FFA boss David Gallop says while he welcomes overseas marquees in the A-League, their presence is no longer as important for its growth.
The A-League might have needed big name marquees in the past, but they’re no longer as integral to the growth of the competition, FFA boss David Gallop says.
Two seasons ago, Italian legend Alessandro Del Piero’s landmark Sydney FC deal propelled the league into an unprecedented level of exposure with former England international Emile Heskey and Japanese star Shinji Ono’s signing the same year significantly adding to the impact.
Sunday’s grand final showdown between Western Sydney and Brisbane is set to usher in the end of an era with Wanderers playmaker Ono playing his last A-League game following Del Piero’s departure last week while Heskey is off contract at Newcastle and unlikely to re-sign.
The trio were not the first big stars to have played in the A-League with the likes of English Premier League stars Dwight Yorke and Robbie Fowler having had stints.
But the simultaneous presence of the trio was an undeniable catalyst for the growth of the competition.
Record attendances and television audiences were posted last season and the numbers continued to rise in both areas this campaign with record memberships also a huge boost for the league.
But looking ahead to the 10th season of the A-League, Gallop feels should there be no similar big names to replace Del Piero, Ono and Heskey, there won’t be a decline in numbers.
“It’s hard to overstate the importance of those players in bringing credibility and increased status to the competition,” he told AAP on Friday.
“But if you look at the youth coming through, you realise the game’s ready for the next phase.
“Overseas marquee players are not essential but they certainly add an X-factor to the game and remind people that we’re part of something global and part of something bigger.
“I think those players provided the shot in the arm that was needed going into season eight and we come through season nine without necessarily needing that shot in the arm again.
“But we will always be open to the idea of attracting star overseas players.”
Sydney FC are reportedly eyeing the likes of Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and Diego Forlan for next season.
But Gallop feels with the Wanderers continuing their Asian Champions League campaign, the Matildas eyeing an Asian Cup defence this month, the FIFA World Cup in June followed by the A-League All Stars match against Juventus in August, there’s enough football to stave off any decline that a lack of marquees would cause in the A-League fanbase.
“I think next week will be a reminder that football never sleeps,” he said.
“The Wanderers will be in Japan, the Socceroos are about to be announced and Matildas on their way to Vietnam.
“So season 10 is an opportunity to further consolidate and grow our position.
“Coming out of the World Cup and the All Stars game, next season will be an exciting season for football fans.”