IN HIS first day as the new chief executive of Football Federation Australia, former NRL boss David Gallop revealed he was a West Bromwich Albion supporter, used to watch the Canberra Arrows when he was growing up, his kids had played the game ... and he had even refereed junior matches.
While he stopped short of declaring the sport could one day overtake AFL and rugby league as Australia's top football code, Gallop said he believed the building blocks had been put in place for a period of sustained growth.
"When I was at rugby league we always thought that if football got its act together, which we're seeing right now, then the other codes need to be worried," Gallop said.
"I believe the A-League is in for a period of sustained growth and I'm keen to be a part of it."
Saying football was "a game he had always loved", Gallop said he was keen to see non-football fans "regard the game well".
"The atmosphere at the grounds is unique in Australian sport ... Australians want the sport to do well," he said.
Gallop said when he joined rugby league in 2002, two of his biggest goals were to improve the code's community engagement and to ensure a close competition.
He said he believed that had been achieved, and he would target the same areas during his time in football.
His first day on the job co-incided with the NRL's appointment of former stars Petero Civoniceva, Nathan Hindmarsh and Hazem El Masri as full-time community engagement officers
.El Masri and Hindmarsh will be based in Sydney, with El Masri heavily focused on multicultural and new migrant programs while Hindmarsh has a general community engagement role; and Civoniceva will be based in Brisbane with a key focus on Pacific Islander programs.
With football gaining a strong foothold through the likes of superstars Alessandro Del Piero, Emile Heskey and Shinji Ono, no doubt all codes will look to increase their investment at the grassroots and community level.
Gallop said he expected the looming new broadcast rights deal being negotiated by the FFA to provide additional funds to develop the game and to ensure the top players were able to be adequately rewarded.
While he said wished rugby league well, it was clear where his allegiances now were.
"I'm a sports administrator, that's what I do. I've always liked football and I think I can make a great contribution to it."
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