Hyundai A-League chief Damien de Bohun says the continual growth of Australian football means the goal of the competition being the biggest in the country is no longer a pipe dream.
With the start of the 2015/16 campaign just over a week away, De Bohun has opened about his vision for the game heading into Season 11 of the competition.
De Bohun says it’s vital for the Hyundai A-League continues to build on their achievements of the first 10 years if the sport and competition is to reach their lofty goals.
“We’ve got a really clear ambition on football to be Australia’s largest and most popular sport and the role of the Hyundai A-League in that context is to become the biggest competition in this country,” De Bohun said.
“A lot of people probably thought five or six years ago that was laughable but all of a sudden it’s no so laughable.
“People are starting to take that threat seriously and the other sports are.”
Fans are voting with their feet, with the Hyundai A-League up there with some of the best attended leagues around the world.
“People underestimate how significant the Hyundai A-League is in terms of attendances on the global scale,” De Bohun said.
“With our numbers last year around 13,000 or a bit more as our average crowds, that makes the Hyundai A-League I think the 14th most attended competition on earth.
“It’s bigger than places like Portugal, even bigger than the Brazilian league…people overestimate at times how big the crowds are in different places.
“That’s not to say there’s not a lot of room for growth but we’re already up there in that echelon, so it’s significant in that context.”
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The sport has always led the way in Australia when it comes to participation rates, with huge numbers across all levels of the game.
But converting those figures into genuine supporters of the games has always been the challenge and something the code is working harder on all the time.
“For a long time we’ve probably just said that [big participation rates] will take care of itself. Well it won’t. We’re getting much more professional much more active in converting those participants into fans,” he said.
“That for us is the single biggest issue. When it’s all said and done the game is just a fabulous game that’s why so many people play it….four billion people around the world are participating in it.
“Australia and the United States are unique markets where its fiercely competitive with other sports so we’re not the dominating sport of this market yet but that will come.
“The one thing we know for certain is that football is continuing to grow across the world and the world is getting smaller.
“Whether it be through the internet or how kids consume the game, it’s getting smaller so people are seeing football more every day.
“As Australia becomes even more multicultural there’s no doubt football will become more prominent.”
Video interview courtesy: Michael Puterflam, FFA