Thilo Kunkel, Ph.D.

Why FFA needs to stick to its Gold Coast expansion plan

I presented this speech to attendees of the SAVE Gold Coast United meeting, on Wednesday 7thMarch, 2012 at Griffith University.  The audience was comprised of more than 150 dedicated Gold Coast United fans, the former GC United marketing manager and GC United players, such as Socceroo Michael Thwaite. 

“FFA’s long-term vision is to establish Australia as a truly world-class football nation” (FFA, 2012). The A-League and its clubs play a major role to achieve this long-term vision. The A-League provides a football competition for all Australians, and fosters the development of football in Australia.

Gold Coast United is currently without an A-League licence and draws the lowest game attendance figures in the A-League. However, data suggests that the Gold Coast region has a lot of potential for a professional football club: The Gold Coast region has the 6th highest population and is the fastest growing region in Australia, there are over 8,000 registered football players on the Gold Coast, and the club was able to draw attendance figures of over 10,000 for two games, suggesting that there is an interest for a professional football club on the Gold Coast.

The A-League brand is visibly connected with all of its clubs.  Therefore, the league and the clubs influence each other’s performance, and thus are dependent on each other. That means, that decisions that influence one club, have an impact on the brand of the A-League, as well as on other clubs within the A-League.  For example, retaining Gold Coast United in the A-League can send a positive message to all football fans in Australia.

The brand image is the overall image of what people think about the A-League.  Research shows that the following six core aspects influence the brand image of the A-League: 1) football in Australia, 2) player development, 3) fans’ favourite club, 4) other clubs, 5) rivalry and 6) league Management.

So, how does retaining Gold Coast United in the league helps FFA to strengthen the brand image of the A-League?

1) Football in Australia:

Gold Coast United is positioned in a strategically important market for future football development.  It keeps the competition with other codes alive and doesn’t leave the region to the league’s main competitors AFL and NRL.

2) Player Development:

Gold Coast United has a young and talented team. This demonstrates that the club developed players; working towards FFA’s long-term vision of establishing Australia as football nation.

3) Fans’ favourite club:

It keeps fans of Gold Coast United in the Australian football community.

4) Other clubs:

It sends a strong message to fans of other clubs about the stability of the A-League. The message is that the league is here, and it is here to stay.

5) Rivalry:

Gold Coast United’s rivalry with Brisbane Roar adds to the excitement of the league. Who is Brisbane Roar going to play their derby against? Perth Glory?

6) League Management:

It demonstrates the long-term vision of FFA of establishing Australia as a truly world-class football nation.

There are four major points I want to emphasize:

1) The NSL had 41 clubs at one time or another.  Of these, only 3 founding member clubs remained in the League by 2003. Don’t let the A-League become the NSL where clubs come and go. Demonstrate continuity!

2) To use Ben Buckley’s words from a media release two days ago: “The trend lines are pointing upwards. Attendances are up 36%, TV audiences are up 52% and club membership is up 20%.” Utilise this momentum to keep Gold Coast United in the A-League!

3) Ben Buckley described the expansion on the Gold Coast in January 2010 with the following words: “The decision we made for the A-League expansions [on the Gold Coast] were made with a view to the long term.  If we get the marketing and promotional activities right, I see no reason why the crowds can’t be lifted to around the 10,000 mark.” Get the marketing and promotional activities right and demonstrate FFA’s long-term vision!

4) FFA can demonstrate that the future of the game, the league, the clubs and the players does not depend on individual owners but on the football community. Stay committed to the football community!

This may involve FFA to invest short-term money in the club, as they have done before with other clubs.  However, the league cannot afford to lose the 6th highest populated area in Australia for the long-term benefit of the game.  Additionally, FFA needs Gold Coast United in the A-League for the negotiation of the new television rights deal.

In conclusion, FFA needs Gold Coast United in the A-League, because it demonstrates FFA’s commitment to its long-term vision and their commitment to the Australian football community.”

For more information see:

Gold Coast Bulletin: Gold Coast United in hope of club’s resurrection

Why FFA needs to stick by its Gold Coast expansion plan