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‘We’re a football business, not a media business’

A-Leagues bosses have broken their silence on last month’s mass staff redundancies, taking responsibility for the lack of public communication and pledging to get back to basics by serving “core A-Leagues fans” while slowly building a financially sustainable organisation.

Three weeks after the Australian Professional Leagues made almost half of its 80-odd workforce redundant, new A-Leagues commissioner Nick Garcia and independent chair Stephen Conroy have outlined the latest vision for the future of the country’s top-flight domestic soccer competitions.

“The overarching point here is we’re a football business, not a media business,” Garcia told this masthead on Monday. “We exist to create a great competition that our clubs thrive in and fans love to watch. The first thing about the A-Leagues strategy is it leads with a football strategy, and that is about being really clear about the sort of league you are.

“In the men’s we’re a development league, first and foremost. In the women’s league we are potentially a destination league in Asia, but much more focused on retaining the great national team players rather than attracting international players. But over everything, we’re about developing stars of the future.

”That’s possible because seven years ago all the clubs implemented academy systems, and we’re seeing the crop of that come through right now. So Garang Kuol going to Newcastle United, [Nestory] Irankunda is going to Bayern Munich, and I think we’ve got some other exciting transfers coming up.“

Garcia believes the APL’s digital and content arm KeepUp, which featured content ranging from the domestic leagues to the European leagues and national teams, “did work, to a degree”. “I don’t think it was whether it worked,” he said. “I think, just at this time, it’s not commercially sustainable.”

A-Leagues commissioner Nick Garcia (right) with Bill Foley, the owner of the incoming Auckland franchise.

A-Leagues commissioner Nick Garcia (right) with Bill Foley, the owner of the incoming Auckland franchise.Credit: Getty

Instead, the recently launched aleagues.com.au will focus on “talking to core A-Leagues fans, engaging them more and bringing them to our ecosystem”.

“That new digital strategy will be about converting people,” he said. “KeepUp was always about circling the global football economy, and it did that to a degree. But now we’ve got these fans who want to be talked to through an A-Leagues product, and we have engaged them throughout what we’re doing.”

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