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Press Release from RSF President Regarding Recent Meetings with APL Executives

BRISBANE, Australia — December 22, 2022

The Roar Supporters Federation (RSF) held a video conference with Mr Danny Townsend, CEO of the Australian Professional Leagues,on Tuesday December 20, 2022 at 6 p.m., to express concerns and outrage of Brisbane fans and supporters of Football and the A-Leagues. In particular to seek some explanation of the APL decision, to accommodate fans for the benefit of Football in the future and how fans and the APL move forward.  The RSF has made every effort to accurately and fairly report on our discussions with Mr Townsend as follows:

1) Despite a strong and impassioned plea by the RSF to reverse the decision, there cannot, and will not be any change to the APL decision on the Grand Final. Financial arrangements and credibility with Governments both State and Federal simply make that impossible.

2) When the APL took over the A-Leagues the APL had to look at ways to keep funding the league. Revenue was widely sought, and the Destination NSW investment was important for the leagues (and therefore the clubs) sustainability. It will be a game changerfor the APL, with the investment being shared equally between all clubs. 

3) The RSF is aware from other sources that the Clubs including those which do not have Board representation were given a full rundown on the proposal. All clubs accepted the proposal as being the only viable option even if they were reluctant or concerned at locking in the Grand Final to be played in Sydney. The RSF suspects that the CEO of the APL was left on his own by the Clubs to face the upset and outrage of Fans and Supporters.

4) During COVID the A-Leagues and its affiliated clubs lost tens of millions of dollars each year combined, and this has simply exacerbated the problem faced by the new A-Leaguesadministration. 

5) Finance was obtained from a private equity, venture capital investor Silver Lake, to obtain $140m.The amount invested by Silver Lake cannot simply be used by the APL to pay players or for other general operational costs. The plan is that this fund will allow initiatives that will prosper the A-Leagues so that football meets its potential and can put more money back into Football to benefit all Fans and Supporters. 

6) Despite a large percentage of the Socceroos coming through the A-League Men’s system and paid for by A-Leagues clubs, no funding comes back from Football Australia, even though the Socceroos received $13m for their participation in the recent World Cup and Football Australia received $7m from the Silver Lake deal last year.

7) The decision regarding the Grand Final came after Club & APL commercial in confidence discussions, with a number of entitiesaround Australia. The RSF understands that the Destination NSW proposal after a consideration of the financial realities of the situation was the only viable course even though it involved a proposition for future Grand Finals which was unpalatable to Fan and Supporters.

8) Destination NSW is also working with the APL to bring together travel and accommodation packages that would help bring outside supporters to Sydney for a realistic and affordable cost. 

9) Plans are being put in place to make the Grand Final part of a Festival of Football that will draw in Football Fans whether or not they are supporters of the Grand Finalists. It was noted that each of the top four teams in the Finals will have one home game and one away game.

10) The RSF proposed holding a round of football with all teams coming to one state, not NSW, for a Festival of Football. This could incorporate 2 weekends with lots of football activities. The RSF are pushing for that to happen in Queensland and want to talk more with the APL in the coming months. 

11) The RSF expressed its concern and annoyance at the state of communications from the APL to Fans and Danny Townsend said that work is underway on making sure there is better fan engagement moving forward. One of the major problems faced by the APL with this decision and others like it is that usually no “heads up” can be given to stakeholders and no announcements can be made until the key financier is ready to announce it. This isbecause of commercial restrictions, particularly when Governmententities are involved.   

12) RSF proposed a summit incorporating representatives from fan active support groups e.g., The Den, The Roar Corp, and the RSF plus a CEO representative from Clubs and the APL, via Video link.  This could bring everyone together to head in the same direction. APL said they already had a workstream on improving fan engagement ongoing before this announcement and would be able to say more early next year.

13) The RSF is quite concerned about the apparent lack of communication between the APL, and Club Management, and also the lack of consultation or communication with credible Active Support and Supporter Groups. We will be looking for a considerable improvement in the future.

14) It seems apparent that the APL and A-Leagues Clubs found themselves in a situation where they had no choice but to accept this Destination NSW proposal even if it flew in the face of the long-established tradition of the A-League and its predecessors. In the words of one of our Committee “You have stolen the prize of a Grand Final from the Fans of the Premier Team”.

15) All that having been said, the RSF Management Committeehaving called the APL to account, believes that its CEO Danny Townsend, is a credible CEO deeply committed to rebuilding a successful and prosperous A-League and to making Football the premier code in Australia. The lessons of this present situation have been learned. The RSF believes there is enough goodwill coming from the APL for us to all work together and improve football for everyone.

16) The RSF still encourages all Brisbane Roar Supporters to wear black and to exercise a peaceful protest at the next Home Game. However now that we have a better understanding of the reasons for the APL decision affecting coming Grand Finals, and the inevitability of that course, the RSF calls upon its supporters to get behind our team for every match. Whether or not Supporters attend a Grand Final in Sydney is up to each person. 

Neil Ballment