How to engage the next generation of football fan

Football Federation Australia must do better to connect the professional game and engage fans at the grassroots level and not rely on broadcast media to do all the work says Mumbrella Marketing & Advertising Editor, Simon Canning.

One of the FFA’s goals in its four-year strategic vision is to increase the number of junior participants supporting an A-league club by 10 percent a year.

The governing body’s overall aim is to have 40 percent of all Australians supporting an A-League club.

Canning says that football needs to get people excited about the sport by way of seeing its elite footballers engage at the community level.

“You can’t just rely on a digital channel or a TV channel to do the work for you,” he said.

“You actually have to have your sport out in the marketplace out in the grassroots community. 

“If I’m taking my kids to a football game down at the local field on a Saturday morning and they are playing – where is the connection that actually makes my kids want to go and watch that Socceroos game?

“Why isn’t there a direct connection at every Soccer field each Saturday and Sunday inviting people to engage either through social networks through signage through appearances and things like that with the sport they play at the pinnacle?

And finding a solution to better fan engagement isn’t necessarily found in the Australian market or even in the sporting sector says Canning.

“I would be looking overseas for the answers because I think there are some real interesting innovation going over there,” he said.

“I’d be looking at companies like Google and Facebook and how they are innovating in this space, I’d wouldn’t necessarily be sending my people to a sporting conference in the USA I would be sending them to South by South West and the Ted X conferences and things like that where real innovation is being discussed.”

Football has one of the strongest grass roots participation of any sport in the country but Australia is also the most fragmented sporting market in the world.

Because of that, Canning believes that the football’s governing body needs to find new ways to widen football’s appeal.

“At what point will the FFA bite the bullet and pursue its own content strategy,” he said.

“In the same way that the V8 super cars and in the same way that AFL and NRL have pursued setting up their own media operations in their own streams and compiling it all in one place that is the Soccer platform. 

“Streaming is so important now there is so much stuff that is streamed rather than terrestrial TV or even through subscription cable TV or satellite. This streaming question has been opened up by Optus’s entry into the market because a lot people will access things like the EPL not through a cable or through a satellite but they will access it through a stream through Optus.

“When does the FFA say we need to take control of that and we need to take our product to try and broaden it to our audiences.”

  • Con Stamocostas is an Australian football writer. Click here to see more of his work and check out the latest episode of his A-League Snobcast with co-host Rob Toddler.