Gallop talks up A-League
Football Federation Australia boss David Gallop has declared that soccer will become the biggest and most popular sport in Australia.
Speaking at the official launch of the A-League season, which kicks off when Sydney FC host Newcastle on Friday, Gallop said the sport had enjoyed unprecedented growth over the past two seasons.
He cited a 40 per cent increase in crowds and 100 per cent boost in television ratings.
"I can genuinely say our best years are still ahead of us," the former National Rugby League CEO said at Tuesday's launch.
"Football will become the largest and most popular sport in this country.
"We are football, you are all part of it and I hope you're really excited about season nine."
The season kicks off at Allianz Stadium just 173 days after the Central Coast Mariners claimed the 2012-13 championship at the same venue.
Gallop also heaped praised on marquee stars Alessandro Del Piero (Sydney FC), Emile Heskey (Newcastle) and Shinji Ono (Western Sydney), who were the face of the A-League in their debut seasons last year.
"They signed up again for a second season and that was a vote of confidence in the A-League that is immeasurable in terms of underlying where football is at in this country - the increase in the technical standards, the intensity of our competition," he said.
Premiership-winning Central Coast coach Graham Arnold said he, too, was excited about the start of the season and predicted one of the toughest in the competition's short history.
"I think this is going to be the closest and the best A-League season yet," Arnold said.