A-League Commissioner Nick Garcia believes Australia’s top soccer competition can emerge as a genuine rival to other sports in the country over the next few years.
With rugby league, cricket, Aussie Rules football and horse racing boasting massive followings, soccer in Australia has traditionally struggled to get itself noticed.
However, the shifting demographics in Australia is slowly changing sports consumption habits – a factor Garcia thinks will significantly boost the A-League’s fortunes.
Net migration in Australia is on track to be around 700,000 people by 2024, many of whom will arrive in the country having previously lived in nations where soccer is the number one sport.
With this new captive audience expected to help Australian soccer boom, two major organisations will play an integral role in helping the A-League capitalise.
The 2023/24 season will be the third of a five-year media rights agreement with Paramount, who have been pulling out all the stops to grow the league’s profile.
Despite some initial teething problems with the link-up, Garcia says rising year-on-year viewing figures prove the relationship is mutually beneficial.
“We have two free-to-air slots for A-League Men’s every week, and that’s double what it was at the start of last season, so we’re certainly dialling that up,” Garcia said.
“Paramount sees sport as a key driver to their business and we’re their key sport right now, so getting subscribers is going to be really important as we go forward.
“Paramount is the fastest growing platform in the region. It is doing really well as an entity and they’re ingesting a lot of content. We’re really happy with how that is progressing, but also in terms of how we’re growing on platform.”
One of the key elements in developing the partnership with Paramount this season will be a revised fixtures schedule, which is designed to boost audience numbers and interest from the online gambling industry.
Research has shown that simultaneous broadcasts have a detrimental impact on viewing numbers, while clashes with other sports also have a negative effect on audience size and betting revenues.
With Australia boasting one of the most vibrant betting communities in the world, soccer wagering is viewed as an crucial part of the experience of watching live games.
All of the best Australian betting sites offer a vast array of markets on A-League games, but Garcia is eager to develop this element by making the league more attractive to overseas sportsbook operators and punters.
A partnership with IMG, which recently renewed its deal to distribute the international media and betting rights to the A-League outside of Australia and New Zealand, will be a vital component of what Garcia is striving to achieve.
“We’re in sixty-five countries around the world right now,” Garcia added. “From a time zone point of view and how we slot into the Asian consumption market, that’s really interesting and that’s something we’ll look at within the international strategy.
“I think the important thing, and probably what IMG will need from us, is to actually align that to our strategy. So, if we’re saying that Asia is going to be really important as the first port of call, we need to make sure everyone’s pointing in the same direction.
“That’s the guidance that will help IMG as we work with them on the international strategy.”
The 2023/24 A-League season gets underway on Friday, October 20, as Adelaide United go head-to-head with Central Coast Mariners.