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David Davutovic ranks the 10 most important people in Australian soccer

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Australian football may have stagnated, but the same cannot be said of the ambitious Ange Postecoglou.

Refusing to bask in the afterglow of the Asian Cup win, Postecoglou swiftly moved on and cast an eye on the future while keeping the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign on track.

Pride and direction has been restored to the Socceroos, as evidenced by strong home crowds and a general feel-good factor that evaporated under Holger Osieck.

The Socceroos boss’s influence extends beyond the pitch, and not a football decision is made at FFA headquarters without his counsel, from A-League coaching appointments to the technical director.

He remains the authoritative voice in football, and equally adept at addressing corporates and discussing big-issue items on ABC’s Offsiders as he is talking to fans.

Hence Postecoglou retains his crown as the most powerful man in Australian football in 2015.

A cloud of uncertainty hovers over the game after a sluggish start to the A-League season, and stakeholders will now look to new chairman Steven Lowy for strong leadership.

It may be just six days since he replaced Frank Lowy as chairman, but Lowy Jr will have to hit the ground running and become bold and visible to shake perceptions of nepotism.

It’s too early to know what impact Optus’ stunning $63m-per-year acquisition of the English Premier League rights will have locally, but Fox Sports remains the game’s primary advocate.

We can become quite insular in Australia hence one must not forget that football is the biggest global game and there is an Australian at the forefront of FIFA’s reforms.

Here are Australian football’s powerbrokers in 2015.

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1 Ange Postecoglou

Socceroos coach (2014 rank: 1)

The Asian Cup win has strengthened Ange Postecoglou’s status and justified his youth-focused World Cup strategy.

Despite a recent dispute with chief executive David Gallop, his opinion is respected at FFA HQ.

Postecoglou led the overhaul of Australia’s youth structure and played a lead role in the appointment of Belgian Eric Abrams as technical director.

He is a strong advocate of young Australian coaches being given a chance and was instrumental in the recent A-League appointments of Scott Miller and John Aloisi at Newcastle Jets and Brisbane Roar respectively.

He is respected across the codes, and even sat on the panel to appoint AFL club Carlton’s last coach.

2 Steven Lowy

FFA chairman (2014: -)

Charged into prime position after, as long suspected, Steven Lowy officially replaced his father as FFA chairman last week unopposed.

As the co-CEO of Westfield, Lowy jnr is a successful businessman in his own right, but he fills big shoes and he needs to make some bold, decisive calls to stamp his authority.

Opposing one or two of Frank’s decisions would do wonders for public perception, such as the ridiculous call to block Melbourne City from wearing a Sky Blue home kit, because it conflicted Sydney FC’s.

The scene is set for Steven to make an impact. He arrives at a time that the A-League has stagnated, while question marks surround the future of Wellington Phoenix and expansion.

3 Patrick Delany (2014: 4)

Fox Sports chief executive

Fox Sports’ money has bankrolled the A-League, and the game remains heavily indebted to Fox Sports and the pay TV network’s coverage is more important than ever in light of SBS’s underwhelming coverage.

Talks are ongoing about another Free-to-Air network replacing SBS, and Fox Sports is the key player in all negotiations as they must decide what they’re prepared to share, with Saturday night the coveted fixture.

Optus’ stunning purchase of the English Premier League from next season suggests the A-League will become an even bigger part of the Fox Sports coverage from 2016-17, as they seek to retain and grow football subscribers.

4 David Gallop

FFA chief executive (2014: 3)

David Gallop’s badge of honours are the Postecoglou appointment and the birth of the FFA Cup, but since he’s been far less visible.

Frank Lowy was an imposing boss and emerging from his ex-chairman’s shadow, there is a belief that Gallop will now be able to get to work on the big issues and a new strategic plan in the works.

Some issues were left to fester for too long, such as the standoff with the players’ union, while the Socceroos have been without a sponsor for 29 months after Qantas pulled out.

Gallop must stand up and become the authoritative off-field voice that he was in his first year.

5 Frank Lowy

Former FFA chairman (2014: 2)

Lowy’s 11-year overhaul of the domestic game ended last week when he stood down as FFA chairman for son Steven, but the 85-year-old’s influence will remain beyond his minority shareholding in Sydney FC.

For a man involved in the game since 1969 and who was personally asked to take over by then PM John Howard, it would be naive to think that Lowy Sr won’t stay involved.

Frank is still smarting from the PR disaster that was the failed $45m World Cup bid for 2022 and he will keep a close eye on proceedings at FIFA HQ, ahead of the February 26 elections, and the Wellington Phoenix issue.

November 16

56:44

6 Tim Cahill

Socceroos and Shanghai Shenhua star (2014: 6)

The evergreen striker has become a multi-media star and de facto brand ambassador for the Australian game.

Cahill is leading the Australian charge in the Chinese Super League and he extended his contract with Shanghai Shenhua.

His biggest impact is for the national team where, at 35, he remains the Socceroos’ most marketable player, the type that would brings thousands more through the gates if signed as an A-League marquee player.

Cahill’s hunger and determination sets the tone for Postecoglou’s youthful Socceroos, underlined by last week’s hat-trick away to Bangladesh.

He looks set to break the magical 50-goal barrier within the next year and it would be a brave man to bet against Cahill playing on until Russia 2018.

Socceroos striker Tim Cahill.

Socceroos striker Tim Cahill.Source: Getty Images

7 Mark Bosnich

Fox Sports commentator (2014: 10)

“Bozza” is one of a growing number of authoritarian football voices on TV but he remains the only one that transcends, regularly popping up on AFL and general sports TV and radio programs.

The former Manchester United and Chelsea keeper’s profile is stronger than ever and he’s become a respected voice, without losing his humour in a game that sometimes takes itself too seriously.

The affable Bozza also has the ability to galvanise what can often be a splintered football community.

8 Simon Pearce

Melbourne City board member (2014: 5)

Melbourne City are raising the bar in Australia, headlined by their new $16m training facility and their W-League side which looks set to sweep all before them in their debut season.

The sudden impact of the women’s team heaps pressure on the A-League side and while things are happening behind the scenes, the shop front (the team) remains a concern.

Watching on and off field proceedings closely is Simon Pearce, Melbourne City’s mover and shaker who’s been on Manchester City’s board since he oversaw City Football Group’s takeover in 2008.

9 Moya Dodd

FIFA ExCo member (co-opted) and AFC ExCo member (2014: 9)

The former Matilda has been and will remain a key player in the rise of women’s football and is the only Australian with a seat at the dwindling FIFA table.

A co-opted member of the FIFA Executive Committee, Moya Dodd’s recent submission to the FIFA reform committee called for greater female inclusion in the governing body’s decision making process.

With at least some of her recommendations set to be adopted, she would be a strong chance of being elected to the FIFA ExCo.

Dodd is a close ally to Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, who is running again after losing to Sepp Blatter at last May’s farcical election.

10 Lou Sticca

Agent (2014: -)

With the TV networks yearning for genuine marquee players, the man behind the Alessandro Del Piero, Dwight Yorke and Shinji Ono signings is bound to be involved when it happens again.

Well connected abroad, Sticca has injected tens of millions into Australian football through tours and sponsorships and understands the showbiz aspect of sport.

He was behind David Beckham’s three Australian visits with LA Galaxy and the original Liverpool tour where 95,000 packed into the MCG.

Other successful tours include Juventus, Celtic and the recent visits of Chelsea and Tottenham.

FIVE ON THE RISE

Mat Ryan

Valencia and Socceroos keeper

Playing for one of the biggest teams in Spain and looks set to follow in the footsteps of keeping greats Mark Bosnich and Mark Schwarzer.

Bart Campbell and Geoff Jones

International Champions Cup Australia chiefs

The double act behind the ICC Australia juggernaut that brought Cristiano Ronaldo’s Real Madrid to Australia will continue to grab a huge slice of the dollars and eyeballs.

Anthony Di Pietro

Melbourne Victory chairman

His club, like his business Premier Fruits Group, is expanding internationally with a big on and off field focus on the Asian Champions League campaign.

David Traktovenko

Sydney FC majority shareholder

While big names are regularly pitched to clubs, David Traktovenko is one of the few owners with the budget and appetite to sign the likes of Del Piero.

Kevin Muscat

Victory coach

Muscat has flourished to become the face of the A-League’s biggest club, and will become an increasingly authoritarian voice on many issues.

THE 2014 LIST

1. Ange Postecoglou

2. Frank Lowy

3. David Gallop

4. Patrick Delaney

5. Simon Pearce

6.Tim Cahill

7. Michael Brown

8. Tony Popovic

9. Moya Dodd

10. Mark Bosnich

© 2015 Fox Sports | This article first appeared on Fox Sports on 22 November 2015.

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