have other properties in the market at the moment,” Johnson said. 

“We have the Socceroos naming rights which, leading into [World Cup qualifying], we’re hoping we can sell again. We haven’t had a naming rights partner for the Socceroos for nearly two years now. So that is a significant opportunity to grow our revenues. 

“Yes, there are opportunities through the Socceroos to continue our commercial growth.”

See Also: Socceroos exploring multiple venues for China World Cup qualifier after Sydney dreams dashed

“And, look, when it comes to actual budget, the way that we’ve done the budget for FY22, I can tell you that the percentage of our funding that goes to football is the highest percentage that we’ve ever had. The majority of that funding is going into the national teams. 

“National teams funding is healthy. At the end of the day, sponsorship money comes in and goes into the same bank and how we allocate it is a business decision. But the Socceroos and Matildas are looked after well from a high-performance perspective.”

Header Image Credit: Football Australia

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