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A-League throws down gauntlet

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Football Federation Australia chief executive David Gallop used Tuesday’s A-League launch to make the boldest statement of his reign:

Football will one day become Australia’s national sport.

While some have wondered how the A-League will possibly top the dizzying heights of last season, Gallop warned that was nothing to what lay in the years and decades ahead.

”Football will become the largest and most popular sport in this country. We are football, you are all part of it and I hope you’re really excited about season nine.”

”I can genuinely say our best years are still ahead of us,” Gallop said at Allianz Stadium.

The A-League finally achieved mainstream public prominence last season – with crowd rises of 40 per cent and a television ratings rise of 100 per cent – and then secured its long-term future with the signing of a television deal that will bring the competition into free-to-air living rooms for the first time.

Various crowd records across the league are tipped to tumble this season and interest in the round-ball game is certain to pique as the 2014 World Cup in Brazil grows nearer.

“Football will become the largest and most popular sport in this country…”

Just to add weight to his words, Gallop then announced that all 127 A-League games, including the five finals, would be broadcast live on ABC radio. The government broadcaster has signed a four-year deal to call the matches.

”Live sports on ABC Radio have long been a staple of Australian life and I’m delighted that hundreds of hours of A-League action will be on the radio this season,” Gallop said at the launch.

”The national radio broadcaster adds significantly to our reach at a time when audiences for the A-League are booming and there’s a massive surge in interest in football.

”The ABC is a great supporter of the game, including the live TV coverage of the W-League, and I know the new partnership will be a major boost to our growth story.”

Gallop also launched the A-League’s official television commercial, though canny viewers will have noted the advertisement hit screens the night before.

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The theme of year will highlight the connection between fans and the players, declaring those on the terraces are the ones who ”power the game”. The slogan has already been widely condemned by fans after it was revealed this week that the governing body would condone further security crackdowns on active supporters.

Gallop paid tribute to three key marquee players – Alessandro Del Piero, Emile Heskey and Shinji Ono – for renewing their contracts with their respective clubs after exceeding all expectations last year. ”These guys came last season and had fantastic seasons on and off the field, but very importantly, they signed up again for a second season,” he said.

The season will kick off on Friday night when Sydney FC hosts the Newcastle Jets.

© 2013 The Age | This article was written by Michael Lynch and first appeared in The Age  on 9 October 2013.

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